Jan 25, 2008

An unusual method

It had always bothered me. The irritant in question is an advertisement on TV about a soap brand called ‘Nature Power’ by some RKN group. It shows two women discussing about the ‘best’ method to buy soap (where one model actually says – ‘by watching advertisements!’) and you see a third one popping up from nowhere, providing unsolicited advice after committing the offense of eavesdropping. The ad in itself is extremely lousy; a half-hearted, amateurish effort. What caught my attention was some ‘TFM factor being more than 76%’ or some such info the models provided; apparently soaps above 76% are supposed to be very good. And this seems to be criterion for recommending this soap to random strangers in the store.

At one point the camera zooms in on the product cover and the inscribed word ‘TFM’ with the percentage is displayed. At no point of time in this entire ad, does anybody bother explaining what this percentage or the acronym means. I expected at least one of the characters to bat her eyelids and ask ‘What is this TFM?’ like they show in many other advertisements – the usual, obvious leading question used to introduce a concept. No such luck here. They even show the fair maidens getting impressed by this mystery jargon they neither have any clue about nor care to get clarified.

I googled out TFM and found the details and it’s evident from the information on net that TFM is a fairly common term used when it comes to quality of soaps. However, I did not know about this and I am sure, there are millions others who wouldn’t know either.

The advertisement, per se, is not worth a glance but it definitely would have made a difference if I was told upfront what this ‘TFM’ was all about.
Or, may be not – only because it gave such an incomplete message, this ad stuck to my mind. And, that is a pretty roundabout way of making people remember a brand isn’t it?

Jan 23, 2008

Technology Glitches

I am not so proud of my incapability in understanding technology. But I dont have to worry too much. I guess I am not so unique in this category and that makes me happy. Considering I am working for an IT company, (though my professional background has no connection to IT whatsoever) I should at least pretend to understand the latest gadgets, the facilities that information technology has made feasible. Recently, a friend of mine had a catchy tune in her mobile which I wanted transferred to mine. She asked if I had Bluetooth in my mobile. I don’t claim to be knowledgeable about Bluetooth, but I have at least heard of the name, and the wonders it does to people in transferring pictures and songs from PC to mobile, vice versa and similar other options. I said I didn’t have it in my phone. She gave me that saintly smile which translated to you-dunce-are-you-for-real type. I had a brainwave just then – I asked her:
“Could you transfer it to Potter’s mobile? He sure has Bluetooth”
“Yeah, sure”
“Ok, I will give you his number; send it to him right now”
“Okay… but, where is he?”
“Where else, in his office”
At this point, she looked up and I swear, what I saw was horror in her eyes. She then struggled to keep a straight face, and slowly said “the mobile has to be within a range of a hundred meters to transfer any data”
And all I could do was smile back at her, thinking “a thousand apologies*

( *a reference to a dialogue by a Punjabi character in the serial ‘Mind Your Language’ whenever he made a stupid mistake; something I had always found quite silly)

Jan 8, 2008

Hope Floats

Imagine being provoked, tested and pushed almost to the point of tearing my hair out, by a man on New Year’s Eve.
By a man who does not even exist.
I mean by a fictitious character. I was not drunk, no not all. But then, it happened to me for real. I never thought Andy Dufresne was going to get into my thoughts the way he did.
I am talking about the same Andy Dufresne, the unbelievably positive hero of ‘Shawshank Redemption,’ one of the greatest Hollywood movies ever made, according to me. I have seen the movie – twice. It indeed had a great impact on me then and continues to be one of my favourites. But, this is not that Andy Dufresne.
I happened to chance upon Stephen King’s book ‘Different Seasons’ containing four novellas and the first story in the book was ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.’
I knew the story well, yet, I was curious about the differences that crop up when books are made to movies. There were minor ones I agree. To his credit, the director has maintained a tight grip on the storyline in the movie.
But, the story in print is like a lip smacking dessert. Every sentence was an absolute delight. And the fact that I could hear Morgan Freeman’s voice narrating the entire drama while I read the book stands as a testimony to the effectiveness of the movie in translating to such powerful script and visuals on screen.
In case one is wondering, this is not what bothered me.
I experienced a peculiar sensation while reading this tale. Some kind of inner tumult going on parallelly. I felt as if I was hypnotized. Later, I forgot about it as the vacation drew to an end.
Recently I was caught unawares by changes in the weather and, on one of those nights as I lay in the bed, slightly feverish and unable to sleep, it came back to me again. I can’t really put a finger on what it was, but it could be roughly translated as a provocation – to detach myself from self and stand as an external party observing my own thought process, my hopes, desires, beliefs and my pessimism. To question the path that is developing in my life on its own, to challenge it and dare to chart it out according to my wish. It was as if Andy Dufresne was making fun of me – his silent laughter innocently mocking my feeble attempts at making decisions, all the while worrying about the possibility of falling flat on my face. Of me trying to be safe and not rock the boat.
Of course, I chided myself: I was just getting carried away by the wonderful optimism of a story – something that is not real.
But then, that strange word stuck in my mind: Institutionalized.
I liked the way the word was used. How convenient it was to describe the way the prisoners felt! However, it exactly describes what we have turned out to be – outside a prison, living in a progressive community and free, yet, institutionalized. By the society that chains us with moral obligations, responsibilities and unrealistic expectations. Expectations that have no business to be there in the first place.
But I cannot waste time trying to question and change the way it works; I’d rather change things for me. I still have the freedom of choice between what is expected and what I want to do. It does not matter if the act of choosing is near impossible.
May be I was plain high on the feel-good factor of the fiction or, may be I was delirious; I had not been keeping well. What else would explain such thoughts bouncing off my head at 2 a.m. in the morning?
Still, somewhere in a small corner of my heart, I dared to hope that a small conflict created in the mind today could later snowball to a strong change to become a better me.
After all it took about twenty seven years, according to the book, for Andy Dufresne to dig a tunnel in the prison wall with a rock hammer.