Tag Archives: Gen Y

And then there were words…

31 Jul

When Swapan sms’d me to ask if I would review his book, I readily agreed. And then, I procrastinated for reasons too complicated to explain.

Swapan is now a neighbour but has been a friend, colleague and competitor for almost two and a half decades; so, I have known him in more ways than one. And yet, I was surprised to learn that he had failed once in school.

Now, several weeks after carrying the little book around (it’s size, and much more besides, reminds me of The Little Prince that I was gifted in college) I sat myself down to review it. Actually, you can’t read This is all I have to say…you race through it and, before you realise it, you’ve reached the end. Which, I guess, is how it’s meant to be. So, you return to it to nibble on its maxims and, if they seem familiar, it’s only because they’re all (well, almost all) so very apt.

This_Is_All_I_Have_To_Say

Swapan Seth's Book Debut

Swapan Seth’s style has always been pithy. And this book is very Twitterish: it’s alliterative from the start (“An assortment of angsts. A cauldron of concerns.”) aphoristic, crisp and often clichéd. But, as we’ve always been told in advertising, clichés invariably work. Advertising runs not just in Swapan’s veins but also through his pen (or iPad or whatever digital device he used while writing this 95-pager) and its impact shows in everything about the book. It’s been written to a brief; with a sharply defined core target audience (his two sons) and a larger – yet niche – set of folks in mind; its positioning is unique (which may also be a bit of an issue because conventional booksellers won’t know which shelf to stock it in) and it’s exquisitely designed by Bonita Vaz-Shimray whose use of a wonderfully-named font, MrsEaves, adds to the crunchiness of the words…. like almonds in muesli. I do feel, however, that towards the second half of the book, the designer got carried away and readability does become an issue. But packaging is essential for any creative person who secretly worries that his ideas may not otherwise be expressed as well as they were originally envisaged.

There are gems tucked away in this book: “Parenting is a relay race.” And almost the entire chapter on love: “One day you will find love. Or rather love will find you” are among my favourite lines. If, in any book or film, you can find even one line that you relate to instantly, consider yourself as having received more than what you paid for the book (Rs 195 in this case). I found some sections reminding me of others that I had read (the chapter on Friends brought back memories of Desiderata, for instance) but even if Swapan has been inspired by all that he has read (and his appetite for words is XXL) there is nothing wrong. James Webb Young, an early 20th century practitioner of advertising said that ideas are nothing but an original combination of old elements. And Ms Rowling is known to have written that words allow us to create magic like nothing else can… this book comes close to it.

There are, however, some things I would have done differently.

The title, for instance, seems to eliminate the possibility of another book – and that would be a shame. If this is really all Swapan has to say, I’d be surprised. I find the front and back covers trying too hard to impress the reader that some well-known folks have endorsed the book: not really required, my friend. I have a knack for finding typos and would like to meet the editor in Roli Books who let several slip through her pencil. Most of all, I would have liked to see the names of people who played a role in Swapan’s life instead of their being relegated to pronouns: a teacher and his first client as an entrepreneur are the only ones named.

The book is dedicated to his sons with a line “May love be the ampersand between the two of you” and perhaps that’s why I love the book: the ampersand is a delightful but undervalued character that connects almost everything epigrammatically. And I tend to overuse the word “and”… often violating the most fundamental tenet of Wren & Martin.

But, for now, this is all I have to say and you should go find the book. You don’t have to be a lover, a husband, a copywriter or even a parent to enjoy snacking on Swapan’s words… bon appetit!

Forgetting to Remember

9 Mar

There is something weird happening to the way we remember things. And the way we forget them.

In a digitally-driven world, almost everything we upload/share/email/blog post…whatever, is cached somewhere without any expiry date and floats around in ghostly cyber-space waiting to be touched again by a human being. Unlike the history of earlier times – captured through folklore, twisted by kings and triumphant tribes or exiled forever when a storyteller died – it’s almost as though we’re all in a mad hurry to record every stupidly trivial detail of our lives via 140 characters or silly status updates.

And then we live in fear, having forgotten what we said, where and when. But knowing full well that Google knows it all and will make your spur-of-the-moment slur available on demand for a potential employer or, worse, a suitor. Which is where a tool (drop.io) allowed you to put an expiry date on everything you shared in the cloud. It would have had immense value except that its owners went in for valuation and sold out to Facebook. Mover over Google, Facebook doesn’t want you to remember and retract.

But that’s not the weirdness I alluded to, above.

My worry is that we are now a generation of people (digital migrants and natives alike) who simply cannot remember many things that some of us did in the pre-mobile, pre-Google era… like birthdays and phone numbers. Wasn’t there a time when you could recall every phone number you frequently dialled straight off the top of your mind? How many can you remember today? Two, three, four perhaps and they’ll probably be of people you love. There may be the odd phone number or postal address from a decade ago that’s indelibly etched; but not too many, I’ll wager. Is it because we no longer actually dial (or punch in) a number? Or is it because we’ve handed over the responsibility of remembering to ever-growing memory chips that sit inside our mobile and computer hardware? Will we need an app soon to tell us who we’re fond of?

I have a crazy time remembering things I’d like to forget about. It’s worse if you forget the things you should remember.

Update (March 10): Even NYT agrees with me in a funny way 😉

Nothing

23 Feb

There are times when you need someone to do nothing with.

Someone to just be there. Not to speak with or listen to. Not to touch or be caressed by. No whiff, no whisper, no kiss, no comforting… Just nothing.

Nothing more, nothing less.

But it isn’t easy to do nothing. Programmed as we are to continuously engage in social activity, we look for films to watch, books to read, links to share, friends to hang out with, calories to burn, beer to guzzle, tweets to type and statuses to update…try nothing for a change.

Nothing is a noun, not a verb – so inaction is inbuilt. ‘Do nothing’ is a paradox.

That’s it for now. Nothing else.

Law of First-time Fathers

6 Mar

Mohitoz’ Law #251

The smaller the child, the bigger his wails.

Third Law of Beer

16 Feb

Mohitoz’ Law #244

(Contributed by Raghu)

Nobody really buys beer. They merely rent it for a couple of hours.

My Name Is Khichdi

11 Feb

Let’s get this straight.

The battle in Bombay (or Mumbai or whatever it is people want to call it) is not about a film. Or cricket. Or politics. Or Indianness.

It’s about money. About Lakshmi… irrespective of your religious beliefs.

Mr Khan needs a commercial hit because another Mr Khan showed that a trio of idiots could make more money than many other intelligent graduates.

He needs to remind India that his name is Khan. And, if you see him on TV, or are forced to read his retweets, you’ll realize he’s also reiterating his roots.

So is the maker of the film.

Not because they’re emotionally attached to Bombay or the film. But because they could get financially detached if the producers don’t recover their money.

It’s a good time to be a martyr, be it at a US airport or at one in UK: does it matter if body parts show up in x-ray scans (does size really matter?) though the authorities have rubbished this claim.

But Mr Khan is an honourable man. He claims he is here to entertain India and that’s exactly what he’s doing: with or without a regular release. Even if Bombayites don’t, the rest of India will see his film: don’t be surprised if all shows over the next weekend are sold out in other metros. And the Khaneratti go crazy trying to beat each other at status updates on F’book or Tweets. Suddenly, being the first to watch a film is more important than coming first in class or cracking a problem at work.

And, as though, we don’t have enough problems, our cops now have to guard movie halls. They’re more important than The Taj or the Gateway of India, it would seem. With strife of this kind, who needs the Taliban or the LeT: Pakistan is now trying to figure out what to do with its terrorists on the bench?

What’s worse is the complete khichdi between films, sports and politics. And commerce. There was a time when one sat in a dark hall, having suspended disbelief willingly to watch a character called Vijay beat the faeces out of evil-doers. Today, you can’t sit in the first three rows and probably have to carry your passport to get in anyway.

Is the film worth it – cinematically speaking? Is anyone even asking? Or will irrelevant hype give it four stars when the reviews are out tomorrow?

Somewhere, along the way, everyone’s lost the plot.

As for the roaring tiger, he’s clear: just because your name is Khan, it doesn’t mean you can.

And he seems to be thriving, unlike the ones in the real jungle. Pity.

Law of Shiv Sena

11 Feb

Mohitoz’ Law #240

Khan can’t.

SRK vs Shiv Sena

His name may be Khan but, in Bombay, he can't (release his film, that is, without Shiv Sena's blessings)