Tuesday, 27 October, 2009

What Security?

I was participating in a Canon photo competition last Sunday for a lark, and of course for the all-expenses-paid trip to Japan which they had dangled enticingly.

We got an hour and a half per topic to run from Atria Mall to click pictures and get back to upload them at the Canon Center. The three briefs were - Stand Out, On The Job and Freedom. While roaming around Peddar Road, Babulnath Temple, Mahalaxmi Race Course and Worli Sea Face, I used to park my car somewhere and walk a bit around on foot trying to capture a picture that fit the brief. They had given us Canon T-shirts to wear and a huge badge to identify us as participants.

Almost everywhere, the security guards let me wander around and even saluted me!
Made me think about them, the fear that they have about anything and anyone looking even slightly officious. I don't think they could read Canon, but I suspect they could visually identify the Canon logo and let me through. I even drove to the stables at Mahalaxmi without any hitch, saluted by 2 guards on the way. At Gold's Gym opposite Haji Ali, it was the same case.

Scary that anyone can take advantage of these poor guys fear and desire not to upset a potentially powerful person just to safeguard their jobs!

Friday, 23 October, 2009

Hippo Vs Aliva Vs Cracker Classic Lite Vs 5 Grain

A comparison between some new snack foods that have cropped up, all in the baked, not fried category and a few old favorites.
All of them flag off the Zero Cholesterol and Zero Trans Fat prominently. Some say made with wheat and dal instead of flour (maida). Some have 5 grains in them. Some have minuscule amounts of honey and other good things that they are irrelevant in the health claim.

So, do the just-launched snacks Hippo (Parle Agro) and Aliva (Frito Lay) score over a comparatively new 5 Grain Nutri Choice (Britannia) or the Cream Cracker (now known as Cracker Classic Lite Nutri Choice) (Britannia) or are they all just marketing hype? To me any thing that is packaged and has flavouring and emulsifying agents and a load of maida has to be unhealthy. Nothing can beat food made at home. So while I buy all of the above brands and more, the final nutri choice is up to us whether we choose to become hippos or stay alive in a cracking healthy way.
The 4 packs were of different sizes. So I have reduced the nutritional information to a common 10 gms. Also Hippo is a toasted bread snack and not a biscuit as the others clearly are. 1 kcal is just one Calorie. But the reason for all of them being here is because we are being sold these as a healthy alternative in our busy life.
While I was looking for pictures to add, I stumbled upon Nita's site. If you have read so far, I assume you care about what you eat, so please check out what she has to say about these claims.

Click on the image below, it's a hand-drawn table with the nutritional information compiled from the above packs.

Thursday, 15 October, 2009

Displaced... And Dazed

I was born in Bombay. My first few nappy changes brought along a heady rush of smells, sights and sounds as my parents took connecting trains and planes, shifting across the length and breadth of India bag, baggage, two bawling kids and 42 wooden boxes in tow.

Pathankot, Chandigarh, Kanpur, Silchar (in Assam), Poona, New Delhi, Bareilly, Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune and so on. 29 houses in 31 years to be precise. And a bunch of muddled and not so muddled memories.

Of numerous housekeepers. One really nice gardener. One nutty nanny in Silchar who insisted on feeding us milk and rice with sugar on top. Moving from large bungalows with picturesque gardens to shared accommodation in Air Force transit camps. From cramped whitewashed flats to large apartments overlooking the Arabian Sea. Memories of gardens winning first prize every year to Assamese Bashas made out of bamboo and nothing else. Ones that gave up their roofs to the gale-force winds in the North Eastern monsoons. And if not the roof blowing off, springing leaks that only large plastic sheets stretched under them could aim the leakage towards strategically placed buckets and pans.

There was a time I remember, when the monthly ration the peak-capped boffins in New Delhi sent, was a planeload of tinned biscuits and that is all the whole Air Force station had to eat that week.

Our extensive Poona garden with numerous fruit trees to swing and climb, from Mango and Guava, to Banana and Sugarcane. And the shock to discover that our happy playground was home to a huge brown snake. The long cycle rides in the cantonment roads chasing each other, playing catch and cook. The chance encounter with a girl after school, while waiting for our dads to pick us up, who was the only one ever to have made me go weak in the knees, all at the rather young age of ten. And later, becoming friends with her, knowing fully well it was never meant to be. Picking 'Ber' and dipping them in little packets of salt, carried just for such encounters on our secret short cuts in the Aravali hills. Roller skating from Subroto Park to Dhaula Kuan and back, racing trucks on the national highway. Hurried Table Tennis in the lunch break. Playing cricket every day, even during exam time and paying the penalty for it. The rod, I remember, was not spared.

When two boxes full of books collected, no treasured, over the years, had no place in a small house in Bangalore and were sent for storage in HAL. And after a year when we moved to our official house, to discover all that was left of them were little bits of paper chewed up by rats in a hungry frenzy. Or sheer frustration.

Or later in college, experiencing a culture shock of civilian kids and their completely different lifestyles and upbringing. The biggest being the perceived lax morals, having grown up in the city versus being closeted in insulated cantonments far away. An example of that being when I got my driving license, the regular way, paying the 45 rupee fee, while my classmates boasted how they didn’t even have to make a trip to the RTO office. They got theirs in hand by paying a princely sum of Rs. 300 to a tout.

The irritating times trying to convince traffic cops that the reason my scooter, car and bike had alien license plates was because my father had a transferable job and CHU 4844 was a 25-year-old Chandigarh legacy my father refused to give up, even when the papers were lost. Or hiding the fact that CKA 2432 was deregistered in Bangalore and then never re-registered, ever again. And UTF 9 was an IPS officer's car and getting salutes from cops was an embarrassment to be savored in secretive glee behind its dark tinted windows.

When I joined advertising in 1996, the mad world actually helped stabilize my life. In fact, Mumbai has now been my home for the longest period of time. After moving three more times, I moved to a place right across the road from the hospital I was born in (Dr. Pai's, Matunga) almost like a fitting end to the journey so far. And a poetic way to begin at the beginning.

To put things in perspective, I have one friend from school, a handful from college, no neighbours or neighbourhood friends and a whole lot of agency friends. Or rather, friends who happen to be in advertising.

I am glad with what I have.

- This started off life as a small rejoinder to a friend's article that was published in http://dsplaced.com/?p=324. It just became so humongous that I had to cut-paste it here and just leave a link there :)

Thursday, 8 October, 2009

Vuclip: More News

Vuclip’s redesigned web and wapsites make it easier than ever for users to search for and watch any Internet video on their mobile phones by adding social networking and other functionality to drive the discovery of new video content. In addition to having any video delivered to their phones whenever they want, users can now create playlists, receive alerts about new videos and share their favorite videos with friends.

“Users want to consume everything from first-run branded content to user-generated content but the mobile video viewing experience has been far too frustrating for it to become an everyday consumer activity,” said Nickhil Jakatdar, CEO of Vuclip. “Vuclip solves this problem by delivering video to mobile phones the way people want it, when they want it, wherever they are.”

The current growth and adoption rates for mobile video usage have been hampered by technological fragmentation in the marketplace as well as limited available content. Handsets have different screen sizes, media players and browsers. Network Infrastructure varies among carriers. The availability of mobile video content is often limited by pre-encoding and storage issues.

Vuclip addresses these fragmentation and content issues by allowing users to search for any Internet video, transcoding that video on the fly and optimizing it for each handset to ensure the best video viewing experience possible – all in real time. Vuclip works on more than 2000 handsets in 130 countries around the globe.

IT Calling

Got a letter from the IT Department, Government of India. My returns had been randomly selected by the computer for scrutiny under the CAAS system.

The Parel, Mumbai office of the IT Commissioner was a godown. The 3rd floor, where I was to meet the case officer was a mess. Piled with personal and corporate income tax returns on the floor, on racks nine feet high, on desks, on every available space, a hundred bound together with white strings. All dusty and dirty.

The Income Tax Officers and lesser mortals sweating it out in that dust-mote paradise with ancient fans whirring overhead. They don't even have a desktop yet. It is one of the 'demands' made by the labour union on a large, red lettered poster stuck in the landing.

The commissioner, there were many for each ward/zone, had a cabin with a comfortable air-conditioner and the works. But still it was a dumpy office. Certainly can imagine the vengeance they must be generating in their minds to go after cases of the rich and untaxed just by walking into that hell-hole everyday.

The above was the government not providing them facilites like air-conditioning, computers and filing systems and furniture.

But what about cleaning, dusting and sweeping the premises? The inside of the office had large pillars, and on each of them, four feet high, were countless blood-red pan and gutka stains spat out with gay abandon. Wall corners inside the office were doubling up as spittoons. The toilet was stinking. Plastic chairs for visitors dirty and broken. The water cooler was so dirty that touching it was a risk.

Do these people hate what they do so much that they couldn't care?

Wednesday, 7 October, 2009

Typhoon Journeys 8000 Miles Non-Stop

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has deployed four Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 combat aircraft to the Falkland Islands/Malvinas for air defence duties.
The aircraft, which departed from their homebase at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire on 12 September, were accompanied by aerial refuelling tanker aircraft for their 8,000-mile journey to the South Atlantic island chain.
The Typhoons will spend a period of time conducting joint operations with the incumbent Panavia Tornado F.3s to ensure a smooth transition from one type to the other. The F.3s will return to the UK aboard chartered Antonov An-124 transport aircraft.
The Typhoons, drawn from 3 Squadron (which provides the southern portion of the UK's Quick Reaction Alert [QRA] cover) will be assigned to 1435 Flight at Mount Pleasant airfield for the purpose of deterring any incursions from Argentina, which lays claim to the islands.
- Jane's