Saturday, June 28, 2014

Writing Bio

Writing Bio is never easy. One can never quite determine how much detail to add, what to omit, which achievements to highlight, which failures to wipe off the picture.

Once upon a time, writing a bio meant coming up with 4-5 pages of one’s history. But today, with the advent of social media, the bio has shrunk to as little as two lines or in some cases, a few random, unrelated words that apparently qualify a person (at least in his own eyes).

I have had to write and rewrite my bio for several years now, especially when making submissions to publishing houses and elsewhere, and I dare say that the path my bio took – from a bunch of pompous statements to a description that reeked of lack of confidence, to a meek, unimaginative paragraph of milestones, to finally a concise list of facts – has been long and hard. In one of those transformations, taking inspiration from someone else, I added the line ‘I live in Bangalore with my husband and son.’

Sometimes the bio is required to be written in the first person and sometimes in the third. (As they say, the writer has to don many hats.)  As per the requirement, I end up changing the ‘she’ to ‘I’ and ‘her’ to ‘my’ – or vice versa. One such day, hoping to get a favourable response, I was about shoot an email to a publisher, when my better sense warned me to read the whole thing again.

And then I noticed my bio, partially edited from the first person to the third as follows, reduced to a whole gossip column in one line:

‘She lives in Bangalore with my husband and son.’

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sometimes it is better to let things be

When my son ran out to play in the evening, I called after him to switch off the television and the three lights in different rooms that he had switched on for purposes of his own. He just ran off, as though the house had suddenly filled with vacuum and my voice had failed to carry. A few random, varied thoughts on energy conservation, ozone layer and poverty lingered on my lips and then they ran off, too.

As responsible parents, we want to raise a generation of kind, responsible, law abiding, energy-conserving, poverty-sensitive, caring, perfect citizens. We are responsible for the future of the nation. It’s in our hands that the Tomorrow is getting moulded. We are alert, tensed, on our toes for any sign that our children are going astray. Is it any surprise that we are always jumpy and irritable? Every bit of news we read, every parenting advice that we find crossing our path, makes us conscious and look at our own lifestyle and method of raising our children to make sure we’re on the right track.

We try so hard that we run the risk of overdoing it. The television-and-lights-switch-off dialog happens almost every evening. Some days he runs back to obey my command, rather than waste his precious play time in an argument which he knows he will lose. On other days, he just yells back, “Will you do it please,” and goes his way.

And yet, at other times, when I do not say anything, I notice him switch off the television or any other stray lights that I must have forgotten to turn off, and go on with his business, without even being conscious of what he’s doing.

Sometimes it is better to let things be. They will find their own way back. If we do our part right, everything else will fall into place. All our efforts are not wasted. I read somewhere (in social media, where else) that the things we tell them in childhood become their inner voice when they grow up.

I hope so.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Power of Ads

There was that ad again. Can't help noticing it. Not because it is spectacular or because of the name of the product, but because it is repeated every now and again, and the product is new.

If you ask anyone whether advertisements help them make a choice, or more specifically, if advertisements make them want to buy a product, the answer will be a No. Because No is the only correct answer. Saying Yes makes you look gullible and immature. And you don't want that, of course, especially in these days of social media where everything gets magnified.

But the fact is, unconsciously (or perhaps consciously, though we refuse to admit it) these advertisements are talking to our minds. Especially when they are repeated over and over again, in different places. Hammering it in. We may like it or not, but we are not going to be able to ignore it. A poorly made ad makes us think the product might be just as unprofessional.

And the celebrities that flaunt products on TV? We can't help but observe them. Their carefully constructed but casually delivered words touch a raw nerve. We tell ourselves that they're doing it just for the money, but we can't help but weaken when we see those products in the shops. Oh that's the one that actress endorses. Endorses. What does that even mean?

So, back to this particular product I am talking about.
When I first saw it, what struck me was its name. Unusual, of course, but more so because it reminded me (as it does everyone) of its namesake. Then I saw it again, and again. (See how that name gets etched in my head?) Soon, I suppose the original would fade from my mind, and when I hear the name, I will think of this new one. I don't want it, it's not something I would buy. Unless, of course,...

Then I go out to the city and here and there, in bus stops and hoardings, it stares back at me. That name. Bold. Large. Cool. I think about it. I wonder about it. The next time I see it in a shop, I may be tempted to buy it. Just curious, I would tell myself, to know what all that noise was about. And when I do, I may speak about it, the goodness and badness of it, because in the days of social media, being the first to announce it carries weight.

But if you ask me whether advertisements made me buy it - I would deny it, vehemently.
It's complicated, as the Gen-in-Focus would tell you.

And that's how ads work.