Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What is it with insurance advertisements in our country? I liked the one which had rupee notes falling off trees. That one was a childhood fantasy, but the others seemed like a trap. They show you the promise of a good life, followed by an InsureanceisthesubjectmatterofsolicitationPleasereadtheofferdocumentcarefullybeforeinvesting. I understand there is cut-throat competition in the industry and all that, but why are they hell bent on using scare-tactics so that we run and get ourselves one of their panaceas for a happily-ever after life?

As it is, the earlier ads were an eye sore. There is this one ad in which a kid goes around the house saying ‘Statue’ to everything. When her had asks her the reason, she says, “Papa, ab kuchh nahi badlega”. I mean, what do you expect? Your audience has the intelligence levels of an anteater?

The there was that one with this kid with a bad hairstyle which talks too much. “Papa, kya aap mere future ke baare mein soche hain?” Which child talks to his father like that? They are more into video games/clothes/latest mobiles, that kind of stuff. Future? Really?? Bad research, dude. They are children. They don’t bother about that their future.

But the recent ad from HDFC just takes things to a different sphere of what-the-fuckness.

There is this guy who is leaving on some tour. Next to him is his ‘friend’. Now, if you were leaving somewhere and someone was coming to see off, what would you expect him to do? Wish you good luck, give you a hug, promise to call, that kind of stuff. No? This dude has to sell you insurance. He has to sound like a pain in the ass. How else can he do it?

So, our guy is about to leave and is in the taxi. He takes out some money that he forgot to give his wife. Hint 1 that he is leading a good life: His wife doesn’t control his finances. On careful observation, he has about ten notes in his wallet, of which he takes out 3-4 for his wife. Hint 2: He is not miserly with his wife.

The ‘friend’ takes the money and then asks, “Listen, dude. What if you don’t come back for a week?”

“You are right. Here’s some more.” You can see the glint in his eye as he takes the additional amount of money. Not to be satisfied, he goes on.

“Listen, what if you don’t come for a month.”
“Haha, you got to be kidding.”

(Our insurance selling dickhead pauses for effect)

“What if you never return? Will this money be enough for your wife?”

ONE TIGHT SLAP!! “Get the fuck out of the car. You are eyeing my wife, and you are a pessimistic-fatalist-death predicting-cheapskate insurance seller who exploits his friends”. In normal life that is. But no, not happening here.

Our guy falls for the moron’s lame efforts and his head is bent with sorrow. He has to go on a trip, mind you. Then, wise insurance guy says, “Sar jhukake kyun baitha hai yaar?”

Well, let me guess. He is going away from his wife and kids, has forgotten to give them some money. His friend is probably eyeing his wife, and is basically being a dick. Isi liye sar jhukake baitha hai.

Wise insurance guy then tells him, “Sar utha ke jiyo”. What exactly is this ‘Sar uthake jiyo’ wala funda? I am not covered by any insurance and if I die, my family will only inherit lots of diaries and unwashed clothes. But I don’t walk with my head stooped down in sorrow. And do people who have their lives covered walk with their head held high, like cranes? Absolute rubbish, I say.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I was in college, hopping jobs and looking for easy money. Painting t-shirts, odd jobs at call centres, part time stints and freelancing.

One morning, I was having chai at the stall near my house and talking to someone when this person overheard me and introduced himself. He was in formals, clean clothes, ready smile, and spoke in a syrupy-sweet manner.

“Do you want to change your life?”

What sort of a lame question is that? Who doesn’t want that?


“Come with me, give me just half an hour and if you think it was worthwhile, well and good. Otherwise, it is completely your wish.”

He made me sit behind his scooter. It is always uncomfortable sitting behind someone in a scooter. Scooters do not have long seats like bikes. There are two seats – one for the rider and one for the pillion, with the oil tank in between you both. And everytime the rider brakes, you brush against him. I half wondered if he was some sort of paedophile. But he was not.

He took me to his home. He had a wife and a little son. He took me to his room and proudly showed me a photo of himself and his wife in Goa. I am a ‘Diamond Member’, we get one fully-paid holiday in a year, he said with pride. You can become a Gold Member within six months; I can see future in you".

For the next half an hour, I was completely lost in his talk. He told me how things worked. It was about exposing people to the luxury of good products. The investment needed was marginal. And if I worked hard, I could earn anything within 6,000 to 8,000 a month. I was already beginning to dream of what I would do with all the money. After an hour I was completely brain-dry cleaned. This was easy shit, I could do this.

“Don’t worry. For any support, I am with you. After all, we should join hands and help each other improve our lives together”. He asked me to attend a meeting conference for all members of the ‘Family’. I was thrilled.

I attended the conference. Though I felt like some distant, long forgotten cousin in the family, it was fun. People, many of them married women, clapped loudly when the speaker spoke about how his life had changed since he joined the ‘family’. The food was great and I met my mentor too. “Ah, come come.” he said, and made me meet some other people who all had smiled pasted to their faces. “Welcome Mr. Ranjan, the latest star in the block”. This was good, man. Even my own family wasn’t so proud of me.

The next week was a Monday. I was itching to begin. But who do I contact? I couldn’t even think of selling my sister anything. By default, she thinks that I am upto some kind of suspicious business. I tried selling it to my neighbour, Pintu Bhai.

I called him to the terrace to speak to him about it. “Do you want to change your life?”

He looked at me suspiciously and nodded.

I began the ‘life-changing’ sermon. After 20 minutes, I was convinced he wanted to extend his hand so that we could improve our lives together too. I explained to him about the products, how they were the means for thousands of people around us to change their lives. I explained about the marginal investment he had to make the loads of products he could get, that were far superior to the ones that were available in the market.

“How much does the toothpaste cost?”
“100 rs.”
“And do they give anything free? Like a toothbrush or white-meter?”
“No. But the product is much better than Colgate and Pepsodent.”

I could see he was sinking by the minute. When I was done, he said he would ‘let me know’. I smiled, stood up and extended his hand, and he gave me an amused look. We played cricket together, and knew each other since childhood. But we had never shaken hands. “Let us hold hands and improve our lives together”. My dialogue seemed as original as Rakhi Sawant's assets, but I was mouthing them just the same.

This was a good feeling, helping people use better products, become independent and transform their lives in the process. I felt I was doing mankind a service, redeeming people from their lives. For the next two weeks, in every conversation with people around me, I shook hands. Whenever I met Pintu Bhai, he would say he had some work, or change the topic. My mentor would call me to his house now and then and show me more photos of him and his wife in Goa. “This year, we are going to Himachal”, he said, looking at his wife with an endearing look that I could only give to a sizzling brownie.

A month had passed since I had transformed my life. I noticed that Pintu Bhai rarely met me these days. My conversations with the guys at work were slowly becomingly shorter. I spoke to my mentor about it. He warned me that the initial days could be a little taxing, but there was no substitute for hard work if I wanted to enjoy my life to the fullest.

After about 2 weeks, I cornered Pintu Bhai and asked him about his plans. He told me why he wasn’t up for it. He explained the reason. And I understood why.

We always hear the phrase “We don’t sell products, we sell dreams”. This company was actually selling dreams. The shit-expensive, arty-farty sounding trash was just by-products. No one wanted to use the products, or even spoke about them. They were just means to a better life. You joined the queue, found a bakra, bullshat him, dumped unwanted crap on his head and told him he was changing his life.

I looked in my room. I had a toothpaste, a shaving cream, a car and bike (both of which I dint have) polishing solution, a dishwashing cream, four powders that could make me look like Saahil Khan. And a wallet that was lighter by 4,000 bucks.

Even now, I don’t like people who ask me if I want to improve my life, or who shake hands with me. I am happy with my life, thank you very much. I don’t want your crap, and I don’t have a fat wife nagging me to take her to Himachal. Pretty soon, I got kicked out of the family, but I got my life back.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sardarji and his son

Is watching a match in the stadium really an experience better than watching it at home on television?

We had gone to watch the match against Sri Lanka that was played in Cuttack. We took our seats in the stands by 12.00 and the match was set to begin around 2.00 PM.

The waiting for the match can be quite frustrating, and people were kind of getting restless, waiting for the match to start. We guys had taken chart paper and sketch pens and were ready with our placards (“Dhoni, We miss you”, “Sorry, boss. I have fever”, “Plant Trees”).

A Sardar and his son were in the row in front of us. The son was young, must be 10 years old, around class 4. Around the age when you collect posters and cards, with nothing much more on your mind. They were one of the first persons to arrive and you could see that he was really interested in cricket.

The thing is, the day your luck is fucked, it is fucked. You can’t do much about it.

When the match was about to begin, some policemen came and started making people settle down. There was this couple of guys. One of them was dark and bulky, and looked like the Before of a “Before After’ in a Zambian weight-loss infomercial. The other guy was lanky. These guys had been standing for quite sometime and finally the policeman found an empty chair. The one in front of Sardarji’s son. But there is only one chair? No problemo!

The hefty guy, a veritable Duryodhan, offered his friend to sit on his lap. And After readily obliged.

And just like that, the poor boy’s vision was completely blocked. For the entire match! But ‘Before After’ hardly noticed. When one thigh ached, Before would make After stand up briefly, and then sit in on his other thigh. The poor boy wore a smug the entire match.

As it is, Oriya people are rather interesting. You will never find us sitting idle, ideating, thinking of world peace, that kind of crap. There is always something or the other going on in our minds.

To add to Sardarji & Son’s misery, all of a sudden a man hops in front of them, takes out his mobile phone and brings it in front of Sardarji’s face.

We were sitting behind them so we couldn’t see their expressions, but I am sure it must have been one of pure horror. And he takes a picture of Sardarji. He then looked at his phone, put it in his pocket and smiled.

“I have a friend. In Punjab. Vijay Singh. Bilkul aap ke jaisa dikhta hai.” The day your luck is screwed, it is screwed.

Now, gradually the match progressed. India was well on its way to a victory. When India was fielding, you should have seen the crowd’s behaviour. Sachin was fielding in the boundary near us, and the adulation had to be seen to be believed. Every time he so much as turned his head, the entire gallery would stand up and scream out his name. However, there was a Jekyl-Hyde kind of transformation when the Sri Lankan team came to field. Some of them had come up with innovative one-liners and would scream it out. One went,

“Malinga… tujhe ch*denga” (in the tune of the usual “India….India…”). Someone in the galleries above us must have gotten a little bored, so he decided to start throwing things at the people sitting below. It began in the form of paper rockets.

We looked up, pointed at it and laughed. After a while, a banana peel comes flying and landed on the head of one of the persons in the stands. Not funny. He throws it back and with a detailed chronology of the person’s ancestors.

What ensued next can only be called a water pouch/samosa/banana peel/biriyani packet slinging duel between the stands and the galleries. After a while, we saw that the same thing was going on in the other galleries as well.

It looked like a scene from those black and white comedy movies where people start hurling cakes at each other’s faces. Only, it wasn’t funny. By the time the innings reached the 40th over, the people who had come with families had left. The last I saw Sardarji and his son; they were getting up from their chairs. The war ensued till the end of the match and by the time it was over, the entire stand was empty but for a handful of us.

Coming back to the question I asked in the beginning. If a ten year old was asked the same question, he would say it is much better to sit at home, and enjoy the match with smoking hot parathas and tandoori chicken.