December 4, 2010

If you can’t dream it, then daydream it.

Fritz Gonsalvez

“Pay attention! Come back from the moon,” barked the mathematics tutor while hammering Pythagoras’ theorem into my fiendish little brain.

I came back at the speed of light, but not from moon. Instead, from Centre Court, Wimbledon. I was playing in the 1992 Men’s Singles Championship and the only person standing in between the trophy and me was Andre Agassi. While Princess Diana, Elton John, Naomi Campbell and John Major were seen cheering for the tennis rookie from India.

Daydreaming is the ancient great grandfather of stargazing. It always existed. Then one day an obscure drunkard joined the dots in the sky, drew a creature that was one-quarter man and three quarters horse, gave it bow and arrow, just so it looked cool, and bingo, we have legitimate employment for nursery-failed academicians.

The Centre Court siesta happened when I was in sixth grade. And a lot of daydreaming has happened in between then and now. I played a sold out performance at Woodstock, raised important questions pertaining to national security in parliament, won a noble prize in economics, took part in the Indian independence movement, appeared on the David Letterman Show, commanded the Punjab battalion, coached the women’s hockey team and danced in the rain with a Bollywood bombshell.

And as it normally happens with kids who daydream themselves through school, it happened to me. When I graduated, I didn’t have a bagful of career options or at least not the lucrative ones. So the first job I got was that of a salesman for a cordless phone company. And boy you can daydream about anything but sales figures. My boss single-handedly destroyed my daydreaming socket. From, “Be a man” jargon to, “You can sell this phone to homing pigeon”, he brainwashed me and he succeeded admirably. I started hitting numbers and started believing in reality.

I was wrong. You can take a man out of daydreaming, but it doesn’t work the other way around. So once, while I was getting plain brain fried during a boring sales meeting, I unconsciously slipped into a daydreaming siesta. I imagined myself giving a speech after receiving the “Salesman of the Year” award and thanking the CEO for giving me his daughter’s hand in marriage. My boss caught me red-handed and started blasting me. It felt like he was reading my mind. He screamed, “Hey you? Pay attention.” But it sounded like, “How can you marry the CEO’s daughter, when I am still a bachelor.” Now I might be a daydreamer, but I am also the Honorary Secretary of “The Angry Young Man’s Club.” So, I decided to quit then and there. No one was shocked.

Fast-forward to early 2000. The dotcom bubble had burst but the pipe dream run was still going strong. Nothing exciting was happening, until I saw an advertisement in the newspaper that mentioned about a computer science degree from a reputed university in America, which guaranteed a starting salary of 23 lakhs per annum. This might not sound attractive now, but trust me, it was a lot more convincing back then. I mean it even mentioned the name of the guy who had managed to get such an obnoxious salary. For my daydreaming cells, this news was equivalent to snorting Grade A Cocaine; they started working overtime: First you’ll crack the entrance, then two years for the degree and then a 20,000 square foot mansion with a swimming pool, next to a golf course, right in the middle of Silicon Valley and an American supermodel for your wife - the great American Dream, now in India.

Now, the ”believe in your dreams” rhetoric can best be termed as a “psychobabble cliché,” but believing your daydreams is plain suicide. Especially when the course fee is equivalent to your dad’s pension fund. I took the article to my dad – he asked me whether I was his son. I showed it to my three close friends. They didn’t want to be left behind so they decided to pursue it. But the real reason why they agreed is even worse. Friend number one agreed because he wanted to get married ASAP, friend number two, because his girlfriend was doing better than he was, and friend number three, because all of us were doing it and he had nothing else to do. Now four sets of parents’ pension funds were at stake and the freight train hadn’t even arrived yet. We got through the entrance exam and joined the course. On the first day, the first lecture was on Computer Architecture and the topic was Combinatorial Algorithms. By evening all of us decided to quit. By next week we were home and my dad was minus a few lakhs.

The great American dream disaster shrunk my soul and wallet to miniscule sizes. A man who has nothing will always have a few friends who also have nothing. And all they can do is nothing. Or may be they can have a few drinks. And it was during one of those bingeing sessions that somebody mentioned something about thinking, writing and advertising.

“Hey, you can write?”
“Sure I can and so can a million people.”
“Yes, but they are not funny, you can write humorous stuff, you are a funny man.”
“Sure I’m funny! Everyone’s laughing at me.”

Then he explained to me how his dad’s brother’s youngest son’s friend had once worked as a writer in an ad agency.
“What’s the minimum qualification?"
“How much do you make?”
The money is really bad, but there is a lot of job satisfaction.”
“Oh. That’s reassuring.”

That night I couldn’t sleep. The spurious liquor kept me wide awake. I decided to give it a shot. My daydreaming cells weren’t at all warmed up to the idea. But my brain was playing the Rocky III soundtrack. So despite all the rotten luck I had I landed a job in an advertising agency. They offered me a salary that was slightly better than what immigrant labourers make in Ethiopia. The perks included irregular office hours, vernacular profanities, cheap hangovers, perpetual cock talk, no spine, no social life, no family life, no life whatsoever. I still took the job. It’s the only job in which you are paid to think. Heck you don’t even need to think. You can just pretend. And you’ll still get paid.

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August 30, 2010

Goodbye People

Abhishek Deshwal – his farewell letter to his colleagues

It might not really matter if I stay or leave but I thought a few words of advice might help (It might also prove that I haven’t entirely wasted my experience here).

Ok, the first thing which I repeatedly tell everyone ‘It’s only advertising and if anything goes wrong, no ones gonna die’. So stop screaming and making a deadline delay sound like the end of the world.

Make sure you’re earning enough. I’m a self-proclaimed history buff and I can show you documents from the Industrial Revolution that concluded if pays are less, people work harder. Since then, the theory has never ceased to be unpopular with corporations. Keep this in mind when slogging your ass in one place for sentimental reasons and compromising on money.

Cut down on smoking. You don’t want a heart attack at 35 right? If you think it’s cool don’t bother.

Try joining a late evening hobby. It’s better than getting frustrated at work and heading to the bar. It also solves two problems:

You stop heading to the bar.
You have a highly motivating reason to finish work early.

Now that I’ve said it, I’m sure it won’t work. You’ll give it up after a month or two. But let me tell you that when I joined evening swimming classes, every evening used to be heavenly. Enjoy it till it lasts. Even if it’s just for a month.

No matter how irritating people in the management are, force yourself to crack jokes with them every time you see them (Don’t bother about the quality; keep the best ones for your buddies). Our industry is small and people do a lot of reference checks. You won’t know how your best interview got fucked.

Do not concentrate on just earning money. I say this for two reasons:

If you get a three bed-room flat in Mumbai, what’s the use if you’re never able to spend time in it?

If your logic is you’ll give your kids a better future, chances are that generation will blow all your money on drugs. Keep them poor - they’ll be more serious.

Ok, an extra third one: Weekends in Goa don’t cost much. The train fare is 300 bucks and stay 500 per night.

Remember if you don’t believe in reincarnation, your only life shouldn’t be spent inside air-conditioned, suffocating glass boxes. Work in an agency with balconies.

A few quick ones to score better with the management:

* Carrying a good looking bottle makes you look really important (Don’t ask me how, just look around all those seniors carrying one).
* Also, carry a laptop from one end of office to another and back. It shows you’re really busy with meetings.
* Talk about your work a lot. Even if you feel it’s like bragging that you’re so good at.
* Talk about advertising a lot (Talking about movies is a lot more interesting but people high up are so busy devising new plans to fuck your weekends that they won’t relate).
* Try working late nights rather than early mornings (No one’s there early morning to notice that you’re working hard)

Lastly, all I ask is try not to kill yourself at work, now that I’m not there to show you the path.


About the Author: Abhishek Deshwal, or Deshu, a Copywriter, is from Dehra Dun. When he speaks, it's like listening to the hills.

July 19, 2010

Why I Left Facebook

Molly Schoemann, New York.

Because every damn time I signed on to Facebook my feed went like this:

[Girl you found distasteful in high school]: Has posted pictures from her wedding!

Click here to view her photos, while wondering if perhaps you misjudged her back in the day. Find photos distasteful, even for wedding photos. Feel slightly depressed, if also vindicated.

[Person you barely talk to who lives in a different city]: Is home from work!

[Guy you had several ill-advised hookups with three years ago]: Has compared you to his other friends!

Click here if you find this somehow enraging. Click around some more trying to figure out whom you have been compared with, but give up after a few minutes. Feel somehow violated.

[Girl you know through an ex-boyfriend]: Is a fan of “Bill Withers”.

[Person you barely talk to who lives in a different city]: Is cooking dinner!

[Girl you were good friends with in 7th grade and haven't talked to since then]: Has sent you a friend request!

Click here to accept her request with enthusiasm. Click here to send a message to this girl, summarizing what you have been up to for the last fifteen years, and asking what she is up to in return. Wait weeks, but never receive a response. Wonder why you even bothered. Feel slightly irritated every time you notice that she is constantly on Facebook.

[Person you barely talk to who lives in a different city]: Hates morning commutes!

[Ex Boyfriend you are no longer in touch with]: Has left a comment on the photo of [some girl you don't know].

Click here, despite your better judgment, to read the comment and look at the photo of the girl, so you can see if she is prettier than you. Decide that she looks kind of dull and is probably not as funny as you either. Wonder why you even care? Feel animosity towards ex-boyfriend for no definable reason.

[Girl you like but haven't talked to in years]: Has thrown an apple at you!

Click here to pointlessly ‘throw’ a random object back at her in lieu of meaningful communication.

[Person you barely talk to who lives in a different city]: Is listening to a great album!

[Hipster you are vaguely acquainted with and were always a little scornful of]: Has posted pictures from the album “Amazing Wild New Year’s Blowout Party that was Full of Sexy Hipsters Who Are Cooler than You”.

Click here to view the album. Judge all of the people in it because they are mugging at the camera and attempting to look sexy. Also, everyone is drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and wearing trucker hats. Tell yourself you would rather have spent New Year’s Eve at home on your couch, which is good because that’s what happened. Feel slightly bad about yourself for unexplainable reasons.

[Person you barely talk to who lives in a different city]: Is a fan of “Pastrami”.

Click here if you are also a fan of “Pastrami”, because the zany, eclectic things we express fondness for help define us to others.

[Random dude you worked with two jobs ago]: Has given you a Martini!

Click here to ‘give’ a ‘drink’ to [Random Dude you worked with two jobs ago], because that constitutes rewarding social interaction or something.

[Person you barely talk to who lives in a different city]: Loves Grey’s Anatomy!

[Girl whom you vaguely recall got married right out of college]:
Is now listed as ‘Single’.

Feel overwhelmingly curious and slightly appalled that this information was posted on Facebook and now as a result you are pointlessly aware of it.

[Girl who you shared some classes with in college]: Has tagged herself in a photo!

Click here to view the photo and note that while it is flattering, it also looks very little like how you remember the girl actually looking.

[Person you barely talk to who lives in a different city]: Is hungry!

[Person you don't know]: Has left a comment on the status of [Girl whom you vaguely recall got married right out of college and is now apparently single]: “Hey! What happened?”

Feel even more appalled that someone would publicly post a brief, impersonal question like that; do they really expect an answer? Well, maybe. After all, what does [Girl who used to be married] expect, after announcing her singleness on Facebook? Begin feeling ill about the whole scenario.

[Guy you are vaguely acquainted with]: is listed as “In a Relationship” with [Girl you have met twice].

Feel faintly surprised at the match, but mostly indifferent. Wonder how [Guy] and [Girl] decided that their relationship had reached the critical “Change Your Facebook Status” level. Speculate as to whether they discussed whether or not to change their Facebook statuses at the same time, and, if not, wonder which of them did it first, and if the one who did it first worried that the other one would feel that it had been done prematurely. Feel slightly depressed by this train of thought.

[Guy you were close to in college but haven't seen in five years]: Has sent you an invitation!

Click here for details on this invitation to “An Awesome Show I’m in that is Happening in a City You Haven’t Lived in Since 1999.” Feel flattered by the invitation, but also confused. You’re probably not going to hop on a plane to see the show of a friend you haven’t spoken with since college. But you still feel too guilty to respond to the invitation with a “No”, so you absurdly put “Maybe”.

[Person you barely talk to who lives in a different city]: Is beginning to depress you with her constant updates.

Click here to scan through your Facebook friends and realize that very few of them represent actual, current friendships or even associations that you remotely value. In fact your list of contacts feels like an eerie social graveyard of expired friendships, badly ended relationships, and vague, past acquaintances you care very little about. Begin to feel depressed by the fact that so many people have passed in and out of your life without leaving much of an impression on you. Wonder how a website that is so meaningless, vacuous and shallow has become so overwhelmingly popular (particularly with younger generations), and what that means about how we view social interaction today and the direction in which it is going.

Pour yourself a real, actual drink. Note that you have a closer relationship with Jim Beam than with most of your so-called Facebook friends.

Leave Facebook.

About the Author: Molly Schoemann grew up in New York City and began writing humor and satire during her freshman year of college. She is the Humor Editor of The Perpetual Post( and is still not sure how she feels about social networking sites. Molly currently lives in Garner, North Carolina.

Got a humour story? Send it to me at

July 9, 2010

Just The Kind of Face You Make

Fritz Gonsalves

“Your dad suffered a heart attack, but he is fine now”.

That was my friend calling me at 10 a.m in the morning sometime in April and that was the first time I made this awful fart kind of face.

I allowed the news to sink in and then called up my bother and broke the news to him. There was a 30-second silence and in all probability he was busy making the same face. The next I broke the news to my boss and teammates and in no time they all had the same look on their faces. At once, everyone logged on to Cleartrip, Make My Trip and Travelguru to check for cheap airline tickets to Bhopal, my hometown.

By 5-o-clock I was 72, 000 feet in the air and practicing the calm-face look. But I failed miserably. The fart look has taken over my face. By the time I landed it was already 8.00. Dad was in hospital, so I drove straight there. Greeting me at the hospital were our family friends. I was meeting them after a couple of years and because I am terrible at making polite conversation, I had absolutely nothing to say. They took me to the ICU. I saw my old man. He was wearing an oxygen mask and was busy flirting with a Mallu nurse. He looked cheerful, as if he has just found a reason to live. I exchanged some pleasantries, enquired about mom and then got moving. Our family friends took me to the junior doctor and introduced me. Suddenly the same look came over his face. He explained to me the medical condition: “Your dad suffers from myocardial infarction.” I was shocked. So now, apart from a heart attack, he also suffers from myocardial infrastructure, or whatever. No dumbo, both are the same thing. He didn’t say it. I just figured it by the fart-face look.

Now the serious stuff, the plan of action day, the ‘take control and get it right’ stuff. Tomorrow was that day.

The doctors were going to perform angiography and then if need be angioplasty and then if nothing worked, bypass. Now if one is really lucky, and trust me, a lot of heart patients are, angiography is good enough. The doctor injects a dye into the blood vessel and they’ll get to know the exact location of the block. The dye just washes the block away. But if you are not so lucky, which means the block is this mean kid who refuses to go to school, then they inflate the vein and blast it with an air bubble. The block disappears. That’s angioplasty. But if the block belongs to this hard-arse Jat Family, notorious for illegally occupying your ancestral property, then it’s time to roll the drums. Bypass, Bypass, Bypass. I somehow had the intuition it was going to be Bypass. My intuition was right.

The next day I met the senior surgeon. And the first word that hit me was ‘saint’. The guy was as white as white cement. I mean apart from his jet-black, thinning hair, everything else was white. It’s kind of reassuring when the Surgeon General looks like a saint. But his looks surely got my imagination working. We were given a bypass date, which was still fifteen days away. So I decided to come back to Mumbai for a week and wait, but my dad suffered another myocardial infarction and I ran back home again.

The surgeon decided to advance the surgery. But we still had one week. Now dad still had to kill time and, as I’m still single and the private ward was full of caring, homely, unmarried Mullu nurses, he went right into business. No time to waste. “Before the surgeon opens my heart, I’ll make sure my son gives his heart to one of these nurses. Perfect union.” So whenever I was around he would deliberately call the nurse on duty and indulge in polite Mallu conversation. Soon enough, I was acquainted with Jincy, Lincy and Vincy. None excited me. But there was one nurse who had my hormones running and one night when Dad was fast asleep…well forget it, we had work to do … a bypass surgery.

So after another three days in hospital, Dad was wheeled inside for the Father of All Surgeries – BYPASS.

Now, bypass is one thing, but deciding on a bypass is no kindergarden stuff. So while Dad is busy getting his chest opened, I’ll talk about the things that go into it before the operation. First you have to decide the doctor and the hospital. Everyone I knew had a suggestion regarding the doctor and a hospital. Everyone suggested a doctor who was better than the one mentioned by someone else. Then you have to decide whether to choose beating-heart surgery or silent-heart surgery. I think they are self-explanatory. And finally the legal papers that you are supposed to sign. This basically states that you can’t hold the hospital or doctor responsible for the patient’s death. I signed it.

One of the funniest conversations I have ever heard in my life happened in the waiting room between two middle-aged ladies. One, whose husband was being operated along with my Dad and another whose husband got operated a week back. The woman whose husband was being operated was sobbing silently. Taking pity, Mrs. Consolation comes and sits next to her and starts a polite conversation. This was tolerable, but in less than a minute she dropped in a bomb that turned Mrs. Sobbing into a graveyard. It sounded something like this: “Look sister, everything is going to be fine, but God forbid anything goes wrong, then you should think of it like this - God liked him more than you did and so He decided to take him back. It’s such a blessing.” In flat 5 seconds the sobbing became wailing. Mrs. Consolation realized that she had committed something that closely resembled Honor Killing, so, to cover it up she tried another line of consolation: “But you can always meet in the next life; you do believe in rebirth, don’t you? And sometimes the love is so strong that the spirit of the deceased doesn’t even leave. It stays with you.” Honor Killing metamorphosed into gruesome first-degree murder, and Mrs. Consolation was at it with a vengeance.

Finally after eight agonizing hours, Dad was wheeled out. Apparently, the operation takes only two hours; the other six are for the relatives to enjoy first-class agony. The bypass was successful. The saint was smiling. Even the husband whose wife bravely survived the honour killing followed by first-degree murder was fine.

And my face was back to being a face again.

About the Author

Fritz Gonsalves is a Copywriter who has been with Contract, Ogilvy & Mather, Weiden Kennedy & DDB. He is from Bhopal, with roots in Kerala, now married, lives and works in Mumbai. He loves writing short stories in first person.

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April 27, 2010

Same Woman. Different Decade.

Omkar Sane, Bombay

Indian advertising has and continues to be chauvinistic. When will the portrayal of women in advertising ever change from the current stereotype? Let’s tackle this issue in the oldest known format: Q & A. Answer as honestly as you can.

Q. What do you think about women?
A. They’re great.

Q. Okay, women in ads, more specifically.
A. They’re unchanged, like Bollywood actresses’ expressions.

Q. Why do you say that?
A. Because in ads they do what our grandmothers did in reality. Smile vacantly, wash clothes, drop children to school, cook, serve tea and bathe babies.

Q. Why are they doing these things?
A. Because men are doing everything else - in ads at least - signing deals, buying cars, going to work, arranging money for children, amongst other things.

Q. What other things?
A. Playing dumb charade on the Indo-Pak border.

Q. So what are women doing in ads?
A. They’re busy getting fairer, working on adding a glow to half their face, protecting themselves from all types of sunrays, waiting for husbands to return home, colouring their hair, fighting early signs of ageing, protecting kids from kitanu, etc.

Q. Okay, why are women doing only this in ads?
A. According to advertising, this is all women do in real life.

Q. But why?
A. It’s simple. Advertising looks at a woman as an object - to be looked at, to be held close, to be kept looking good, shining, kept on the shelf of society. She is either black or white, she can’t have greys.

Q. Why does advertising think so?
A. Because clients think so.

Q. Okay, so why does the client think so?
A. It’s a cycle set by 60 and 70s Indians. Advertising waits for society to create change and then show it. Society hopes advertising will create change by showing it.

Q. So, what’ll change first?
A. The channel you’re surfing.

Q. Which means women will keep doing these things in ads?
A. At least till the Director calls for ‘Cut’.

Q. Who’s the Director?
A. We are. We stop looking at women as an object; they’ll stop
showing her as one. Ads are for us, not them.

Kitanu: meaning germs in Hindi, a dig at the commercials in which women wash away germs from their children's hands.

About the Author: Omkar Sane has written a book on Advertising - Welcome To Advertising, Now Get Lost. He has an art background.

April 7, 2010

Anything that’s worse is better

Anupam Basu, Bombay

The human race has perfect explanations to everything that goes on. It's not that we have the answers, we just have good justifications. They are not based on science, fact, logic, or, for that matter, on hate, love or other such emotions. Just this: beyond a point we do not want to have much to do with them.

I list here a few of the many platitudes we love to believe in.

There is a God
This is the answer to everything. It's simple: I am not responsible for what is happening to me. There is a God to take care of things. Whatever He says goes. So if someone has to be responsible it has to be God. Since no one has really spoken to Him, it is convenient to name Him for everything that is happening. And He has never said He is not responsible for it, so He is responsible. No one since the dawn of man has ever had any argument against this upward delegation. Period.

There will be a right time
When you have not got what you want, don't analyze and break your head over it. There will be a right time for it. If you don't get your afternoon siesta during the week, wait for the weekend. If you didn't get that hot girl at 30, go to Thailand at 60 and you will get a hot one to make you feel 30.

If you are constipated in the morning, wait. Sometime in the near future your body will tell you when the right time is.

If you lament “The right time never came”, the answer is “There will be a right time.” Personally, I find this platitude liberating; it takes the pressure off me. I could be a loser all my life with my wife telling me all the time: “There will be a right time”.

Once my boss asked, “Why did you not meet the deadline?” I replied, “There will be a right time.” That she didn't take it too kindly is beside the point.

It could have been a lot worse
Of course it could have been. When you are stuck in traffic, remember it could be a lot worse - you could be in a bar that’s run out of electricity and is serving you warm beer. When you fall into a ditch be happy you don't have an alligator for company. In short, you need to be happy in your present state of misery.

Everything happens for the better
If your girlfriend dumps you your friends will say, “It happened for the better”. If, after some days, she makes up with you, they will again say, “It happened for the better”.

“How can two contradictory outcomes of the same situation, both happen for the better?” I wonder. “One of them should’ve happened for the worse.”

But my friends have a reply: “The one that happened for the worse happened for the better.”

“Oh really? My girlfriend can’t make up her mind”, I say. “That is most certainly for the better”, they say.

About the Author: Anupam Basu is a young Advertising Copywriter from Mumbai, now writing ad film scripts.
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