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Friday, December 25, 2009

The Day the Music Died 

It has been a soulful and melodious journey while it has lasted the course but as Nelly Furtado sings-Flames to dust, lovers to friends, why do all good things come to an end ?

Announcing what appeared to be a business design flaw beyond redemption or correction, the company announced in a distinctly unmusical aside

“On December 31, 2009, the WorldSpace satellite radio broadcast service will be terminated for all customers serviced from India. This action is an outgrowth of the financial difficulties facing WorldSpace India’s parent company, WorldSpace Inc, which has been under bankruptcy protection since October 2008. The potential buyer of much of WorldSpace’s global assets has decided not to buy the WorldSpace assets relating to and supporting WorldSpace’s subscription business in India," said the company communication to the subscribers.”

Am not sure if what was available in the public domain on the financial model would have ever passed muster, even if India were treated as a separate market. A subscription-only model ( of INR 2000 per annum ) eschewing all commercial broadcasts and advertisements with a no-profit-no loss partnership with select receiver manufacturers, may have foundered earlier than it did And while pay-for-radio is as alien a concept as public hygiene and civic sense in India, the 4.5 lakh subscriber base here was never really going to threaten to even break even. Content Aggregation and Studio costs, as well as royalty moneys to contend with in addition to salaries would mean a lot of heavy metal in the Liabilities column dominating over the wafting and fragile strains of a distant raga on the Assets side. And is mostly the case, Commerce won.

As one of the most fervent supporters of WorldSpace, this announcement will mean a discordant note for me in the new year. Again, it might mean a return to my old Skipper radio set coaxing it to burst into sound one last time, and perhaps looking for and finding ways to listen to the same channels through other media. I now surely need to lavish attention to my huge audio-cassette collection once more. Who knows, maybe a neo-convert to that Thin White Incrustation ? And at last, the crows and pigeons can settle comfortably once more on my radio antenna, there will be no more music to disrupt.

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind.
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time.
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial.
For what it's worth, it was worth all the while.
It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Matches are made, in Poker Heaven 

I realized it the minute I left the cafeteria with the Lankans needing 40 from 36 with 5 wickets in hand. And I was wrong by all of one run !

The rest of my tea-sipping fans wanted to know how exactly I did it—predicted the victor and the margin, when SL had the match in the bag.

For that, one has to go back almost a decade when I saw the last two hours of an India-S Africa match, long after which I came to the sad but inescapable conclusion that that was perhaps the first match that was fixed. The scene was eerily similar—India versus a strong ODI outfit in Kochi, full house, India plays well but is still outplayed only to win it in a close but not that-close finish. A day where over 300 was made by the Proteas for the loss of only three wickets ( two of them in an unexpected Dravid over) and India chase it down without ever appearing to try hard enough ( This must not be confused with the third ODI of the inaugural India-SA series where 287 was chased down without a whimper –that may have been the first match which was thrown )

So for all some zany batting orders, the very entertaining Angus McAllister impersonations of Sehwag & Dilshan and some candid remarks on the quality of cricket on Dhoni’s indeeveejwals , like the wise old Poirot said, I know and that is enough. Time will bear me out.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Teda hai par mera hai 

India has come a long way from the 80’s time when the epitome of a child’s aspirations were a BSA SLR bicycle, a wad Wrigley’s chewing gum, a Mon Ami pen set and perhaps a North Star pair of shoes. However for most adult males, ownership of any of the famed Priya, Chetak, Super or Classic set of Bajaj scooters was sufficient to grant a visible halo of middle-class respectability, familial attachment and belonging and rootedness that languidly promised upward mobility. At a time where even colour TVs were indeed an owner’s envy, four-wheelers were beyond reach and most took succour and grudging pride in these odd-shaped vehicles.

So when the Bajaj group announced their decision to move away from manufacture of all scooters this week, it does perhaps herald the passing of an age. A move away from a comfortable familiarity, a diffident aspiration and a compromised ambition, for good. For sheer symbolism, nothing quite served as a tempered conduit for India’s grounded dreams to reach through to acquisitiveness and materialism.

Santosh Desai looks back at some of these memories in an evocative piece


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Driving our Car’eers 

The latest Volkswagen TVC is an integrated brand campaign in India that aims to increase brand awareness about its four cars - Beetle, Jetta, Passat and Touareg.

The ad film opens with a shot of a young kid in a Volkswagen showroom, admiring the Beetle. A salesperson sees him there and offers to help him. The kid asks him whether it would be possible to book a car in advance, for his 18th birthday. The salesperson is caught by surprise, but yet is genuine in his response when he replies that it is certainly possible to book a car. The kid requests him to book a Beetle and the salesperson endorses his choice going on to extol some of the car's virtues.The kid then walks across to the Jetta and requests that it be booked for his 24th birthday when he turns vice-president. The next shot shows him at the steering wheel of the Passat, saying, "...and this, when I become the CEO." This cuts to a shot where the kid is given a glimpse into the interiors of the Touareg, with the salesperson asserting that it "dominates every road!"That' when the kid's father comes looking for him. The salesperson informs him that they've been planning the kid's 18th birthday, leaving the kid smiling. The film closes with the super, "German engineering. Made for India."

The child’s accent while he pronounces the word as addhavhaans clearly betrays a local schooling. Neutralization classes to be bundled with those piano ones ?
Since there is no attempt to make any clear distinction between each car seen, one would assume the differences and positioning are self-evident. And why not, the Beetle, Jat, Passepartout & Tuatara roll off Indian tongues as easily as these beasts themselves roll on Indian roads.

What a revolting kid ! His ambitions seem to be needlessly mired in the periphery of corporate boardrooms. What kind of lowlife would have planned to be a Veep by 24 and a CEO by 30 ? Since other than a smug visage, there is little to suggest that the youngster has planned and plotted to reach these exalted positions he rattles off with such abominable felicity.

The desultory ad redeems itself however with a Bollywoodesque touch at the end when ten gaily festooned rickshaws circle all the four cars-the aforementioned Beetle, Jat, Passepartout & Tuatara, and a robotic voice-over baritones “ Das Auto


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