Thursday, April 21

Know me now

There's someone you like.
Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
You want to ask this person out.
So you plan.
Think up witty opening remarks.
Predict some comeback statements.
Your possible responses to those.
Where you can go on a date.
What kind of questions to ask so the conversation doesn't hit dead air.
How you can stay funny without being crude, sexist, racist or whatever else 'ist'.
How you can react if it all tanks like the Titanic.
How to control the urge to let out a wild war-whoop and perform a vigorous rumba if, heaven help us, it all seems to be going well.
Perhaps how not to faint away in complete shock if the person indicates that it was fun.
That there could be another one.
Think about if you should drop them to a cab or bid goodbye and walk away.
If you should offer a handshake or a hug.   

You work at it because being charming doesn't come naturally to you.
If flirting is a game of chess you're no Bobby Fischer.
In fact, you are pretty much the anti-Bobby Fischer.
So, you work at it. Hard.
Plan it all out in your head.
Down to the last detail.

Because when you like someone.
When you want to ask them out.
When you take the effort.
You're putting a little bit of yourself out there.
Who you are.
Which skills you have.
What you want.
How you see the world.
You're bracing a battered, bruised, bandaged heart.
Begging it to bear with a stupid brain just a bit longer.
Which, to be honest, is scared shitless.
And will bail out at the last minute.
Leave you trembling and blank.
Even as you say "This is who I am".
"This is everything I stand for".
"So..."
It is that one moment of awesome vulnerability.
Steeling yourself for the "No".
Praying for the "Yes".
Dreading the "Maybe".
Or worse, the disappointment that's purely an expression.

That's what being on the creative side of advertising is like.
I think.
And, we do this every day.

Song for the moment: Our day will come - Amy Winehouse

Monday, April 18

I'll be waiting

Occasionally, people will peer into the horizon, sigh heavily and say something along the lines of life being easier in their past.

It wasn't though it used to make more sense, I'll grant them that. Take for instance, the act of falling ill. When younger and unwell, I wouldn't go to school. If it was a mild ailment, home remedies would save the day and I'd be off to the alleged temple of learning the next day. Occasionally, the situation was more serious and called for a doctor's visit, medicines and a period of convalescence. Rarely was surgery involved. And, always, recovery was the key. As long as I ate properly, stayed in bed (and with books, who'd want to get out of it, pray) and behaved, all was well.

Things have changed and how! I doubt what I'm about to describe is particular to advertising but it does seem that my industry takes this cake and masticates rather horridly.

Today, I felt under the weather. Enough to actually call in sick.

Why are those words in italics?

Because I have worked in enough agencies to realise that we come into work and are expected to do so unless actually at the point of death. And, if there's cellphone coverage, then one can actually be on call till we bite the bullet. Maybe a couple of artworks can be sent to the client even after the last rites. After all, the work must never halt, no?

It certainly feels that way. I hadn't been snoozing half an hour before the calls began. Why wasn't I at work? Was I coming to work? Was I unwell? A pause. Who was to do my work? Would the work that had to be delivered today get done? How? Could I take a look at one tiny piece of modification? Oh, and try writing a couple of radio scripts? Flesh out those 4 TV scripts that we'd discussed? Give another round of names for some client property? Tch, almost forgot, there were some minor changes in 1 newspaper insert; I would give a few more headline options, surely? And lo, an unexpected and unsurprising disaster - client wants a fresh insert option.

Before I knew it, 10:30 am had become 8:30 pm. I felt/feel more weary than this morning. Thought about how ridiculous the expectations are in this stupid industry. And it is a stupid industry. Particularly because everyone outside thinks it's the world's coolest, continuous party and senior fuckers inside wonder why juniors are so glum and disheartened.

I'll bet you're thinking this is all a load of whiny crap. Some of you may have read a recently published book by the supposed 'godfather' of Indian advertising. That book is horseshit. Sure, there are a few genuinely good parts in it. Most of it though is the kind of hogwash the author is using to grease his future. After all, there's tons of money to be made as a consultant and it never hurts to perform literary fellatio on senior client-side individuals in advance.

Anyway, this is the kind of industry I work in. It doesn't respect us as individuals or our personal lives. It is engineered to keep us on a short stress lease, constantly wondering where the next shitstorm is going to appear. Anyway, I took one day off and it led to this. I don't have the mental bandwidth to imagine what would happen if I didn't show up tomorrow either.

Especially since my boss has already passive-aggressively hinted that it'd be better if I did make it into work.

Next post - Why being on the creative side is a lot like trying to date.  

Song for the moment: The Red Mist - The Man from U.N.C.L.E OST

Saturday, April 9

As time goes by

I've had many years to think this over, so here goes.

Nothing sets a guy behind in his social game like studying in an all-boys school. See, it is all very well scoring good marks, avoiding negative reports from teachers, beatings from parents and all that bullshit, but this kind of schooling robs you of one huge piece of education. How to speak to girls. Rather, how to just be normal around them.

Nowhere does Darwin's theory hold more true than in the jungle that is an all-boys school. You need special skills to survive. If you're good at sports then you're sorted. Firstly, playing any sport and being any good at it automatically imbibes that real, ferocious competitive spirit and confidence you need later in life to fight off the horde of randy bastards, smile and make eye-contact with a girl you're interested in. Secondly, being a sports-jock gives you a 'reputation', a magical cape of macho, if you will, even as the barest wisp of a mustache is struggling through the epidermis. If you're good at academics, it helps in a different way. Just when the hormones are kicking in and you actually wake up and realise there's a whole different, easy-on-the-eyes gender out there, you land up in tuition classes, which, heaven help us, are co-ed, and you also have a 'reputation' albeit one that requires more work to exploit its potential. Being in an all-boys school scars everyone without prejudice but being in either of the above brackets lets you bounce back and rediscover your mojo faster.

If you are in neither category, you're fucked. Plainly and simply, you exemplify mediocrity. Life is an endless series of frustrations, self-flagellation, disappointments both real and imagined and relegation, not to the back of the shelf, but into the storeroom, in a moth-eaten box stacked in the darkest corner. You'll develop a caustic sense of what you think is top-class humour until one day, some bastard comes along who is funnier than you. Or so everyone else thinks, which comes to the same thing.

If you're both a jock and academically gifted, you're basically Manna from heaven, with a golden halo around your noggin and the refrain from 'Hallelujah' echoing faintly in your vicinity, all the time. Kindly go fuck yourself.

Anyway, I've always struggled with the legacy of the 'mediocre' category in an all-boys school. In all the years since I first faked the courage to date, I still have no clue how to ask a girl out. So far, I have never actually uttered the words or anything even closely resembling the idea "would you like to go out with me?". Things have just 'happened'. And I'm in my 30s. This lack of ability to initiate conversation with the fairer sex is becoming increasingly relevant because now is the time every-fucking-person feels like they can ask me about my marriage plans. I don't know about other countries, but marriage is a BIG deal in India. You may be barely out of college and struggling to keep body and soul together in your 20s when your folks will begin prodding you on the subject. Dodge as many bullets as you want but the mumblings, grumblings and other assorted sounds get louder and more urgent as you approach 30. After that, it's basically open season. Relatives, friends, people you've met for the first time in your life - each of them thinks it's okay to give you advice on the subject of matrimony and how you should go about it. All you can do is stand there, gritting your teeth because you can't even throw the phrase "I have a girlfriend" in their faces.

Because misery loves company, it is gratifying to meet people who are in the same boat. Not the 'unmarried' cruise-liner of agony but the "how the fuck do I meet women and/or ask one out" raft of irritation. The funny thing is I can give completely logical, supportive and inspirational advice to these other guys with a straight face and just the barest shred of shame. "Yea man, just ask her out. You're a 32-year old guy. You've been in life-and-death situations. You've done crazy, outrageous things. Think about all that and it becomes easy."

Except it doesn't. I've come to the very late realisation that asking a girl out is, in truth, no big deal. You're not suggesting anything extraordinarily terrible. Heck, you're only inquiring if there's a chance that she may consider the possibility that you could be someone she might think about sharing a drink with. Nothing more, right? Well, your brain says otherwise. The longer you wait to ask, the worse the imaginary scenarios get. The more devastating the "No" becomes. The more relationship collateral damage there is - if she happens to be a friend of some people you like/hang out with, things can get pretty, damn awkward. And by now, awkwardness and public embarrassment are the nightmares you loathe the most. Or so your mind tells you. It gets worse as you get older and watch the proverbial sand run out of your hourglass of romance. Because, at some point the women start ignoring you, giving you the chance to get intimately acquainted with your inner doormat.

This leads to some panicky, desperate and downright stupid decisions and situations. You no longer wait for your heart to do a back-flip and a vigorous rumba when that 'someone' comes along because your heart is tired, beaten down and has thrown in the towel. Worse, you no longer believe it will happen. In the great social game, you're not even good enough to be the kacchha limbu. You've become the guy no one wants to play with.

Song for the moment: Careless hands - Sammy Kaye