Monday, November 21, 2011

Of Gods and Calenders

If we look at the way calenders have evolved in India, it gives us a good indication of the way we as a nation are evolving.

There was a time when a calender adorned every living room wall proudly hanging from a naked nail jutting out of a cracked wall.
Most calenders had twelve pages, mostly around two or three themes.

Gods. Calenders with Shiva, Lakshmi, Durga and other deities hung not only in the living room but even in the kitchen and the puja room. These calenders outlived the year they were designed for. The pages were carefully cut and pasted on  the puja room walls to replace the earlier agarbatti smoke smeared aging ones.

Babies. Smiling, gurgling, chubby cheeked babies in diapers- actually looked more like loincloths.
These calenders were lovingly hung on bedroom walls and also outlived the years.

Nature. Flowers, waterfalls, rivers formed the third popular theme for calenders.

The fourth kind was just dates printed in bold black in chequered squares on white pages with holidays marked in red.

All of these calenders bore the name of the sponsor in big and bold at the bottom, printed in a way that it was seamless with the image and could not be torn off.

So Kasturilal Family Jewellers  found place in most homes and hearths. Key dates were circled with ball point pens, casual notes were scribbled on the page ends at times.
Sometimes, calenders also doubled up as dhobi khattas- with the clothes count marked against the pick up and delivery date!

Today, we hardly see calenders on walls.
Unless it is the coveted Kingfisher one.

Boards on desks have smartly designed  planners at times.
Diaries and Yearbooks provide us flashy pages, glossy pictures and the dates.
Outlook Express and Lotus Notes pop up calenders and dates everyday.
Watches show us digital date and month.
Mobile phones do the same.

So, except for some ace photographers in India who still mail out calenders with their images to agencies and clients, are calenders, as we knew them, becoming extinct?
Should we preserve a few of the old ones, just to show our kids what calenders looked like?

Or maybe we should just move on and embrace the new, like all things in life...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Give More, Get More

Sometimes, I wonder, are we stingy as a nation?
As a culture?
Do we give readily or do we hold back?
Is "stinginess" actually a positive   for us? The quality that made us survive the worst of invasions, including the most recent economic recession?

Remember the times our dads would wear shoes till they were adorned with  the rough artwork of the neighbourhood cobbler? Of course they could afford another Bata pair- but  it was a philosophy they lived by. Times weren't so easy. Spending on themselves and not the family was not right.

Or the  way mutton lunches were reserved for Sundays and special occasions.
The skirts in our uniforms tailored with thick hems that unfurled in their bright colours every year.
The toys that were recycled between siblings, cousins.
Why toys alone? Even clothes.

Hemming, repairing, stitching up, recycling, reusing were the order of the day.

Same was the case with business.
Whether hospitality, or service- the companies gave what they had to give as a bare minimum to consumers.
Frills and freebies were few and far between.
Portions in restaurants were just about enough.

No wastage was the motto.

Times have changed now.
Recession notwithstanding, we also have plenty.
Incomes are rising, the breadearner is not just the man anymore.
We eat out more often, buy clothes more than just during Pujas and Diwali, and give our children chocolates and toys much more liberally.
We want to save for tomorrow, but live today kingsize as well.
So holidays dot our calenders, weekends are fun times, even though a drain on the wallet.

Are brands reflecting this opulence... or are they still "stingy"?
Do we have great quality products that justify the price we pay?
Do we have food on the table and our shelves that reflect the value they promise?
Do airlines promise all the comfort but get away with the bare minimum they have to offer to save themselves from irate consumers filing complaints?

Are corporate lawyers working towards how much to give or how much to get away with?

At the end of the day, it's all a philosophy we choose.
As individuals, as brands, as a nation.

But it's good to remember the old adage- When we give more, we get more.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Friend Rich, Time Poor

Facebook has changed my life in more ways than one.
I have connected and reconnected with people  who I shared my sandwich with in school.
Or poured over Economics assignments in college.
Colleagues who helped me settle down in JWT when I first joined, 16 years ago.
Networking, chatting, talking.... I get everything.

But I have also given up on quite a few things, thanks to the time I spend on Facebook.
I hardly call my friends. An FB wall message is enough.
I have forgotten the last time I read a good book.
Whenever I have some time to spare, my fingers itch to check on the latest newsfeeds.
I hardly watch my favourite TV programmes. I am busy with one eye on the small screen, answering messages.

I choose status updates over morning walks.
Prefer Facebooking to  sharing my lunch with colleagues at work.
I  am furiously keying in instead of looking out of the window, as I am driven to work everyday.
I have no time to introspect.I don't even have time to try out the new muffin recipe.

Facebook is like the butcher's knife. You either carve or kill.
It's upto us to choose  wisely....