Minority Saala!

Minority Saala!
This is a ‘minority report’ I would like to share with the concerned citizenry, seeking suitable redress on the issue of me being a minority and would like adequate reservations under whatsoever category deemed fit. If the Patels are going to get it, if the Gujjars have got a ‘minority’ of their demands, if the OBCs have had it, then I think I truly deserve a minority status under so many categories, as you will notice in the following instances.

This whole business of reservation for minority communities hit me like a thunderbolt, the other morning, when I was reading an article on the Patels’ agitation in Gujarat. Sipping on my coffee, handmade by me only, it occurred to me that I too belong to a minority community in many, many ways and I could do with some help. For example, I must belong to a minority of men who like their filter coffee in a prescribed format; strength, colour, sweetness, flavour, blend of powder, the roast etc., etc., all have to be of a certain specification, which, for a majority of people seems like a variable constant. Hence, they refuse to entertain the thought of preparing coffee for me. Hence, again, it has become my headache to prepare my own coffee. This penchant for a peculiar coffee specification has also put me in another uniquely minority list; of being the only human to be addressed by a thousand and eight of the choicest gaalis! Dear Lord Vishnu, it is very lonely up here no?

I grew up with three older sisters. So you see, I began life as a minority. I had no say whatsoever because the little one was always the’ joker’. Ask the collective conscience, and you will know the ‘joker’ is never to be taken seriously.  I would be woken early in the morning and sent off on a mission to buy something as innocuous as dhaniya. And guess why? Right, because I was the minority, little one. And it was not because, the majority older folks forgot about stocking it up the previous evening. Also, as a minority in the household, what you ate was a factor of what others wanted to eat! Years later nothing has changed!

I still get woken early in the morning, only this time, to get some gluten free oats! Along with the wife, a daughter and a bitch, sorry Leia, life has come a full karmic circle with me relegated pretty much to monosyllables for answers and an old rickety chair which I can proudly call my own. Wifey, I can say that right? It doesn’t stop there, with two female domestic help, a female cook the karmic circle is looking pretty strong with no signs of weakness or fissures coming their way anytime soon. Ever tried eggplant with peas? Badnekayi saar?

Even though born in a South Indian Brahmin household; (No sir, for the record, I am not a ‘TamBrahm’. See, here too, I am a minority!) I belonged to the minority of thinkers, in a family that largely consisted of engineers, doctors, IT pros, double doctorates. I could barely read and write to save my life. When people announced their seven digit salaries, I was counting a few thousands. While they spoke about their jaunts, I negotiated the truck and pothole infested Mysore Road, with aplomb, I must say! I somehow managed to get into advertising. And guess what, I was the second, in the whole, big “not-the-Sopranos” family to have entered the profession. The first was some accountant types in some small typesetting setup, which doubled up as “the advertising agency” for local traders! Such an illustrious club I had come to belong to! So, amongst the bunch of engineers doing some cutting edge work on parallel processing, chip design, robotics and amongst the doctors who had dedicated their lives to life-changing research in the fields of paediatric cancer and climate change, here I was a minority who was trying to build castles in the air, selling dreams to consumers, wooing them into buying stuff they hardly needed.

I still remember, my conversation with my then could be father-in-law, who normally is a man of few words, a few million I mean. But that day, it appeared as if he had suffered some sort of a palsy; the strange twitching of a left eyebrow, the involuntary flaring of the nostrils, an uncharacteristic colouration of an unusual nature on his face and also there was a desperate attempt to hold his right hand with his left, much against its wish as I could see. He was at a complete loss for words, looking at me. To him I didn’t look like a Brahmin boy from any angle and to top it, I had no PF! Provident Fund? He would always say, I truly belonged to a select class, a minority who was not a Vadama Brahmin, not from Chennai, not from the valley, not earning in dollars and who had no PF! Wonder what his daughter saw in me? A niggling suspicion that’s lurking in a small crevice in the right hemisphere of my limited cranium, suggests that she enjoyed a sadistic pleasure of seeing me relegated to rickety, nondescript chair. But I shall refrain from doing so because I don’t want to be a part of yet another minority club that is dubbed as being unfair to the fairer sex!

Coming back to my profession, I soon moved into social media as it was the “in thing”. There I was completely sucked into interesting concepts like the “Internet of Things” and social analytics. Guess what, here too, I belonged to a select club of a few lunatics who wanted their microwaves and refrigerators to talk to their smartphones! A Maami, a distant relative of my wife while visiting us, put it succulently when she said “there are enough fools walking with walkies in their hands waiting for things to happen, inside a campus in Katpadi”. I think she was referring to a mental asylum there! Since, I have the dubious distinction of being a part of so many minority groups, I wonder what should be the appropriate way to protest for my reservation? I can’t get on to a hunger strike, as a majority of them would do that. It fashionable these days you see. I can’t sit on a dharna, again because a majority of them do it. I can’t take out a protest march. Guess why? Because that’s what majority of the minority groups do anyways! Hmm… how about your appreciation for this. The more people appreciate this, the more it will be a testimony to the fact that there many, many minorities out there who feel they are a part of a larger cause called India and want keep the system functioning. And that too, without any reservations.

Nautanki Saala!

ORM – Online Reputation Management Or Has It Become Online Retribution Management.

Come to think of it, possibly the latter is becoming true. Recently, the ‘#Kodikanal Won’t’ protest against #Unilever, #Nestle’s #Maggi fiasco and other episodes have kept social and PR agencies of the respective brands, real busy. I won’t get into the details of these episodes, but I think there is a learning for brands and agencies in those stories.

The belief is consumers are increasingly taking to social media to complain about brands. Has this number increased with the rise in popularity of social media? On the flip side, why are brands looking at #ORM as an arsenal in their armoury? Why are they looking at social media as a mine field that needs to be navigated in the most delicate manner? Has this relationship gone so sour that brands now, are looking at their consumers with suspicion? I have never understood the need for an exercise like ORM, especially, if the brand has been true to itself? Let me explain myself or rather my conundrum here.

We all know, a brand is a promise and it needs to live up to that trust, every time, every day. The moment that trust is broken for whatsoever reason, a consumer can and will disown the brand. But because, more often than not, brands tend to treat relationships in a lot more transactional manner, the consumer believes he has the right to speak up against the breach of trust. From this perspective, we can’t turn around and say, that must be stopped. And unfortunately, brands have gone to the extent of creating crack teams to monitor what is called ‘negative sentiment’. At this point I would like to ask the young brand manager and enthusiastic social media executive, has it ever occurred to you’ll that monitoring positive sentiments can have a more beneficial effect on a brand? But such a sentiment is usually taken for granted, right?

Some brands have even established ‘command centres’, where ‘over-analysing -data analysts’ look into data, real time to help nip the ‘problem’ in the bud. But hey again, the young brand manager and over enthusiastic social media executive, have you guys paused, thought for a moment what your predecessors did before the ‘social media’ age? Many times, they took the conversation ‘offline’ as you would call it, had a face-to-face, understood the problem, fixed it at the brand’s end and smiled at the consumer for the honest feedback and went back knowing pretty well they have retained one more consumer for a lifetime!

Come to think of it, don’t relationships fall out largely due to trust deficits? When an employee joins an organisation, he has so much hope, so many dreams. He scarifies his personal life, social life, sometimes even financial obligations to create value for the organisation. And then, one day, all of a sudden he leaves. Probe the issue a little and you will find, it usually boils down to a trust deficit. Or when a relationship too, breaks down it’s due to a breach of trust! No matter what, no matter where, every time there is a fissure in a trusted relationship, people feel vulnerable and feel cheated. Today, they have a legitimate means in the form of social media to express that insecurity. Earlier, they may have just disowned the brand and walked away from it. The way I see it, today, people are perhaps, giving the brand a second chance! A chance to accept, a chance to rectify and above all a chance to rebuild that trust!

Rather than look at it through this optimistic lens, if a brand feels threatened and begins to show its insecurity, it’s not doing itself any favour. It needs to go out and show the world it has nothing to hide; by being transparent, by being forthcoming. On the contrary, it may have more to lose in the long run by not being there for its consumers. Again, like in most relationships, people can and are forgiving! All that the brand needs to do is tell them that it didn’t mean to break that trust. Believe me, when a brand does that, it will get that second chance.

But on the other hand, if a brand were to believe that the reasons for hullabaloo from the consumers’ side are purely commercial, then I think we are heading for a deadlock! You cannot walk into a trust building exercise, or as governments would call them, CBMs; confidence building measures; with suspicion and contempt.

I think even encouraging a notion like this is not only ludicrous but smacks of condescension from the brand’s side! Why on earth would a consumer go and seek a product hoping to find an anomaly in it. Until and unless, he was ‘Six Sigma Certified’ to “be among that one or two in a billion to find that anomaly!” And worst of all, imagine that he would find it and then demand a ransom as damages! Huh? And siting what reasons? Emotional trauma and injury inflicted to the ulna by the constant badgering of his forearm on a rustic table, trying to impress upon the police officer, the various sections and sub sections under the Indian Penal Code? A bit far fetched don’t you think? As a wise man once put it, the consumer is not a moron, he is your husband!

If a brand has nothing to hide then why should it worry about consumers using social channels as complaint boxes? Be transparent, be open, after all it was the very same consumer who trusted you as a brand. Come out in the open, publish your policy on product quality, on buy backs, on the process of manufacture, on the process of distribution, your legal stand point on issues and concerns, whatever, anything that can help build an open, transparent system. Carry the consumer along with you. Create that opportunity for him to become your true brand ambassador. Give him the chance to defend what he has helped build. Because when you do that, as a true brand ambassador he will stand up for the brand, defend it in the social space and everywhere! Then you wouldn’t need an army of ‘trolls’ to manipulate minds or help you manage your brand’s reputation!

On the topic of topicality!

This has been one of the more severe summers we have faced. Over 800 people in the Southern states of #Telangana and #AndhraPradesh have died due to the killer #heatwave. (As reported at the time of writing this!) Across the country an estimated 1400-1600 people have died due to the excessive heat. Surprisingly, no brand has come to the rescue of these people.

For all the social media agencies out there, I would like to say, if it’s trending then it must be shallow! People, this is the real world and there are real issues. No! Not for a moment am I suggesting that this human tragedy should have been taken advantage of. But had a brand come to the rescue of these hapless people it would have done itself a great service and possibly could have gained tremendous mindshare! Yet, none of the water brands, beverage brands, supermarkets, food brands, or any other brand that has a half decent Corporate Social Responsibility programme taken any initiative in alienating people’s misery.

There is an unwritten rule in journalism to put “a human story /tragedy” above all. So any newspaper, TV channel worth its salt, will always put people stories above all. I suppose, there’s a good reason for this and it’s called empathy. People relate better to human emotions and human stories best. This is also possibly the reason why melodramatic movies, (read as ‘love stories’, ‘romantic thrillers’, ‘family love stories’ etc., etc. will never ever go out of fashion!) We all know social media is about stories. If a brand tried a little hard to understand these emotions and stories, it could create wonderful experiences for its consumers. But alas, where do brands have the time and inclination for such experiments. It takes a brand with a large heart to see beyond the tactically mundane and the mechanical metrics to create share worthy experiences. This is possibly why most brands in the space end up capitalising on shallow trends and a few others that go on to create memorable experiences for consumers!

We also know, today, in the social space there are many examples of brands creating ‘unbranded’ yet very relevant content that have helped people discover many truths about those brands. So in the context of the heatwave, even if a brand had done it’s two bit to educate people on how to stay hydrated, or on effective ways to stay cool, how to avoid sun strokes etc., this in itself could have helped built ‘a connect’ with consumers! The #IPL was on when reports of the heatwave began to hit us. Did the brands, associated with the biggest cricketing spectacle in the world miss out on an opportunity to build connect with consumers suffering the heatwave? Did #Pepsi miss out on an opportunity to build that empathy? Could other brands have made use of players who endorsed their products, to reach out to the suffering people? Well, the jury is out there!

I think, the problem with most brands in the country today, is they can’t think beyond cricket and Bollywood. Open your eyes people, there a million possibilities to connect with consumers, especially through social media. Merely making seasonality or topicality a bullet point in a monthly discussion doesn’t build empathy. Brands ought to give it a good shot, identifying every opportunity, every half chance, keeping their eyes, ears and what not open! Because, if done correctly, this is a sure shot to a consumer’s heart.

The Great Indian #Litterbug

Don’t you dare call me that without knowing what a great service I am doing for the country! For everybody’s good.  I take great offense to this modern, western idea of cleanliness where everything is so sterile and smells so monotonous that even the disinfectant wants a whiff of something different. Also we have grown in a culture of being one with nature, even if it happens to be our own shit or the poorly digested dung of our domesticated and sacred animals. We have always lived like this, since time in memorial! To live like this, is to live like how our forefathers preached and practiced. That makes me a great follower of tradition as well.

How dare anybody, define hygiene for me and tell me what I can do or can’t do on the free streets of my own free country? I am a tax paying citizen of this wonderfully, smelly country and the fiscal well being of society is paramount to me. Besides, I also think there a great deal of utility in me throwing garbage on the streets, peeing on the roads and not to forget, in indulging in the country’s most favorite pass time, Sssppiittt-aaa-Ttthhoonnn.

This is where your imagination comes into the picture. Don’t mind the pun aa? Now imagine, copious amounts of blood-red colored, paan flavored, love laden saliva, being freshly dished out, in super slow-motion, with great panache towards a recently painted wall by a man sporting wavy but well oiled hair and a thin moustache reminiscent of a pot bellied 70’s movie hero! BTW, for your information, that’s very close to what I look like. This scene may be absolutely common, but yet it is delightfully refreshing, every time you see it, right?

Let me now illustrate with a few examples of how I am contributing to the nation’s GDP by throwing out garbage and peeing on the streets. Clearly, this is besides, my limitless energy to participate in the open coughing, sneezing and the rich-sputum-Spit-a-Thon Championships. Much to the disgust of cynics and possibly to the delight of the champions of animals, planktons and other single celled organisms rights groups, let me just remind you and society at large, that by participating in such events, I am greatly contributing to the overall ecosystem of the Influenza Virus. I am nature loving you see! For record, I’m talking about the virus that causes ‘the flu’ and not an online community of influential people who help spread messages like viruses. I call them the ‘Influenza me-toos’. Pathetic copycats!

Let’s talk garbage first! And like every other good citizen, I collect my garbage, all together, no separating them. Why waste money on another waste bin I say? Then, of my free will and accord, I walk up to my front door and I sssspppiiilllll it all out on to the street. Remember the routine, paan chewing man with wavy, but well oiled hair, in a very colorful beach shirt, also sporting very bright trousers walking up to the street in super slow-motion  and exhibiting his devotion to the country,to the neighbors and the single celled organisms by throwing the garbage onto the streets. Right?

By admitting to this, you can see I am also an honest man. But in defense, by me spilling the garbage onto the street, I am supporting a whole bunch of people and Ecosystems. Don’t look so shocked. Let me explain; our neighborhood milkman, the poor man, barely makes enough to support his family of 8 people is forced to look at other means to enhance his revenue. So he gets into cheaper additives that can be added to the milk. At times, he even tries adding the municipal tap water when the complaints become too many. The extras that come along with that water act as natural ‘emulsifiers’ to make the milk look and feel thick. Now in such a scenario, how can the poor man afford quality fodder for his cattle? That’s where my garbage comes in handy. Milk man, opens gates to his cattle-shed very early in the morning; cattle sneak out in the darkness, follow the scent of the garbage, find it in front of my house, eat it and feel very happy because they now believe they are truly a part of the community because they are eating what the community is eating!  Sometime, the only drawback, as my children see it, is after eating they also poop there. Now how can we teach these gentle cows that you don’t poop in the plate you eat in? I don’t yet speak Moo-lish na? Maybe that’s the problem.

But my wife has a fantastic solution to that too. She uses the freshly pooped dung as a natural insecticide by spreading it across the road. Sometimes, our neighbors complain about the smell, but they will get used to it. If we can get used to phenol, they can get used to dung as well!

Look at another scenario; garbage is in front of the house, the cat is inside the house and where are the poor mice? Having a feast in the midst all the garbage, of course! They make hay or rather bite into leftover cheese, when the cat is away. Very cheesy fellows! They then go back to fat and healthy, which makes them lazy. Which is when our clever cat comes back to catch them with ease. For me this is ingenious, because I don’t need to spend on buying expensive cat food now. Who said there’s nothing like free lunch?

But this is not it. I also help Dr. Dubey’s medical practice in big way. Though I don’t get any cut or commission from him or the rich pharmaceutical companies. Maybe I should ask them for a cut in sales from now on. What do you think? See I have just now even created a simple business plan, on the spot! Anyways, coming back, have you noticed, how people, I mean, us normal people, how when we see garbage, a strange pleasure that almost feels like one induced by the release of sufficient amounts of serotonin in the brain, creates a compulsion to spontaneously spit on the garbage. It’s almost, like an involuntary action that condemns the garbage that’s there. So with the garbage in front of my house, people with colds, without colds, with illness, without illness, straight, gay, black, white, oh sorry; wheatish, yellow, brown, tall, short, basically any size, any color, any creed, paan chewing or not, will spit on the garbage. Because a lot people walk around, they may pick up the ‘real’ influenza virus, which will make them unwell. And then who cures them? Dr. Dubey of course! Yes. Our friendly neighborhood Doctor Saab.

With the cows, the mice and rag pickers clearing most of the garbage; sometimes in a few days, I am also reducing the job for the municipality. This way, the ‘pourakarmikaas’ or people who clean up our garbage have less work to do and don’t have to bake in the hot sun. So what are they doing now? They are chilling and getting drunk at the local bar, which incidentally opens early eh! This way, the cost of transportation of garbage to the landfills by municipality too comes down many notches as there isn’t much to transport. It has all been consumed within the community you see. An almost perfect recycling system! The other big benefit is a dramatic reduction in the pollution levels that could have been caused by the transport vehicles ferrying the garbage to the landfills. Now the municipality uses fewer vehicles that make fewer trips. If there is not enough garbage to dump, the government too needn’t worry about acquiring land for landfills or displacing people from their villages for the landfills. So you see my small, selfless act of throwing garbage onto the streets can contribute to overall the fiscal well being of society!

I am the Great Indian Litterbug and I think it’s my birthright to litter.

Is social media trivial? Or have we trivialized social media?

A quick glance at Twitter trends this morning showed an ‘aspiring’ starlet, a promotion for an upcoming movie with a ‘mega’ star, a much hyped ‘Taxi Company’ which is desperately trying to defend its myopic thinking by blaming government policy for its recent troubles, as trending! Even before I could finish my thought on where are we headed as the social media community, my thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a colleague who said “Don’t even go there. We are fine the way we are, not everything needs to have a cause, not everything needs to be intellectual and definitely, not everything, needs to be grandiose”. Boom! Your thought went that a ways; out of that window, many floors below. I could hear a sniggering nerve cell thinking exactly that, somewhere deep in a crevice, in the right half of my brain.

I could see frantic efforts from the logical side of my brain cells, trying to put up arguments. Of course, all this happening, well within the small, limited and cozy confines of my cranium. I could see through my mind’s eye, the logical side was trying to put together, a battery of highly experienced nerve cells whose arguments went something like this. “Aren’t we a community of progressive, sensitive and intelligent people? Aren’t we the ones who wanted change? Aren’t we the ones who want to inflict societal change by our thought and actions? Weren’t we the enthusiastic ones who jumped on to the bandwagon because in the real world we probably didn’t wield too much power? And the real world power mongers haven’t discovered this utopia called social media?”

Yuk! That sounded so lame even to me. What that’s horrible taste in the back of my mouth! Ok granted, not everything needs to be intellectual, not everything has to have deep insights or meaning which one can ruminate as intellectual conversation over a couple of pegs of well made single malt whiskey. But then “in my mind” I was clear the media had to evolve. Perhaps, in the absence of a credible fifth estate, we the people need to take over the mantle and play the forces of influence.

And for that to happen, we can’t trivialize and belittle information and news. I remember my conversation with the editorial team of a leading newspaper who at that point in time, were in a quandary over whether or not to follow social media stories as a part of news in their newspaper. After all, the trending stories in social media, in many ways represented popular sentiment, right? I remember telling them that the big difference between worlds of print, television or even radio and social media was that in other media you have a bunch of people with a sense of propriety and a good sense of what’s right and what’s not. For the purposes of this piece, let’s call them editors. These editors play such a crucial role in scrutinizing what goes into the public domain. As a result, a lot of what we see, read and hear in the public domain is not ‘sensational’ or ‘disturbing’ enough to cause trouble.

But on the other hand, with social media that’s not the case. You and I, my friend, we are media in ourselves. Through our comments, through our blogs, through our complaints, raves, rants we are influencing people, especially friends and family. They take our word a lot more seriously than perhaps, that of an editor of a newspaper. Each one of us needs to play a role of an editor. We need to figure, decipher and then share with people what is good, what is sensible and more importantly stuff that’s ‘intellectual’, stuff that opens the mind. This is important, if not we will hit the abyss sooner than we think. We owe it to all the people around us. After all, there hasn’t been a piece of technology that has unified us or empowered us in manner like this, ever!

This is where I give you the license to pull out your daggers. Imagine if our filmmakers had taken a stance, say a few decades ago, not to plagiarize or rehash trash in the trashiest fashion, what a society we could have been! Imagine if somebody had put the portrayal of women over commercial gains, imagine if more filmmakers stood by quality of writing, quality of songs and everything else, I dare stick my neck out and say we would have been a much, much better society today, who wouldn’t have spent time reading about how women have to fight gender biases every day or see them doing unnecessary things to trend on social media.




When a computer salesman was not a computer salesman!

It did take a lousy Tuesday to bring out the ‘protectionist’ in him or it did take a lousy Tuesday for me to understand a computer salesman was more than one? This lousy Tuesday began like most other days, packed with the usual things most of us in the ‘working class’ do for a living. A couple of meetings, a few brain storming sessions on how to improve this and that… mostly that, which included, scheming plans on how go one up on colleagues and other devious ways of manipulating people into thinking your way.

Anyways, a meeting of the morning seemed to go on and on, forever. After a point in time, which was about 28 minutes into the conversation, it all seemed as if two out of the three men sitting on the other side were suffering from verbal diarrhoea. Everything they said was so loose and insipid that it didn’t hold water, or was it only that. Putting up with that was one hell of a task. Naturally, things got delayed and most of all, lunch was delayed. That caused a lot of burden on the thinking process, as an already stretched system was now working overtime to compensate for the wants of a modern day working class professional.

Post lunch, post the scheming, post the bitching, post the posting on my favourite social network I realised my ‘brand new’ laptop, only about a couple of weeks old was persisting with its non-cooperative movement, by making sure the most crucial part of my interface with it, the track pad, acted in a manner that could easily be described as non cooperative. The cursor would get stuck at all the wrong places, at the most inopportune moment creating what in these days is popularly called, #awkwardmoment. Believe me; I have had plenty in the past couple of weeks.

I went down to remind my IT Manager about the issue. Since I had already told him several times about my frustration with the silly track pad, I was now a little upset because no service person had come in to take a look at it. When he expressed his inability to get the service person over, I said I will throw my weight around a little and make sure he lands up in the office, ASAP! I dialled his number; he was not reachable. I dialled his number again and again, he was not reachable! I could see Murphy ROFL in the corner of my eye. This infuriated me even further, as a ‘conspiracy theory’ flashed through like ‘Breaking News’ across my over burdened synaptic pathway. Could it be an ‘inside job’ where somebody told him about my call and he ran to the basement to cut off any chance of connecting with him?

Not the one to give up, I quickly picked up a landline dialled his number again. Connected! #Awkwardmoment number? Don’t know, don’t care! Nevertheless, this is when I was to be enlightened about this new avatar of our friendly computer salesman. The moment the phone connected, I ranted furiously as to why nobody was there to check on my ‘bloody’ system. My childhood Anglo-Indian influence was beginning to show.  Abruptly, I was cut off by the salesman, saying what did you just say Saar? I was taken aback momentarily; I thought he didn’t understand so I repeated myself again, “Why isn’t anybody here to check on my ‘bleedy’ system? Hoping a little more of the local accent would perhaps, make him understand the seriousness of the situation. What he told me after that came as a big surprise, to say the least!

He actually said, “Saar, don’t call yany systems yany names, please! What do you think, if you have a dog, will you allow yanybody to call it bleddy dog? Tell tell, I was dumbstruck! Here was a champion of a system! A system of the down! Another flash appears on my hapless brain cells which read, “Democracy isn’t a great thing”. This was followed by images of thousands of abused computers, laptops, tablets, even some smart phones taking out a morcha led by this ‘topi clad’ laptop salesman holding a placard which read ‘Prashant Murdabad’ hurried through my mind. I slammed the phone, looked up and saw complete shock and surprise on my colleagues’ faces who apparently had been privy to my conversation with the salesman.

As expected, the evening went quiet, mostly because I never ever recovered from that conversation and decided not to say anything against anybody, or anything!

*Red Herring – No keys on the keypad, no extra charging of batteries, no excess use of the monitor or computing power or for that matter nothing in excess on this computer was ever used in writing this article.   

Conquers more than the roads. Captures more than your imagination.

I am no off-road maniac. I am no big automobile junkie either. At best you could call me an armchair critic, especially of our foreign policy, cricket and South Indian food. So what is a retard like me doing in a beast of vehicle like the Pajero?

Well to begin with, it partly has something to do with a condition that I often find myself in and for which my friends no longer have any sympathy for. I am often at the receiving end of two conditions which are contradictory in nature; diarrhoea of words resulting from a constipation of thought.  Anyways, to come back to the story, this happened on one rather unusually hot summer evening in Bangalore, when a bunch of friends and I, after a few exhilarating rounds of conversation over beer and seekh kebabs realised that as our domestic lives had taken precedence; our enthusiasm for the unrehearsed, impulsive spur of moment decisions had indeed deteriorated making us nothing more than compulsive creatures of comfort. It looked ominous to all of us that our zing for off-road adventures had taken a detour for the worse.

That evening I also realised alcohol and adrenalin don’t make a great combination. In that gusto to rekindle the passion I called up the good people at Mitsubishi for a test drive of the Pajero. By the time the fun, frolic and passion was over and good old slumber had restored some amount dignity
to my senses and my overworked grey cells, I found myself standing in front of spanking new dual coloured black and silver Pajero. A thousand thoughts crossed my mind in that blink of second, ranging from the totally deranged to what else can I do with this monster. Initially, I did contemplate taking the sales guy back to my apartment, offering him a cup of authentic South Indian filter coffee and politely excusing myself while appreciating him for all the trouble that he had taken. And then I looked at the four wheeled wonder again.

Suddenly, as if I was possessed, there was a rush of adrenalin that surged through my veins energising every single cell in my body, I was there behind the wheel in a flash. I knew, the soft leather on the seat was just the skin of a monster that was about to bare its fangs. Though the dash-board and the ergonomics looked a bit dated, reminiscent of an era when the focus was beneath the boot rather than cosmetics, the front dual airbags and the 3 point Emergency Locking Retractors or ELR seat belts more than made up for the lack of any flamboyance.

The high seat on the road was taken and I was on my way to conquer the highway to hell at least that was the feeling that hurried through my already overloaded synaptic connections as I turned the ignition on. The familiar sound of an all-conquering machine now reverberated through the apartment complex almost bringing everybody and everything to a standstill. Little ‘Ronaldos’ froze in their dribble; little girls seen licking their lollipops were hypnotised, birds stopped flying and it seemed as if the other vehicles were trying to hide behind the pillars much against the wishes of their drivers. Such was the overwhelming presence of the Pajero.

The drive through the streets of a crowded city was a breeze thanks to the beautifully synchronised 5 speed manual gearbox and gear ratios. The 2.8 litre turbo charged inter-cooled diesel engine generates enough torque to handle the toughest city needs; a handy thing given the state of most roads in our cities today. Actually, I was fortunate enough to preview the ‘off-road’ capabilities of the vehicle well within the city itself when I had to wade through half a feet of filth flowing though the lanes of an unfortunate populace. Come to think of it, some of the potholes on our streets could well challenge the craters caused by meteors and perhaps, even win hands down.

In such conditions, the front double wishbone torsion bar with stabiliser bar suspension and the rear 3 link coil spring rigid axle with stabilizer bar suspension proved to be more than adequate in cushioning us inside. But that wasn’t enough of a cushion for my angst against certain despicable authorities for the sad state of our roads. The chassis of the Pajero is the famed reinforced ladder frame which is capable of withstanding the demands of the toughest terrain and believe me, I just happened to witness one such terrain a moment ago. The body roll too is minimised thanks to this solid frame working in tandem with solid suspensions. The result, a smooth ride irrespective of the terrain!

As we drove away from the city, I decided to put the monster to its ultimate test, or at least what I thought would be its ultimate test. Small thinking from a small-minded person you could say. I decided to go off-road when I saw this endless mass of rough country, much to the surprise of our friendly Mitsubishi sales person. There it was; boulders, sand, rocks, a hillock, ditches carved out of the Earth by the elements and a path at best for a road. I thought this is it, let me throw this uncharted terrain at the brute and see how she handles it. Much to my disdain, the Pajero handled it all with maximum ease. The multi-meters including the altimeter, barometer, inclinometer acted more as hindrance to my abilities making me conscious all the while of what I was doing, defying the very purpose of my rather spirited attack on the mean machine.

After a gruelling 30 minutes of pure adrenalin rush, I conceded defeat and also much to the delight of the Mitsubishi sales person, called it quits. The beast had conquered more than just the roads.


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