Friday, September 16, 2011

The 30 Second Lie!


After a hard day’s work, you finally manage to cuddle in your couch with a bowl of popcorn and get down to watching Fear Factor and just can't get enough of the stunts and babes.


The Fear Factor Title flashes and you are now forcibly made to watch a “daad khaad khujli” television commercial.

That's the 30 second TVC for you.

The biggest lie in the world!

Your dandruff will clear in 3 washes. You skin shade will turn you from an African to European using this cream within 7 days. You will get the guts to jump off a mountain after drinking a cola and you will be a chic magnet after you spray this deodorant.

The TVC world is one full of exaggerations!!!

Everything has to be conveyed in 30 seconds and they want to persuade you to do weird things, like dress like Tom Cruise, prevent heart attacks, save the world from global warming, test drive the mileage of a car and then after all the laundry.... Really well!

Some nuances never fail to make me think how they keep doing the same thing again and again, without questioning why!

A watch has to show the time as 10:10 (AM or PM, I don't know).

The toothpaste on the toothbrush always has this peculiar pillow like shape with a pointed end facing the top, slightly curved (you know what I'm talking about) ,weirdly, in the past 32 years of brushing my teeth, I have never managed to craft that shape.

The ice cream is always firm and freezing, chocolate will always be nice and melted. The soap bar is never half used in fact it never has lather around it also.

Ever noticed how a fried chip fresh from the pack will always be perfectly oval, laden with masala, and it always has to bounce out of the pack and the masala has to fly in the air, captured to perfect detail.

Now that's about the product. Let's get to the models that feature.

The housewife is 99% of the time dressed in her best, perfectly ironed clothes and makeup done, with eyeliner, lipstick and all her best jewellery, happily cooking in the kitchen...I just ask you to take a walk to your kitchen right now, and see the state of the person cooking, needless to say the state of the kitchen.

Picture a typical TVC where office executives are giving hi-fives to each other on winning a deal, and in reality I have never ever gone beyond a handshake after a successful win in business, in fact it’s always be subtle and understated and no matter what they do, I’m not going to behave the way they do.

Then again, looking at it naively.

I really wouldn’t mind if I could get up in the morning and shave like a six pack macho man, and have a hot woman come and caress my cheek and check the smoothness of my shave. I move on to my breakfast table, lavishly spread with cornflakes, orange juice and my entire khandaan waiting for me to kick start my day. I manage to catch my bus, which is a few scenes back, not only speeding but also an impossibly far distance, but thanks to my multivitamin, I jump into it applauded by all the friendly passengers who recognize me, like they seen me in my diapers.

My cell phone rings and I am offered a job in a Top MNC, suddenly the entire ambience around me magically morphs into a new world, where I’m about to sit in my luxury sedan (which mind you, gives me amazing mileage and also makes a bold statement), I’m travelling on the smoothest road in the country, with my dog’s head out of the window breathing fresh air.

My job is nothing but signing mega contracts, shaking hands with men who are lookalikes of Al Pacino and closing deals.

I come home to happy kids a gorgeous looking wife (who is extremely glad to see me home, no complaints whatsoever), I take out a diamond set for her which makes the entire city glow, irrespective of the power shedding, because I’m living in a luxury residence in the posh area in Mumbai overlooking the sea.

We leave for a party which is attended by the entire bollywood. They all acknowledge my presence and are all out to influence me to use the shampoo they use, anti ageing creams they endorse and help me try designer suits they also wear and swear by...


The title flashes and Fear Factor is back.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oh Sheet!

This story of my life everyday at the office.

Typically I walk into office with a few brief sheets tucked in my backpocket and a muddle of ideas in my mind. Most of you would know that every day is a challenge in advertising. Everyday a new brief and the demand for a new idea.

This is the story about the A4 vs. Me.

The white, innocent looking, blank, A4 sheet, which challenges me, everyday to give it my best shot.

Until the day I realized, that it wasn’t really the A4 vs Me.

It was the A4 and me.

Monday Morning 11:10 am

A4: Hey Aleem, Good morning! How you doing?

Me: I'm great. How you doing? What’s wrong? You don't look to good!

A4: Yeah, not a great start. Got stuck in a jam this morning. Traffic you see.
Someone shot a document this morning to print. And we had a deadlock in the printer. Tried to swerve around, but got a dent and a few scratches from the bloody cartridge. And of course we guys don't have insurance to claim, and damage control too can’t do much to restore.

Me: Oh Damn! That's not good buddy. Can I help?

A4: Help? You kidding? I'm feeling totally useless bro!
I'm not going to make it like my “batch” mates anymore.
I won't be part of the elite documents that will get signed by a shining Mont Blanc pen.
I won't be one of those pristine guys who will close the big deals.
I won't be the one sitting in a boardroom, or even appear in front of the media.

Me: Hey, alls not lost yet; at least you’re not in the bin. Haha. There's still hope for you. C’mon bounce back.

A4: Easier said than done bro! What would you do if you were in my place?

Me: Ok, I'm not in your place. But I'm in my own. I can probably pull you up and give you a whole new meaning.

A4: Okay! And how are you going to do that Mother Teresa!

Me: Well, how about you help me with this brief I got to crack today?
Maybe we together, ideate a real big one!

A4: You mean to say... That you'll choose me to help you with this brand!

Me: No, I mean to say, let's do it together. Just you and me vs. The Brief!

A4: But are you sure, I can do it? I mean the Brief, is kind of intimidating, isn't he? I've heard he's quite a tough guy to understand, forget getting along and working with!

Me: Oh! C’mon you couldn’t be suffering from the grief of the brief.
You’re better than that. I’m sure you can crack the code. That's what we are here for buddy! You game?

A4: Yeah Sure! I guess... so what’s the task?

Me: Pretty simple. We need to get cracking for a USB Storage brand, a pen drive whatever you call it.

A4: So where do we start? Let’s Google and see what we can find.

Me: Google??? No buddy, that’s not my style. We will bump into something that’s done already. Let’s start from scratch. Let’s read the brief in detail first. Here he is…

A4: Hey! Is that him? I know this guy. He was in the same batch as I was. I can handle him Aleem. Positive!

Me: That’s a start. Great. So this is what he reads like. But remember what they say is not always what they mean. Sometimes the answer is right below your nose. You just need to dig the right insight.

A4: Ok, so here is what’s below your nose, then pen. What’s coming to your mind?

Me: Let’s start with the Nostalgia route, the first way to approach an idea maybe, a memory you have, some incident where you wished you had a pen drive.
OK! I’m getting it! I’m getting it! We can show a visual of kids playing in a park, or on a horse and a line that says...
"Childhood memories now in safe hands!"

A4: Good for a start! But I’m sure you can do better!

Me: OK, if not Nostalgia, how about some facts and figures.

A4: Go through the brief again. Maybe we can get something.

Me: It says, it comes in various capacities from 1GB to 8GB. How about...
“Every byte is precious!”

A4: Why are you limiting yourself to photos and memories? I guess you can save data, important files, music, movies so much in them, isn’t it?

Me: Yes, you can. Idea!!! Let’s take a brand Ambassador. Some musician, or how about a producer, or director. Someone who’s data is very important.

A4: But do they have the budgets?

Me: The brief says “Keep it minimal”, which rules that route, because the celebrity will take a huge bit of the costs. Damn!

A4: But it was a good idea, buddy! I mean someone like Farhan Akhtar or alike would do good, he’s would be perfect for something like this.

Me: Are you making fun of me kiddo? Let’s move on. It’s getting to lunch time.

A4: Take me along. Take me along! What if you get an idea while eating!

Me: Aargghh! This sheet of paper! Won’t let me eat in peace!

A4: ... or piss in peace! Haha

Monday Noon 3:25 pm

Me: Damn I need some tea! I just can’t crack this idea!

A4: What are you scribbling? And who are these people you drawing on this page?

Me: I was trying to see if I could do something emotional, but we’ve tried that route, so then I thought about a visually arresting idea.

A4: This looks like nothing! I hope you aren't yet stuck on that brand ambassador idea...

Me: I have a idea, something close to the previous one.
How about we show a cartoon illustration of lots of celebrities like musicians, actors, businessmen, writers, all of them jam packed in a Mumbai local train and a line that goes like...

“All your entertainment, all together!”

A4: Hey sounds good! Highlight it...  Now we are getting somewhere. But you know what, it’s still not Bang on! What if we get legal issue and things...

Monday Evening 6:30 pm

A4: What have we got?

Me: I don’t know. Some rough thoughts.  Was think something huge, going inside something small. Like a huge ship...getting ready to go inside a small tunnel and a line like
“Everything fits in”

A4: Dooonnnneeeee! I’ve seen something like that. Sandisk I think. Yes Sandisk it is...check it out.

Me: Yes. True. Very similar! Got to try harder dude!

A4: You said “The idea would be under your nose” and it doesn’t seem like that...

Me: Yeah, and the only thing that under my nose right now, is this pen, which is basically doing nothing!

A4: And they say, a pen is mightier than a sword! Haha

Me: Hey! Hey! Hey! How said a pen is mightier than a sword right...

A4: Yeah so!

Me: Lets tweak that a little bit and say...

"A pen mightier than the sword!"

A4: Viola!!! Wow! That’s cool! Great stuff. What’s the visual?

Me: Visual? I guess it doesn’t need one. Just a headline.

A4: Are we sorted?

Me: I guess, let’s get the layout done and post it to the client!

A4: Wow! So that’s it? Is it done? So now I’m of no use?

Me: No buddy, that’s not it. You will be stored in my safe drawer, amongst my other ideas because you are not an ordinary sheet of paper any more.

You’ve made it big and powerful.

You are now the originator of the big idea.

When I look back at life, you will be a treasured memory, just like your batch mates, who will do something good, and then stored. 

The only difference between them and you is, you didn’t just stand in front of a printer and blindly get tattooed, you cracked an idea, and gave yourself  an identity... and I promise you there will be a lot like you joining you soon in that little place I call “drawer of fame”


Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Bagful of Joy!

It’s Lyric’s christening and party today. 
The second child to my sister after the cutest angel I have ever seen in my life till date, Cadence.

Lyric, may seem like a funny name at first, but when you understand the history behind naming her, it'll sink in a little better.
The two sisters, Cadence which means music, and Lyric means.... yeah OK I know you know what it means.

So that’s why a perfect pair that add value to each other.

For some reason, I’m standing outside the party hall backdoor which overlooks a small group of shanties.  I’m standing here alone, and it is silent, except for a few frequent hustles from the nearby houses.

Thoughts lead me to how I haven’t been able to provide my family with a few things that I thought important. Of how, I haven’t been able to keep them happy because of my shortcomings and the thoughts lead me to a sudden kind of sadness that has taken over me like a storm in the dark night.

The past few years have been trying in more ways than one on many levels and fronts. I rush back my memory and recall instances where I haven’t lived up to expectations... of none other than myself.

I decided to take a short walk to make myself feel lighter, but instead the night seems to overtake my feelings even stronger. Lost in thoughts I walk further than I intended and realize that 
I’m in an unknown area surrounded by lame huts made of plastic and stick homes of some slum dwellers home.

My attention is drawn to a young man, in his late twenties, walking with a spring in his step and a shy smile on his face. He was carrying a polythene bag which contained something, and it looked like he was really happy.

I wondered, what could he be carrying?

What is it that is making him smile so much?

Something told me that I need to know.

I followed him a few steps, till he stopped at a makeshift door.

He knocked on the door and I heard a child squeal, “Babaaaa!”

A young girl clad in simple clothes ran up to him and jumped into his arms. They both looked like a picture of happiness. He hugged her so tight that she screamed till her put her down. He then took out a doll from his bag and gave it to her. The doll wasn't a branded one from an expensive store. It probably was picked up from a road side hawker for a few rupees. But more importantly, the man had spent a good amount of his earning of the day on that gift.

Then again, the joy on her face is not possible to put in words. The gleam in her eyes is indescribable.  She was speechless with joy. I could almost see a tear in the man’s eyes, while he walked away to meet the rest of the household after a tired days work.

Cadence, Lyric and my dear little one who will join you soon...

Lifes like that. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Book I never Completed....

 "E-mails from Heaven" 
- Aleem Merchant 



"If is so easy to read 'it', why is it so difficult to be one"


Chapter 1

Someone told me, that everyone has two dreams, one to open a restaurant and the other to write a book. Now at that point of time I thought, restaurant, yeah, but Book! Naah! not my types. But here i am, typing the very first para of a book that i dream of publishing someday.

An unusual story should have an unusual beginning. So how should i begin the first page.
Well i could begin with the place, or the features of the characters. Heck! Lets start, before i bore you.


Tanya waited by the window looking at the stars. No, she had no information about anything on astronomy. She liked admiring them. Like most people she believed that when someone dies they become stars. Partly influenced by the typical Bollywood movies she would see in her spare time with her friends. She was just an ordinary girl. Average looking, calorie concious, just scraped through her graduation, doing well in her new job, happy and cheerful all the while.

But tonight was not an ordinary one. Tanya was going to turn 25 that night. And she wanted to spend it with her mother, who had passed away when she was just five. She looked around for the brightest star and chose one her heart told her "Thats Mom!".

A few blocks away, the church bell rang.

"Happy Birthday Tanya", she said to herself "and Thank you mom, for being there whenever i want you"
Quietly she sank into her Bed and smiled as she slept on her pillow, of a small town girl with big dreams.
That she will make it someday.
Just like each one of us.

Chapter 2


The hustle bustle of the city takes charge everyday and everyone gets up and rushes to work. Buses, trains, cars, cabs all on their way to the city. Thousands of people stuck in traffic. Train delays. Buses punctured. Flooded Roads. Potholes.
But there is something about Bombay that keeps it ticking. That no matter what, the crowd looks cheerful, full of energy. The look on the faces of people, with six hours of sleep is like they’ve been on a six day vacation.

Tanya looked at herself in the mirror. "yeah, these Levis really fit well". She was happy she had paid a lil more to get a good pair. "Because Im worth it" she giggled imitating one of the ads she saw on TV.

Tanya used to catch a Bus everyday to work. Luckily for her, the Bus started a block away from her house. So she used to get it pretty empty.
"Drats, wheres Isha?. She cant miss the bus today. And she missed it today on my birthday. Ill get her for this one."

Isha and Tanya were best friends.They knew each other for about three years.Spent most of their time after work together and like typical girlfriends, gossiped about the bosses affairs with a client, flirted with guys, shared lil secrets that meant nothing to anyone but them, had small code words for silly things and laughed out loud the moment it was uttered. But what they enjoyed most was to send lil messages on each others computers through the Local Chat.

It didnt take long before the bus was full and people were hanging out from the window. Typical sight in a "developing country" where transport was waiting to be developed like most other things.

"Dammit pick up the phone."
Tanya was taught that any organization in which the phone rings more than twice is a dying organization. So whenever the phone would ring more than that she would begin to get uneasy. But who was gonna teach these people in the bus.
Suddenly everyone started looking irritated at Tanya.
She felt that the ring was coming from her Bag.

"I dont have a mobile" she said to herself. “but if you insist....
And when she looked inside she was thrilled. There was a sleek mobile phone with a cute lil tag that said " Happy Birthday Tanya"
How sweet she thought to her self.Who could it be?
She read the screen.
It said
"Calling "ME"

Well who is "ME" she smiled
And clicked the "Yes" Button

Unfortunately she didnt live to hear who it was.....
The Bus blasted.
The sounded echoed over a mile. The city stopped for a moment. Glasses shattered. Cars banged against each other. Eyes shut.
And when hundreds of people realised what had happened. A grip of fear overtook them. A second bomblast the city had experienced this year.
The echo of the bomb still resounded in their ears.
You could see the look on their faces and there was only one small word to describe it-Fear"

In about a minute the place was flooded with police, reporters, ambulances and onlookers who had survived. But what didn’t survive were about 45 people. People with hope, dreams, families, and most importantly -innocence.

The story does end here. In fact it begins.

Chapter 3
The Beginning

"Destiny always uses Plan- B"

The news spread soon. The TV channels had covered it all. Bodies beingn taken to the hospital. Remains fo the Bus. Affected areas. Interviews of eye witnesses. Stories from the injured.
"They Police feel it a terrorist strike again". Journalists said confidently posing in front of their cameras. This is so and so from pay making channel.

The numbers of people who died varied from channel to channel.
Advertisement breaks did not stop.
Websites were up with stories and web banners kept slowing down the pages download.
Journalists were out on the spot. My what a great story to tell.
In a moment that the incident was converted from a tragic spot to a buisness making racquet. Like scavengers after the prey was killed. Taking a bit of their share part by part.

Offices called it the day. Markets fell. Panic had struck the city and red alerts were called everywhere.

That night was a clear night. The moon looked at this little Tinsel town sadly and wept, not alone. Isha was at the window too. Weeping. She knew that if she would be in that bus probably things would have been different. Probably Tanya would be with her then. Celebrating her birthday in their own special way. And if she had to die at least Tanya woud be with her.

She could stop thinking.

That night appeared a lil more starry than other nights.
"I love you,Tanya" she said to herself. Probably I never told you this when you were there but I do"

Doesn’t this happen most of the time. We realize the value of people when they are gone. We are always embarrassed of our parents and their ways. Sometimes we dont even wanna spend time with them. We don’t realise that one day they will be gone and we will never get even a chance to thank them.

Isha tried hard to sleep but couldn’t. She kept thinking about Tanya and her funny ways. Tanya knew Isha in and out. All her secret crushes, dreams, wishes everything.

She couldn’t believe that she would never meet her again.

But destiny had a different Plan.

Chapter 4

1 new mail

"There will always be a part of me wandering"
-The Lighthouse Family

The next day Isha quietly walked into the office. There was a unusual hustle-bustle on the roads. No one seemed to be bothered with the incident. Like as if nothing had happened. Life was so normal. Isha never knew whether to appreciate the city pulse or hate it for its insensitivity.
"Does anyone care", I dont think so.
As long as they are safe no one cares."

She settled down on her chair and sipped her coffee while she started her computer.
As she logged on a message popped up "One new mail"
But she froze as she read who it was from.

Hi Isha,

You wont believe what happened today.
Aryan asked me if he could take me out to dinner for my birthday.
Cool na!

Gotta go. Ill catch ya soon.
See you tomorrow. Dont miss the bus honey.

Lotsa love,

Isha had tears in her eyes. She rushed to the wash room and cried.

"I wish I didnt miss the bus Tanya.....I wish."

Life sometimes is like a bus. An opportunity taht stops for a moment and then goes on. You either step on it or don’t. The choice is yours. Sometimes the bus looks full and you dont want to get it because it will be difficult to get in. But once youre on it, youll adjust. It all depends on you and your choice. No one can stop you but yourself.
You just have to learn to identify your bus and the bus will identify the destination.

Isha called Technical support that evening and asked them to delete Tanya's account from the system.

Chapter 5


"Even Darkness has beautiful shades of grey"

That night Isha had a very weird dream.
A dream that would change her life forever.
It was Tanya. She looked like she was worried. And she was in the Ishas room.
"Tanya, theres something i have to tell you. Someone has intruded our lives. I cant tell you who it is. But danger lurks around the corner."
"Tomorrow when you sit in the bus you will see a bag in the last row. Report it to the police. Please"

Tanya got up with a shock.
She couldnt belive what she had just seen.
It was long wait for the morning as she couldnt sleep that night.

Hesitantly she entered the bus. She didn’t bother to look in the last row. She didn’t want to believe last night’s dream. She knew that it was just a dream and she was scared from her narrow escape.

"I have to go to the doctor" she whispered to herself.

Suddenly there was a noise from the back of the bus. Everyone started getting down hurriedly. Someone had reported a unidentified bag in the last row. Isha immediately panicked.

She knew this was going to happen.

Even before she could recover from the shock. The bomb squad had reached the site and the bag was identified to be another bomb.

Saved once too often Isha walked to the office which was not far.

"Tanya I know you are here , somewhere but where.
You saved my life. Im sorry i did not listen to what you told me.
Where are you?"

Isha suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder.
Scared, she turned around.
It was Aryan.

Aryan was a young, dynamic middle level manager from the office. He had a secret crush on Tanya and called her once in awhile on the office intercom.
Isha looked at Aryan smiled sadly. She knew this hurt him as much as she did.

"You know I had the weirdest dream last night" Aryan said "Tanya was in it"
She said "Dont worry Aryan, Ill be there for you guys"

Isha stopped for a second.

Something unexplainable was happening.
But this time, she wanted to believe.

Chapter 6
First Contact

The work pressure was beginning to get onto Isha. She felt she needed a break from all this. Probably spend a few days in her village. Being not much of a social girl, she had few friends. After Tanya, Isha felt really alone and began to get into depression.
"Isha?" It was Mrs. Shroff, the boss’s secretary.
"The boss is calling you"

Not knowing what had happened Isha walked into the cabin and knocked slowly.
"May I come in Sir"
"Yes Isha, come in"

Mr. Das was a known celebrity in the advertising industry. A smooth talker and his excellent skills at closing deals had taken him right to the top.

"Isha, i have been noticing that off late you haven’t been looking good"

"I know its about Tanya, and all of us are sorry about it. Life has to go on. I think its time you start concentrating on your work. If you want ill shift you to a better account"

"No sir, Im ok" Isha heaved a sigh of relief. She thought she was going to have it for the day. Slightly disturbed she walked out of the room.

As she walked to her workstation she saw an message flashing on the computer.
I mail recieved.

Sender "Tanya".

Do you want to read Now? Later?

Irratatedly, she picked up the phone and dialed Technical Support.
"Hey, I told you guys to delete Tanyas Account. Why dont you guys listen?
Im getting mails from her account still. What the hell do you guys do anyway?"
"Hey Isha, it is deleted, I did it myself"
"No its not. Check it again"
"Ok. Ill give you a call back"

Isha deleted the mail before she could even read it.

Trrring Trrring

"Isha? It was deleted that day itself. Watch your tongue next time! And please go for a check up."

Beep Beep

Isha froze. The message did not get deleted. She kept clicking the delete button but it did not go. She didn’t want to read it. She was scared. She never knew what to do. She pulled of the power cord from underneath.

Chapter 6

Isha went to the canteen for lunch but she couldnt eat much. She kept wondering about what had happened. Was it a hallucination. Was she going mad. She desperately thought that she must call in sick the next day, but she had already got a warning from the boss. It was too dangerous to do that now.

She logged on the system back again.
The mail was gone.

"I bet it was just my imagination. Poor guy. really got a piece of my mind"

There was a huge pile of documents on Isha table. She had to get done with at least half of it by the evening. She quickly browsed each of them and got them in order.
She was in the middle of entering them in the log when suddenly a message popped on her screen.

<Tanya> Hi Isha! Its me Tanya!

Isha stared at the screen. It was happening again.
This time she thought someone was playng a joke.
She looked across the office and saw that no one was using Tanyas computer.
Then who was typing the message.

<Tanya> I know you don’t believe this. But I guess you will have to.
I dont know how to convince you but I am still here with you.

<Isha> I don’t believe you. Who are you? Why are you doing this to me. Its not a nice joke. Please dont do this to me again

<Tanya> Wait! Isha please. Believe me. Its me Tanya.

<Isha> This cant be happening. Tanya is dead.

<Tanya> Yes I am dead. But I had a choice.

<Isha> What choice?

<Tanya> That I can choose who want to contact.

<Isha> Why?

<Tanya> Because I wasn’t supposed to die. My time had not come.

<Isha> How do I believe you?

<Tanya> Close your eyes Isha!

Isha couldn’t believe what was happening. But somewhere in her heart she felt Tanyas presence. She felt that she was around. She closed her eyes and could see Tanya. She looked happy but she was crying.
When she opened her eyes she saw that the screen was blank. there were no messages on the screen. Was she dreaming again. This was really happeening, wasnt it.

Whatever it was Isha was not feeling lonely again. She smiled.


Its been 6 years I wrote this, and ever since had multiple ideas to proceed, but I guess I never found the time, and sometimes felt the concept was a little outdated. 

Whatever it was...maybe it was never meant to be... 

Signing off....