August 15th, 2018

Ad. Woes!32

Okay, here’s a trick question, a couple of them actually:

1. What kind of a buffoon are you, if you take 20 days off from work in the UAE, not to go to a vacation in Turkey, or to go to Pakistan to meet family, or to catch up on all the reading you have been missing out on, but to watch the latest round of India Pakistan test matches?.

2. What kind of a buffoon are you, if you do above despite the fact that you still do not know the difference between gully, silly mid-off, silly midpoint, and the rest including silly and non silly points?

Surprisingly, the answer to both the questions is the same: A silly kind.

Come Sunday, I must get up before the sun once again, drive through maddening traffic once again, and sit through an entirely boring meeting once again. The worst part is, the third and final test between Pakistan and India is scheduled to begin on Sunday, and since this one is being played in Karachi, it is widely expected that the wicket will be bowler friendly, or at least less batsman favoring, and for once there will actually be a contest rather than run fests and batting carnages. Shoaib Akhtar has been bowling brilliantly so far, and has been a treat to watch, even if his figures do not show it; and the first time around the odds will not be so heavily stacked against him, I will be sitting in a boring meeting. Irony becomes me.

While on the subject of Cricket, I do not know about the others, but despite the fact that my vacation seems to have gone waste in drawn matches, my supreme moments of frsutration, irritation and chagrin did not come while the batsmen from either side flayed the bowling attacks, and ensured a no-result in the process. Of course, I was disgusted by the pitches prepared by the home side, but my disgust at this cricketing sin pales in comparison to that which is aroused by one of the worst ever advertisements I have seen. When the same ad. runs after every over, and since there are a minimum of 80-90 overs bowled during a good day’s play, I am subjected to it close to 500 times during one test match.

The makers of these advertisements have more than a daunting task facing them. You see, it takes either a really great product, or a really great ad to ensure that the audience subjected to that ad that many times during that many days does not decide to completely boycott the product so advertised. Even a great ad. squeezed between overs 49 and 50 in a nail biter walks a very thin line, sometimes the last ball of the 49th or the first ball of the 50th is sacrificed and can ensure a longterm hatred for the product in the audience. I shifted my loyalties from one cola to another way back in 1996 for the same reason.

Given the above scenario, it is binding on the advertiser to ensure, for the betterment of his product, that the ad. required to be aired 500 times in 5 days, should be catchy, intelligent, visually pleasing, and aesthetically sound. The company making such ads ought to realize that a lot more than just their client’s product’s life cycle rides on these ads, their own reputation goes on stake. The cricketers should realize that bad ads take something away from their brilliant efforts in the field, because those ads form part of the package they serve to their audiences. Last, but not the least, the channels airing those ads should understand that such bad ads might make a quick buck for them, but in the long-run they trash their reputation as quality channels forever. Unfortunately, none of the these parties seems to have realized the commercial peril that this one ad makes them susceptible to.

Have you guessed already what ad i am talking about? Well, of course, Nabeel’s Jannat-al-Firdaus, now in the shape of a perfume. For those of you, who have not had the misfortune to see this ad even once, and allow me to admit here – I envy the lot of you, let me tell you the ‘salient features’ of this ad:

This is supposed to be a rip off of Moghal-e-Azam, that ‘epic’, that ‘classic’, and that ‘golden oldie’.
AAAAAARGGGH! When will they ever learn that there is too much bollywood around the telly audience already, and the last thing they will enjoy is a bollywood rip-off! There are those 2 gazzillion ads with the Gabbar Singhish ‘Kitne aadmi the..” routine, and another 2 gazzillion ads tailored around ‘Mona darling….very smart’ routine. I do understand that the first time around someone had decided to make an ad drawing on a ‘classic’ film, it must have come out looking quite smart. It must still have looked smart when another 43 people had done it. But topractically redefine an advertisement as a bollywood rip-off is not only insane, stupid, and totally non-creative, it is also an insult to the advertising industry.

But here comes the worst part, Moghal-e-Azam was an Urdu epic, and it became a classic as much for its dialogues and language as for its music, production and other performances. The makers of this ad seem to have overlooked this aspect. There are less than half a dozen sentences in this ad, and about as many errors in language, and to top it all “Mr. Zill-e-Subhani” gets his pronounciation of “khoob” wrong, as most hindi speaking people are wont to do. Personally, the language errors are the biggest turn-off, what is more disgusting than seeing the characters of a king and a prince getting basic Urdu wrong. But, it does not just stop there, as the prince delivers his lines, Akbar badshah sways to and fro on his feet like a pepndulum, and seems to be wondering why the Royal Boot Polisher had not polished his shoes that morning. The colors are way too pale, and the dresses look as cheap as they must have been. Shahzada Saleem holds the product being advertised, a bottle of perfume, so gingerly that one suspects he is allergic to the smell of that perfume, and is trying to maintain as much distance from it as possible.

Evidently, I hate that ad, and I hate it more each time it is aired. Cricket is a wonderful game, and its a pity there are people in the world who do not like it. One wonders, how will they ever atone for this crippling flaw in their personalities? There are others, whose interest in the game of cricket is limited to one-dayers. These people offer a variety of lame excuses in their defence, but the fact of the matter is that if life has become too fast to accomodate a test match, it is time it were slowed down, and if it were a result the game were played for, perhaps they should reduce the contest to 22 balls, one to be faced by each batsman. It is a contest of skill, and more often than not it takes five days for a drawn out contest to be brought to its logical conclusion, which by all means could a draw too. Winning is important, as is not losing, but playing the game is everything. This is my position on Test Cricket, I look forward to Test Cricket, which is why I do not move away from the telly, when I do not have to go to work, or to save the world. Since I had taken leave from the former, and have yet to begin with the latter, I was glued to the screen, and have thus seen my hatred grow at a rate Afridis and Dhonis might have found difficult to maintain in their scoring.

My vacation has been ruined not by boring, batting, test matches, but by disgusting sponsors…or sponsors with disgusting products…or at least products with disgusting ads…or at least….sigh!

Of Vices, dreams and super-senses.3

Of the many vices that I have been unable to rid myself of, one that figures most prominently is music. This is not to imply, however, that I have succesfully discarded any vices from my system. Any vices that have not found lodging in my person have done so out of their own freewill, and might I add at their own peril, for sustenance as guaranteed in this person is seldom to be found elsewhere.

I do not advertise, and I am not famous in viceland, not to the extent where you would have vices making a beeline to take up lodging in me. I have picked up my vices along the way, but any that found their way in, have made themselves comfortable and at home. There was perhaps a vice or two that came along, found me, but had to move on; not because I showed less than usual eagerness to accomodate it, but because it found me incapable of hosting it. To quote Yousufi in a rather crude translation, “If God had given me the aptitude and capability for sin, I too would have partaken in the fruits of repentence”.

Music, however, is one of those few vices that I have deliberately, though not wholeheartedly, tried to cast off, and failed miserably at doing so. It has been a love-hate relationship, in that I love to hate it, but I do not; and I hate to love it, but I do. Against this backdrop, one could be forgiven for assuming an in depth understanding of the nuances of music on my part. The fact of the matter is that at my brightest I am able to tell Chinese music from Celtic, and Rock from…well…non rock. It stops there, however. My discerning matter puts its hands up after such enviable achievements. It is perhaps because of this ignorance that I am able to enjoy all kinds of music, barring of course most of the crap that comes out of Bollywood, or is sold in the name of music by the likes of Ali Haider, Shahzad Roy and company.

I used to have a recurring dream in my younger days. I am not sure if the dream specialists will be very pleased with my employment of the term ‘recurring’ here, since I had the dream only thrice, and once out of those times I was not even asleep. At the other two times, I was running a high fever. It was a strange dream, there were no monsters in it, and no gory scenes that would excite JB into a frenzy, yet it was one that scared me witless; it was a dream that oscillated between extreme noise and extreme silence. Thats all I would remember afterwards, but the alternating noise and silence would haunt me for minutes after waking up too. It would be as if my sense of hearing had somehow become enhanced, and being equipped with the bat powers unexpectedly can be a harrowing experience. I stumbled across this universal truth rather harshly.

Once during my college days, I had woken up with these powers, and I remember hating the sound of water gushing out of that faucet in the bathroom. Bats must hate flowing water. It can be amazingly loud, which perhaps is one of the reasons there are no bats in bathrooms. Our bathroom was under-equipped, in that there was no shower in it. We relied on the good old bucket and mug system for bathing, and in the absence of more modern facilities had to depend on stove-heated water.

The two ‘cauldrons’, one extra large and the other large, which used to be on our stove perpetually, form an intergral part of my nostalgic reminisces from those days. The larger of the cauldrons was used to make tea for ourselves and our visitors ( in that order by the way), and the smaller one to ensure that none of the four occupants of the apartment froze in the bathroom, lest any of the other three got delayed from their classes. Attending the classes was important, two of us got to play table-tennis between classes in their college, while the other two had girls in their classes. Our priorities were never in doubt.

Coming back to that loud and cold morning, I decided to take a quick bath to wake me up completely and wash those bat-ish powers away, but regretted my decision gravely after the first mug of luke-warm water jolted the rest of my senses into hyperactivity. I had succesfully transformed myself into the-one-with-the-super-senses using nothing more than a plastic mug full of water. That was the only upside. One of the downsides was that the water had some-how interfered with the slow-motion setting in which I had hitherto lived my life. The speed with which things started happening was mind-boggling, dumb-founding and quite like all other things too fast to be described by anything less than a compound adjective. This coupled with my acute sense of hearing meant that extending my hand to the plastic mug was an ordeal that brought about a near-nervous break down.

With the kind of speed my limbs were generating, I could have beaten Bruce Lee into a pulp before he had a chance to say Nee hao. Not surprisingly, a showdown with Bruce Lee was the last thing on my mind at the time. Pulp, however, was a word that painted the picture of my mind like a thousand pictures could not. There are times when there is only so much that a picture, or a collection of pictures can tell. Pulp, for instance, would look little different in any of the thousand pictures one took of it. The word itself delivers the point home much more potently, and it takes four letters rather than a thousand clicks to convey the message. Kum kharch balaa nasheen as we say in Urdu.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, I set out to master my new-found powers, and finish my bath in the process. I began by mastering the agility of my limbs, all the while keeping my focus on keeping the noise-levels to a minimum; no splashes in the bucket, and no pouring of mug-fulls for me. Seeping the water into the mug in multiple installments, and that too because osmosis was just not an option, and trickling rather than pouring was the name of the game. Effectively this meant that it took me five minutes to just refill the mug, and fifteen to empty it. I do not recall the exact flow of events, but I do remember that by the time I was finished, my super-sonic arms were sore from restraint, the water in the bucket had turned ice-cold, and the resulting goose-bumps on my body had become so pronounced that when I poured water on myself, it was made to negotiate its way around them. I had missed my class too. I do not remember how long it had taken for those super powers to subside, but I do know that I was thankful they did. I had to have my morning baths, and I hated missing those classes.

The relevance of this tale of superheroic bath with my dreams, and of the two with my love-hate relationship with music?

Well, I used to suffer from those super-senses in my dreams and after waking up from them for some time, and mother, who is our in-house dream specialist, had interpreted my dream early on saying that the noise represented music, while the torch I used to be carrying in those dreams represented knowledge, and that the two in my life would be mutually exclusive. Given that my learning curve has become a trough of late, while my exposure to music has grown manifold in the same time, it seems she had got that one right too. Come to think of it, the only time I was ever awarded a scholarship in my academic career, was also the time during which my cassette player had gone on strike against the kind of music I was listening to, and refused point blank to play any of it.

It stands to reason then that I should be able to regain my intelligence and the learning ‘crest’ if I stop listening to music once again. There is of course the possibility of permanent damage that might already have jeopardized my return to intelligent thought process, but then one must realize that JB with permanent damage to all his faculties makes it through his day solely on one flash of intelligence per day, what’s there to stop me from following suit? My thought process is niether nicotine infused, nor nicotine infested, and even my mother would agree nicotine is a bigger vice than music.

First Draft – Aasman ke neechey.6

Usi aasman ke neechey tum,
Usi ke neechey hum hain,
Zindagi apni rawish pe rawaan,
Jaisey kuch huwa hi to nahin.

Kaisi hawa hai yeh?
Jis kee zad main…
Tum bhi ho,
Hum bhi hain.

Jaaney is ko khabar bhi hai…
Yeh kin lamhon ko utha layee hai.
Jaaney aasman ko nazar bhi aata hai…
Kaisey qatron main samandar bharey jaatey hain?

Dil yaad ka baadban taaney…
Kis kis bhanwar se guzraa hai.
Siskiyaan labon tak aa aa kar…
Dum tod gayee hain.
Aah nikal nikal gayee hai…
Aankh bhar see gayee hai…

Waqt ko khabar tak na huwi…
Aur kaisi qayamat guzar gayee hai!

Usi aasman ke neechey hum,
Usi ke neechey tum ho,
Zindagi apni rawish pe rawaan…
Jaisey kuch huwa hi to nahin!

Comment Gone Lengthy – CGL VII44

This was originally a comment posted in response to my friend Sohail’s comment on the last post, but it got lengthy, and hence qualifies to be posted as CGL VII.

Thank you for sharing your point of view. Rest assured, I poked no needles into any voodoo doll in response to people’s comments on my blog, but if those people did have blogs, I have commented there…and that, as some will tell you, is not a wholly welcome eventuality. In your case, I shall wait for your blog to come up…

Now, allow me to begin with a little, but hugely pertinent, clarification. The conspiracy part was not meant literally. Having said that, while I agree with quite a bit of what you have to say, I have my own take on some aspects of your viewpoint.

I am surprised when you bracket culture of tolerance along with the American Culture. There are about a dozen countries around the world or what is left of those countries after American tolerance, Afghanistan and Iraq being only the recent additions to the list, which would take exception to those two terms being employed interchangeably. Tolerant America has invaded more countries in the last half century than any other country – the premise, surprisingly, has been one of the cousin buzzwords of tolerance. Democracy, for instance, has often surfaced as American premise to decimate non-democratic countries. Subsequently, however, if the ‘installation’ rather than ‘instillation’ of democracy did not bring ‘the right party’ to power, Americans and their western cronies have shown little tolerance for the democratic rights of the democratically elected reps in that area.

The unexpected wins of the Islamic parties in Turkey and Algeria, and more recently in Egypt and Iraq, have had the Americans stymied (Why are y’all electing these fundamentalist/extremist mullahs? Dontcha know its a democratic election? These guys ain’t democratic!), and often elicited unfriendly conduct from the western powers. So much for tolerance, and so much for democracy. Its the American definition or no definition.

I agree with your second point. However, there are the gossip pages and columns for people who read and enjoy gossip, must the newspapers now convert pages dedicated to real news to gossip pages also? You seem to have assumed my total aversion to any gossip news appearing anywhere, which while not entirely a fallacious assumption, is not the whole truth either. I am tolerant enough to allow a page somewhere inside the paper to the moronic readers and buyers of the papers too. My objection here is to the celebrity-gossip-overdose plaguing our publications. I do not want to read about a gay marriage, an adultrous relationship, or another adultery related newspeice on my front page, which should ideally be carrying news of the highest importance. A newspaper ought to be a newspaper after all.

I am not entirely taken with this if-there-is-enough-demand-there-will-be-a-product theory also. Real world economics is not an exact science, and its undoing is the variable called know-it-all human being. Case in point from the entertainment industry itself is the crap that lollywood churns out every year. If we were to go by the above theory, long long ago, Pakistani film industry would have mended its act…or are we to assume that when it comes to Pakistani cinema, our discerning public’s expectations just take a nose-dive. People continue to miss economic opportunities because their thinking is clouded by pre-conceived notions.

I really hate it when these self styled marketers imply that a majority of us are fools. You of all the people should know that Marketing has come a long way from the days of identifying a need, it has now moved onto creating a want, converting it into a deep craving rather than just a need, and making a sale.

I had made that conspiracy comment as a half jest, but its not entirely wrong. The American public for instance, unlike its government is quite fair and noble. They send their sons out to corners of the world to fight what they are told is a noble war. It takes courage and immense integrity in a nation to fight another’s war. The American people have often shown that courage and integrity. What they do not know is that they are often not fighting another’s war, they are not fighting their own war either. They are fighting the war of their political machine which of late has become quite explicit about its intentions of establishing a hegemony over the world. However, the fourth estate has converted the American public into a herd of sheep. They are led to believe what the American Government needs them to beleive to enable it to carry out its shameful agenda. They are given concocted stories, and when there are not enough concoctions they are fed this celebrity gossip round the clock to keep their mind off of news that holds real importance.

Newspapers here in the UAE print what their counterparts in the west print, not what majority of their readers would like to read. That is what is so pathetic about publications here. They do not have a mind of their own, nor news of their own.

As for those news of discrimination, they are not entirely baseless. The western media itself has documented a rise in anti-arab/anti-Muslim sentiment and incidents arising out of this rise. But that is a different discussion, and I am short on time.

Sum it all up, I am totally averse to celebrity gossip, or any gossip. I think it is an instance of creating a need in the first place. It also breeds the wrong kind of culture, which encourages people to snoop into other people’s lives. It was the drive to satisfy this created need that cost Diana and Dodi their lives. It is the kind of culture that makes the signing of confidentiality contract mandatory on the guests to a celebrity wedding. (See what I mean about nthese news being omnipresent!) It is the kind of behaviour espoused by no civilization, but increasingly being made a part of the modern civilization, just like nudity, homosexuality and other such vices. Celebrity gossip is nothing but eavesdropping and snooping, by the publishers as well as the readers of CG.

And just like Anjum said, who are these people who are labelled celebrities? I can understand sports celebrities, people who win sporting battles for their countries, but I would strongly object to any gossip about their private lives too. Irrespective of who the celebrities are, however, CG is a vice, and should not be encouraged.

There is news and there is gossip. News is good, gossip is bad.

Unfortunately, CG has become too well entrenched as a need now to be totally eradicated, and I can live with a gossip page in the newspaper…but please, spare me the ‘masala’ on the front page, and respect my right to go through my daily life without having to find out that Anglina Jolie has wrested Brad Pitt away from Jennifer Aniston!

Sands and Blizzards!7

There is entirely too much print space, if that is the word I am looking for, wasted on what is called ‘celebrity gossip’. The past few weeks, the newspapers have been replete with stories about the ‘celebrity’ gay marriage, and this in an Islamic country like the UAE, where Orkut and Naseeb are banned because they are dating sites, and where when recently police raided a ‘discreet’ gay party and made arrests, it was front page news. Prior to that there was Aniston pitted against Angelina, and not very long ago you could not start your morning without finding out what Bennifer had been upto in the preceding twelve hours. Today, once again, City Times, the tabloid-cum-sports pages of Khaleej Times, thought it necessary to splash A.Jolie’s semi-naked picture on its cover, and inform us that Angelina and Brad have had success at procreation. Its the Pitts, pun intended.

I subscribe to Khaleej Times, since long ago I had decided against spending any money on Gulf News because of its inherent bias against Pakistan in its coverage. Outisde of these two publications one’s options are still quite limited when it comes to mainstream newspapers. KT used to be quite a decent publication, with a balanced approach to news coming from both sides of the Pak-India border. More than that, City Times in its good old days did not carry the extra baggage of spots news, and was indeed looked forward to because of a certain humorist’s column on its last page. Bikram Vohra, who put a smile on many a face every morning, has long since left City Times, and has been recycling his CT columns in the recently launched Evening Post.

I have continued with Khaleej Times, more out of habit than anything else. The paper has gone to the dogs. The front page induces nausea with its “Your favorite and number one paper in the UAE, Khaleej Times, this…; and your favorite and no.1 paper in the UAE, Khaleej Times, that…” stories. I had half a mind to ask our paper boy to rip off the front page before delivering the paper at our place, but then I noticed that even the stories inside were not much better either, and if we continued with the ripping strategy, we might as well ask him to shred the damn thing for us as soon as he received it. He’s a poor chap, who works really hard to make ends meet, and I did not think, he would have been able to afford a shredder, so we continued to receive the paper every morning, and I continue to shred it in our office daily. On a positive note, KT did take lead in putting the officials of government organizations under the microscope, and often imitates the western publications’ tone in its ‘fight’ to bring forth the causes of accountability, and justice. This is a favorable development, since one felt that the officials in the Government departments, and quite often the expatriates in private institutions flouted the moral, ethical, or regional norms with impunity and with the least consideration for those affected by their behavior. With KT on the prowl to report such incidents, and other publications following suit, perhaps one can expect these incidents to reduce. On the whole though, the newspapers are disappointing, especially in their choice of stories to fill up their pages.

It has often made me think, however, why do they have to fill up the paper with such riff raff. So Elton John and his gay friend got married, and I can understand the inevitability of having to report the marriage too, but who needs the intricate details of the preparations for the wedding, and the celebrity list attending the wedding, and whatever else happened there. How does it hold any importance for the people of the UAE, for it to keep propping up in the newspapers on regular basis. So, Pitt and Aniston got divorced, and found other partners, whats the big deal? Must we have their daily lives forced down our throats? And what’s with the Jude law and Miller story? One committed adultery, tendered in apologies, the other forgave; and now me thinks they are playing the same story with the roles reversed. I can understand if this were reported as news, but when it becomes the topic for discussion every day, it gets to me.

Looking at above, you could be forgiven for assuming that I keep a close watch on the celebrity gossip. You could not, however, make a more fallacious assumption. I never read celebrity gossip, yet it is so in your face all the time, so omni-present, this celebrity gossip, that you can hardly not know whats been happening. The newspaper in the morning, the magazines stacked by the cashier’s side in your area supermarket, the TV news, the radio…its everywhere.

Who are these celebrities? What makes them such celebrities? What is their claim to fame? Their art? Their talent? I do not think so. None of these news, which clutter the information highways, subways, underpasses and overpasses, are about their art or their talent. All this news is about is their homosexuality, adultery, more adultery and still more adultery. Why should a responsible paper in an Islamic country commit pages after pages in print space to these inane stories? Why can’t these stories write about real people having real issues, people who need these papers to bring their plight to the fore, so they can be helped. Why can’t these papers write about those unsung heroes who toil day and night to eek out a living, and make life worth living for others?

They say gossip sells paper. Perhaps it does too, in a society whose obsession with the individual’s right to trample over another individual’s rights has blinded it to the cause of preserving the good in a society. In an Islamic country, in an Arab country, and that too in a GCC Arab country, a newspaper ought to exercise more caution and responsibility in its choice of stories. The GCC newspaper should realize that it has to take the same pride in its own self, which an average GCC national exhibits in his own thob and gatra. The GCC paper, I strongly feel, should write about the sands and the oasis in those sands, not about the blizzards in the west; only then will there be an international entity called the GCC paper.

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