Friday, November 20, 2009

Cheeni Kum..aur zaiyda bhi

One should never take anything for granted, including sugar! Atleast the sugar crisis has made us realize this (or has it?). Really, it is a sad state of affair in our country these days. A few months ago there was no atta, and now there is no sugar. We should take it as a wake up call. Tomorrow, there might be no water! Considering the way we are hell bent on destroying our planet, this scenario is not too far away also. We have this no worry attitude because we somehow know deep down that when the water crisis does come, we won't be around. Have you given some thought to the future of your children? Instead of reciting prayers for our departed souls they will be cursing us for a). ruining the planet and b). leaving them there to clean the mess. Think about it!
On a lighter note, this is the best time to get rid of that sweet tooth forever. Stop having sugar and stop buying it (or searching to buy it) and these disgusting, gluttonous sugar mill owners will realize that they're in trouble. We are a sad nation. We have never really understood what can be done with the 'power of the people'. If ordinary people, like you and me, decide to stop buying sugar - we might just change a few things around here. 'People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people'. That's what V said in 'V for Vendetta' (an amazing and very inspiring movie which should be in the list of movies you must see before you die) and it holds true. In our case though, this might not hold that true. We don't want to come out of our protective bubbles. 'What difference will my not buying sugar make?', you may ask. It might not make any difference immediately but if you try, and those around you also become part of this, it might just make a difference. Let's not limit ourselves to the sugar matter only - try and make a difference by not wasting water, by not throwing things outside your house and on the roads, and please do try not to waste paper. Try doing all this and practise what you preach. Trust me, you'll make a difference even if it's a tiny one!
Today was the 25th death anniversary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Now here's a man who made a difference.
'Aaiiye haath uthaayen hum bhi
hum jinhen rasm-e-dua yaad nahin
hum jinhen soz-e-mohabbat ke siwa
koi buth, koi Khudaa yaad nahin'

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Of Sunshine, oranges and punctuation marks.

We all go through the winter blues. Early sunsets are very depressing, especially when you are a 'sun' person. I don't really know what being a sun person really means; in my case I love when there is more sunlight. When it goes pitch dark at 1900 hrs - depression sort of sets in. I miss sunshine! Ofcourse winters has its advantages also - no sweaty weather, no major worries when there is an electricity breakdown, lots of dryfruit, gajar ka halwa and ofcourse, oranges! It is amazing how nature has built this reward system for us in both summers and winters; mangoes to slurp and lick from May-July and then lovely, juicy, delicious oranges! I say, bring it all on! Let's bring in some color in the dullwinters with some oranges!
I have some major tasks this week. I need to get to know my new SLR (got it today only!), a beauty, which is sitting on my bed waiting forme. Being slow with technology, this is going to take some time to do. Then there is the busy family weekend - which promises to be lotsof fun. Ofcourse, the mehndi of Arif and Sana (both close and dear friends) on Thursday which is, I'm sure, going to be a blast! And I just happened to forget all the assignments and quizzes waiting to be graded.
Although grading is one of the more tedious parts of teaching, it helps in a lot of ways. Sometimes (and I have had many such times), there is a thing or two I have learnt from some of my students. A point of view or perspective on a brand that I had never considered. It also teaches (or should teach) one to be just, tolerant and patient. There are many times when I've not understood the writing of a student but Imake an effort to understand so that I don't just deduct marks because he/she had poor handwriting. At university level you can'treally cut marks at poor handwriting although I am sure a lot of teachers do. I guess I'm not one of 'those' teachers. I do hate grammatical errors though. It is a pity that we as a nation don't know both English and Urdu. The latter is something we never make an effort to learn ever. This is so sad. I am not proclaiming to be very proficient in Urdu myself (I don't even know the Urdu alphabets in order) but at least I'm not ashamed to speak our language and read literature in Urdu or watch Urdu plays. Anyways, coming back to the grammatical error issue, moststudents (at university level) do not know when to use 'its' and 'it's'. I believe it's something most of us do. What with the sms culture, people have completely forgotten punctuation! It is one thing to use extremely concise form of language in an sms but to use the same in exam papers and even official emails is intolerable! If we can't learn our Urdu language, we might as well speak and write English properly. The funniest is that these students also learn French and sometimes Spanish (when offered). Sigh! [I haven't yet deducted marks for punctuation though I do give a very long lecture bordering on sarcasm to the class. Does it help? 70% of the time].
Overall, teaching is fun! It is a different experience altogether to share all sorts of things with students and to learn from them in the process.My teaching years have made me a more confident, self-assured and better person and I have all my wonderful students to thank for this!A little note on a marketing campaign which is going around big time in Karachi these days. Flora, a brand of margarine by Unilever, hasput up pole banners and hoardings in different places all over the city. Putting up pole banners all (or almost all) over the city is not cheap so the brand team wants the maximum leverage from it. The interesting thing about these banners is the placement of the Flora logo. It is in such a small corner to be hardly visible. I asked my hubby (because he is a sort of target market for the brand and since he's not inthe marketing business we might label him as a 'layman') about these banners and he professed knowledge about the banners but all he remembered was a picture of a red heart and a dirty brown heart, he had no clue about the brand. It was only when I slowed down the caras we coming on Sunset Boulevard late last night and pointed out Flora's tiny logo on the right hand corner of the pole banner that he finally made some sense out of it. Now you might say a lot of things about this but when there is too much information on a pole banner (a long text message, an image and a little logo) which might be viewed for only a few seconds as people are driving (and those who are not usually are too busy watching people in the cars next to them, talking on the phone, scolding kids or changing radio channels) it translates into nothing except a lot of foolishness on the part of the brand and the agency team. Then again, you can't blame them altogether, most of their stuff comes ready made from their region. Overall, a very unimpressive effort.
Guess that's it for now. Saw the film 'I am Sam' today (Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer). A very moving movie. It also had some very impressive branding; there was Pizza Hut and Starbucks where Sean Penn worked plus Porsche, driven by the leading lady. Smart branding, lovely movie and now I'm off to read 'Nausea' (Jean Paul Sartre). More on the book later.
Note: Just found out the names of the two M.F. Hussain movies; Gaja Gamini starring the lovely Madhuri Dixit and Meenaxi in which Tabu plays the lead role. I saw Meenaxi when it was released. What a movie! It actually looked more like a painting!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I got them sniffles...

It is one thing to fall sick. To have the sniffles is worse; you're neither here nor there. I mean, one doesn't actually qualify as being sick and one is not 100% fit also. It's a very physically and mentally disturbing ailment, more of the latter than the former. Since I have the sniffles today, I cannot focus on anything but them (and this might just affect my writing. Perfect excuse!). I took my soup and my joshanda. While I stirred the instant joshanda I started thinking of how brands capitalize on lifestyle changes. Our lives have become very fast paced and our brands have become the same. Even though our elders (daddis and nanis - grand mothers) still maintain that 'desi' joshanda works best, we are not willing to try it. There are many things that make desi joshanda a little difficult to swallow; there's the taste and the time involved in making it. One must put sugar in it to make it drinkable. So why would you want to go through so much hassle when there is the instant solution. Just cut the sachet, pour the contents in a cup of boiling water and sip away (you can also add it in tea). A famous local brand is also available in a variety of flavours. Now I sound like the brand manager of some joshanda brand!
Hoping to feel better tommorrow...more on brands and life later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hello World!

Karachi is cold today.
Every once in a while, when Siberian winds blow into Quetta, Karachi becomes cold. Mostly the city dwellers are caught totally by surprise, as happened today. Many of us will find themselves becoming victims of coughs and colds [I have this absolutley awful case of sniffles]. Have lots of soup. Homemade or the instant one, whichever suits you. Soup is good for the soul - and so is cake and dark chocolate!
Starting up my own blog has been my biggest mission since the last few weeks. There was a slight hesitation, very miniscule, that prevented me from venturing out into the blog world earlier. It took some courage, a few cans of Coke Zero (huge Coke fan) and some venn diagrams in my writing notebook to start this off. It has started now and as the days go by, I am sure it will assume a personality of its own. Maybe I should do one of those brand exercises which I do in class. If my blog was a person how would it be...?