November 30, 2008

Snow Flakes

Particulate snow collects on my spectacles and cries down my down jacket. Mourning loss of worlds. And a particular youthful lifeworld. An old man stands on the dias of the Korean Presbyterian Church and spreads happy expctations of Christmas trees by the corner of the Chapel. Spreads good news of donated children's books gone to good use in Zimbabwe. All is well for God still speaks. And they sing. And I think of an old Jim Reeves song called Snow Flkes (rather corny one) that my parents used to love.

And I think of the St.Paul's Cathedral. In Calcutta. And its ancient Gothic grandeur. The choir seats above. There is a pause between Christmas announcements on the dias. I slip out.

This is not a mourning walk. Rather a celebratory one. I took it a few years back when someone I knew from school died of illness. I take it when grief does not feel like a worthy sentiment to comemmorate a life. It's a walk to celebrate someone else's walk. That ended without due celebration.

November 16, 2008


This is Temperate Wind.
Sharp and efficient
Smiling sometimes.
How’re you today, miss?
Fine, thank you.
Have a good day.
Watch your step.
And it goes about its job.

Just as the lament of the church gong.
It is five p.m.
Five p.m. worth of darkness.
In this temperate world.

Of shivers and gloves.
And red and satin scarves.
Stand-offish high heels.
Leggings say hello.
From inner worlds of warmth.

Rustles of red.
Rustles of grey.
Rustles of silk.
Cigarette flakes.
Brush against the signboard.
Sidewalk Closed.
Please Cross Here.

Temperate crossings.
Stop go stop.
Turn. Stop.
Green. Yellow. Pedestrian.
Walk across.
Caution for the beverage is hot.

Morning yet again.
Consume. Produce.
Stop go stop.
Turn. stop.
For commodity is a social product.
Says Temperate Wind.
Have a good day.
But caution for the beverage is hot.

November 14, 2008

Mush room for capital

William Mazzarella captures the aspirational commmodity fetishes of the Indian Middle class in the late eighties and the nineties, in his gripping narrative of the changing advertisement industry of the time. That sells modernity in the Indian package. That in turn packages Indianness and sells it as exotic commodity.

Corporate packaging of sentimentality is seen through the lens of advertisement as a mediator in a conversation between a brand and the potential consumer that creates the kitschy aesthetic of a roadtrip up Ladakh with a cute Ladakhi boy, the traditional housewifey mother suddenly turning goofy on woman-health-drink or the professional cuteboy husband doing laundry. The sensation of the new global, confident, powerful Indian citizen- that is a good husband, father, son and yet kicks ass in the boardroom. Retains culture and ethnicity and kicks ass in the stock market is opium for the middle classes.

Mazzarella traces the spectrum of Indian advertisement right from the controversial Kamasutra (establishing terms of new sexual liberation, in ancient historical kitschy terms) right down to cellular telephony marketing,which breaks free of the metropolitan landscape and gifts cell phones to village mothers and migrant labourers. Mazzarella does not quite engage with the strategy of targeting though.

I am compelled to think of Indian national primetime advertisement of our time. While the professional middle class man gets to avail of the Cox and Kings Diwali holiday discount and nice ICICI home loans, his wife is reconfigured in being the busy professional that remembers things like cushion covers while the cute husband watches cricket (Vidya Balan and Madhavan mushcapade). Girls giggle at their weddings and fathers sob quietly and mothers look stern and responsible. So they can all fit into the Honda Civic or some such.And drive off to Lonavala.

The girl that is looking to break free possibly of the oppressive walls of her small town home fins solace in Frankfinn's protective wing. For she must first fly across the skies, pick up the global lingo, wear the mini-skirt. Only after the global confidence has been inscribed onto her, can she jump around kitsch-shopping, unbothered by her periods. But first, globality must be attained. Then locality can be re-embraced.