November 7, 2016

What I did not learn at Loyola

Desmond Macedo

Secularism. I didn’t know what that was. Never heard it in school, no teacher mentioned it, and, I’m sure, no other student heard it either. And only years after I passed out did I realise, for instance, there was a Parsi in school. While I was there, nobody in the school thought it important to tell me.

I knew that boys came from Kirkee and NCL and Deccan and Aundh. If they belonged to Sikkim or the 24 Parghanas or Nanded or Jullundhar, I did not know. May be the teachers knew, but they didn’t think it important to tell us. It was never so important to discuss each one's different state and hometown.

No one told me not to speak Hindi in the school premises. Likewise, no other student was ever told not to speak in his mother tongue. I mention this because I hear of English-medium schools today that insist their students speak only in English while in school.

And I read about top bracket institutions in India where caste is present. Loyola never taught me this subject.  But if I remember well, there was one category of student who found favour with everyone in school – the boy who took studies as well as sports seriously. And when the swimming pool came up, all of us joined Fr Schoch in a swim, almost every evening.

Oddly, I don’t remember being taught to compete in the classroom. But on the playground, everyone was encouraged to participate, compete, and win, in that order. In the class, I was encouraged to simply improve on my own performance. Later, I saw the significance. Competition in class breeds one-upmanship, whereas, on the playground, it encouraged boys to take part. Not all boys could run long-distance races - 800/1500 meters - but every boy who took part in one had to complete the race, first and foremost.

If there were different social classes, I was never taught about them. But I do remember that boys were discouraged from coming to school in cars. Some parents in those days encouraged their sons to cycle to school, although they could use the school bus. Looking back, it seems the parents in those days also lived by principles similar to the school.

And to me the idea of tolerance is flawed. You tolerate when you recognise a difference. In Loyola, there was no difference, so there was no need to learn about tolerance. Simple.

Even today, I meet classmates and schoolmates and it matters little to each how the other has grown in his profession. But if you can still kick the football like you used to in school, or you are still energetic, then, according to them, you have lived well.

On one occasion, I recall a teacher suggesting we go see the movie Easy Rider. None of us did, but I did see it years later and wondered, ‘So back then no teacher thought it important to teach us any kind of censorship on sex, drugs and rock n roll.’

Now, it seems, what I did not learn at Loyola has been my finest education.

And I am sure, this been your experience, too.

Post Script: In conversation with Rajiv Joshi, he told me of a case in school - one student used to come to school on bicycle, while his tiffin came in a Merc. He played by the rule.

Note: I wrote this piece a couple of years ago. A few changes to reflect events around us, otherwise the same. That picture above of the school is from the 60s. Loyola, Pune. Here is a more recent one:

November 6, 2016

So Far, the Best Encouragement for My Business

Desmond Macedo

People ask me why I don’t have a brand name for my cottons, coming from an advertising background and all that.

 We did try out Taz & Fombie with several customers. They loved it. But a brand name would take time and money and we had neither. So I thought, use the names Sharon & Desmond Macedo, since many customers know Sharon damn well, and many online folk know me. ‘I don’t say “well” but they know me,’ as I told Fritz Gonsalves, a copywriter himself. ‘And if we’re going to ask people to transfer money into our bank account before we send them the items, it’s going to be hard, so better they know us at least.’ Fritz agreed.

‘Next, I’m suggesting Cotton Furnishings & Accessories since there are hundreds of people in Pune who already know us by that category. They’re likely to spread word online. They did, offline. We started with disbelief. People thought the stuff was too good to be true and walked away. For two years they walked away.

‘So you’re going to make a category a brand, are you?’ Fritz was hiding his impatience, but after some moments he said, ‘May not be such a bad idea to stay close to the category if you can’t afford to build a brand.’

I continued: ‘But I also need Sharon & Desmond Macedo in the name.’ I had laughed at clients when I was a Copywriter. Now Fritz was laughing at me. When you can’t bring time and money to the discussions, you can’t think like agency folk. That’s when Fritz said softly, ‘I see the point,’ but he, like the copywriter, added, ‘It is a mouthful.’

Then I don’t know how it happened, but both of us said, nearly together, ‘Mouthful is in our mouths, not the customers’ mouths.’

 ‘After their initial acquaintance with your products, customers will carry an image of your business name/logo in their minds, and when they see it again, they will exclaim, “Ahh, there it is,” without reading it. How many words and ampersands there are in your name do not matter much when people carry an “image” of it. This is similar to spellings. People see the first and last letters of a word and figure out the word – look at “acaintinance” and you know it is acquaintance. And since it’s an image they carry, try changing the font, they’ll notice it. Colour? Worse. But if you add or subtract a word, they may not bother, because the image in their mind need not be altered much.’

‘I do not know whether I make sense or not,’ I said, switching to slow, authoritative diction, ‘but I am not working for an hierarchy any more. I am the hierarchy.’

‘Good,’ said Fritz. ‘At least you sound like Walter White: I am the one who knocks.'

Gosh, we laughed.