Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Online marketing for a ‘Godman’…. nearly!

Monday, February 11th, 2013

This happened a few years ago. At a search engine marketing conference in Singapore, I got acquainted with someone who had started his own broadcast media consultancy/ media sales company. A highly experienced media sales executive, he had worked in many cities around the world with reputed media companies and advertising agencies before settling down in Singapore and venturing out on his own. Owing to his contacts, he had already obtained the exclusive rights to sell ad slots for a sports channel in the Asia Pacific, where this channel didn’t have a significant presence in those days. He was nice to talk to and we spent quite a bit of time during the conference speaking to one another and agreed to stay in touch after the event. May be, we could help one another with some business, we thought.

A few days later, we agreed to meet up over coffee. After the initial pleasantries that centered around the birth of my daughter (which happened at about the same time as the above mentioned conference), he mentioned that his family is involved with a charity organisation connected with a Swamiji in India. He seemed extremely reverential towards the Swamiji and had a lot to talk about the effect the latter had on his family. The young Swamiji is a great thinker, a philosopher whose wisdom belies his age. Now, Swamiji was due to come to Singapore in a few months’ time and the charity wanted to plan for the event and make it extremely successful. The charity wanted to explore using online marketing to attract visitors to the 2 or 3-day event.
Would I be interested in pitching for the business, my new friend asked? And like most would be clients that we seem to deal with, he emphasised that the charity will not have a large budget for marketing! I agreed to give it a bit of thought, check out the Swamiji’s website and then take a call on whether my company would be interested in pitching to promote the young Godman.

As promised, I went back and checked out the website I had been referred to. The Swamiji was indeed quite young– he seemed quite boyish in fact. I patiently went through a couple of videos where the Godman articulated his views. To be honest, I was disappointed- I didn’t feel the aura of a very strong spiritual leader; his talks missed the magnetic appeal that I have experienced with a couple of other spiritual leaders whose talks on the Bhagvad Gita I had heard. My ‘research’ on this ‘prospect’ left me with a slight heaviness of some emptiness- that itchy sensation of ’something’s not right’. Nevertheless, I worked out a proposal for online marketing for the Swamiji’s programme in Singapore and sent it over to my friend.

Then came the follow-up stage. Every few days, I would touch base with my friend, asking about the status of our proposal. “It is still under consideration”; “The board of trustees will be discussing it” ; “Is there any scope for reducing the service fees and the advertising budget you’ve specified?”; “We are expecting a decision soon” ……. thus went the responses. Slowly, I cut down the frequency of my follow-up, thereby signaling the downgrading of the saintly prospect from a ‘hot’ one to a ‘lukewarm’ one.

A few weeks later, I saw the headline on Rediff – the God-man was caught in a video sting in a compromising position with an aspiring starlet! “Swamiji has been framed” was the immediate response from his Trust; however, he was soon in hiding. I am not sure how exactly the case panned out- and whether the young Swamiji still continues his practice (I haven’t bothered to check out his website even as I write this a few years after I had first heard of him and submitted my proposal to market his religious discourses in Singapore).

I look back with the realisation that it is better not to have some clients in your portfolio; thank God for saving me from that (God)man!

The myth of ‘free’ air tickets

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

I keep telling anyone who cares to listen that nothing comes free. Yet, I found it difficult to prevent myself from believing that I could indeed get free air tickets when I redeemed my air-miles. It was expectation, perhaps, or may be sheer hope; nevertheless, as I reluctantly and dare- I-say unexpectedly shelled out my credit card twice in the last two weeks, my belief in the “nothing is free” truth has been vindicated once again.

Economy class tickets to Mumbai from Singapore typically cost me in the SG$450-SG$600 range, depending on how well in advance I book my flights. Now with Indigo serving Singapore, I have managed to fly to Mumbai and back paying about SG$350 or so, which I understand could be lower than a round-trip fare between Mumbai and Delhi or Mumbai and Kochi.

That certainly doesn’t beat ‘Free’ though; so for my trips to Mumbai in March and April, I decided to redeem some miles that have accumulated from god-knows-when (a lot of those are thanks to grocery shopping and other routine purchases and not just on account of being a real frequent flyer!). However, it was when I reached the second-last step of the redemption process that the myth of the free air ticket exploded. In addition to the 35000 & 40000 miles, both the airlines whose miles I was redeeming charged me about SG$350! Compared to rates on the “low-cost carrier” Indigo, the “free tickets” on the award-winning full-service carriers were a mere SG$50-odd cheaper!

All the excitement about flying free has died off; thankfully, heading off to Mumbai still keeps me excited!

Thirteen years… in a kind of exile..

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

When I looked at the calendar today, I was taken back 13 years to the day to that Sunday evening when I moved out of India to pursue a career abroad. There was a brief stopover in Singapore on my way to Manila; as destiny would have it, I am posting this from Singapore which has been my home for almost the past 8 years.

Thirteen years have whizzed by and as is to be expected, life has changed a lot since then. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience the many worlds I have been fortunate enough to do so!

I am often asked if I’ll be returning to India permanently; my truthful answer has always been: “I don’t know!”. The urge has been there but it is yet to reach tipping point perhaps; or may be, it is the fact that I am not far away from home anyway as I keep visiting Mumbai every 2-3 months on work.

As I reflect today, a strange thought comes to mind. In the Ramayana, Ram was exiled for 14 years; in the Mahabharata, the Pandavas were exiled for 13 years (12 years plus one year to be spent incognito). My period away from home – the voluntary “exile”- is in that ballpark.

Is it time for a homecoming?

Where joy abounds… Zindagi na milegi dobara

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Last night, Seema, Neel and I went for the late night show of “Zindagi na milegi dobara” which came highly recommended from lots of friends. It was a thoroughly enjoyable one with some genuine, fresh and youthful humour. Surprisingly, Neel stayed awake till the end (the show ended close to 1.30 am). He still doesn’t fully comprehend Hindi but seems to have understood enough to say that he wants to take part in the Tomatina festival and the bull run!

The movie and its core message reminded me of an e-mail I’d received from a friend over 13 years ago. Included in the mail were beautiful lines under the heading “Where joy abounds”, which I didn’t know then were written by Robert Hastings (and referred to as ‘The Station’ poem). The lines struck a chord then- I took a print-out and tucked it away. That piece of paper has moved with me over the years though the passage of time has left its stamp on it- it’s rumpled and yellow now. May be I am holding on to it in the hope that someday……. well, let’s not even go that way. For the present, I’d rather enjoy those heartwarming lines again.

“Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long train journey. Through the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on near-by highways, of children waving at us from a crossing, or cattle grazing on a hillside, or smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of maize and wheat, of mountains and valleys, of city skylines and village huts.

But uppermost in our minds is our destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. Then wonderful dreams will come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the loitering minutes – waiting, waiting …

“When I reach the station, that will be it,” we tell ourselves. “When I’m 25, ..” “When I buy a house, …” “When I get married, …” “When I’ve paid off the bank loan, …” “When I get that big promotion, …” “When I retire, I shall live happily ever after! ”

Sooner or later we realize that there is no station, no place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream that constantly outdistances us.

“Relish the moment” is a good motto. So, stop pacing the aisles and measuring the distance. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice-cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more. Live life as you go along, it will be spring.”

The end of a generation

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

About two hours ago, one generation of my family came to an end. Janaki Amma, my paternal grandmother and the last of my surviving grandparents, passed away at her home after several weeks of being bedridden.

At this moment, as I visualise her mortal self lying in the stillness that defines the culmination of our journey on earth, I can only wish for her soul a peaceful passage to the world beyond.

Farewell, Acchamma!

Disappointing FIFA World Cup finale… but a priceless memory nevertheless

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

The match between Spain and Holland (July 11, 2010) was the only game of this year’s FIFA World Cup that I watched, and throughout the game, I couldn’t help wondering if it was worth staying awake to watch it. The desire to not miss the once-in-four-years’ spectacle got the better of me, and aided by a couple of cups of hot Milo and some digestive biscuits, I managed to get through the start-stop-yellow-card-start-stop-…game. 

I had been eagerly looking forward to the Spain/Holland game in the hope of seeing some attacking and skillful football, but to say that I ended up disappointed is an understatement.  There were, of course, some good moments and some skill on display- everytime the ball went to Robben, it seemed like something could happen; Sergio Ramos looked good and the match picked up some pace after Jesus Navas came on. Overall, though, these moments were few and far between.

Since I first got a taste of watching international football  in the 1986 episode in Mexico City, this was the first World Cup that I didn’t watch any game other than the final.  What an initiation it was— the quarter final game between France and Brazil is etched deep in my memory; the image of legends like Socrates, Zico and Platini missing penalties, in a game that just seemed to flow from one end to another; or the wonderful final between Argentina and Germany that was another see-saw battle.  As I reflect back on that game, I am reminded of my soccer-mad cousin, barely 3-4 years elder to me, who stayed awake that morning to watch Diego Maradona lift the World Cup; today, he’s still struggling to recover from a paralytic stroke  that’s taken away a big chunck of  his memory and his mobility.  I still hope someday we’ll get to sit down together over  a beer or two and pull one another’s legs..

Anyway, coming back to 2010 and the Spain vs Holland game — there’s only one good reason that may have made the staying up worthwhile. It was Neel’s initiation to a  World Cup soccer finale.  I woke him up just as the second half of extra time was about to commence, and with slightly watery eyes, he watched Iniesta score the goal that differentiated the two teams on the night. He insisted that he stay awake to see Casillas lift the trophy. 

Many years from now, may be Neel will remember the first time he watched a World Cup game….and if you ask me, memories such as these are priceless!


Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Neel learnt the following 10 lines by rote for a recitation competition at his school – his first attempt. The notice about the recitation competition was quite short, which meant he effectively had time from Friday evening till Sunday night to memorize a poem. We weren’t sure what poem to give him to prepare for the competition– I looked at some by Indian greats like Tagore and Sarojini Naidu, but felt those were much tougher. Finally, we chose 10 lines from Rudyard Kipling’s “If”.


If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!


Watching him memorize and then recite those, while trying to give it “expression”, was a thrill in itself. As I write this, all I know is that he recited the poem in class, and “everybody clapped for everybody”.

48 hours to learn 10 lines of poetry for a recitation competition… and a lifetime to understand, appreciate and practise those values…

Neel’s ‘Indianness’ and the cricket connection

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

We will be in India for a couple of weeks later this month. Since our visit coincides with the IPL 3, I told Neel that we will try and take him to watch a game at a ‘real stadium’. Looks like that game will be the Mumbai Indians v/s King’s XI Punjab game on the 30th of March at the Brabourne stadium.

Ever since, Neel simply can’t control his excitement— he is eagerly awaiting a glimpse of Sachin Tendulkar and his favorite player ‘Sardarji’ (Harbhajan Singh). The other day, he was out cycling and I overheard him say to a group of boys a couple of years elder to him, “When I go to Bombay, I will watch cricket in a real stadium!”. (…pity, the other kids didn’t quite share his enthusiasm; in fact, one of them was outright dismissive: “why should I care?” he asked)

Anyway, Neel is really working himself up for the game at the historic Brabourne stadium. “I will wave the India flag….. and I will also paint my face with orange, white, green and the chakra….!”  For somebody who keeps saying “Singapore is our country” and asking me everytime he sees something on India on TV “that is your country, right?”, I am glad that at least cricket is instilling the sense of Indianness that everything else we do, hadn’t. 

The IPL tickets are certainly worth it!