I drive a lot. In the city (when my driver is absconding), and down the countryside (which is a passion, the driver gets paid leave). I have done many long journeys, the most memorable one being Delhi to Bangalore… totally awesome, Outlook featured that yatra, here’s the link: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?226162
And I have come to a clear conclusion, having encountered lakhs of vehicles on Indian roads: Drivers in India, a good number of them, do not know how to drive. Not only is there no respect for the laws, I am quite sure in many cases people don’t even know the laws! Not even basic rules.
There is a general belief that the main reason for road accidents is driving under influence. Quite certainly alcohol plays a role. (It’s a different matter though that I drive better after a couple of pegs… it de-stresses me… and I must have been a lorry driver in my previous birth, but this is not something I recommend to others.) So there is a massive campaign on against drunk driving in the cities, and that’s a good thing. It’s another story, of course, that the rich get away easy, and that there are no checks on the highways, but that’s not my topic today.
The issue is this: Yet, accidents continue to occur, even when people aren’t sloshed. So why must this be the case? The answer is quite simple: we people DON”T KNOW how to drive safely. And as in all other evils in the nation, the root cause is corruption. Our RTOs (with the help of their pimps), literally give away licenses to kill. These guys distribute licenses like channa watana.
Before I go any further, here’s a confession. Years ago, I too obtained my driving license through devious means. I had gone for a test to the Tardeo RTO in Bombay. I flunked the test, khilaoed 200 rupees, and was cheerfully granted a license. And then what did I do? The very next evening I ran my car into a labourer, but thankfully she got away with very minor injuries. (And yes, I did take her to the hospital, and no, I wasn’t drunk or drugged, just in case you’re wondering.) As usual, I pretended ‘losing control’ of my vehicle. And was back in action soon thereafter! So yes, I am guilty as well of this dirty business.
Net: Our RTOs are essentially doling out death. In no other nation (except Pak and Bangladesh… surely we aren’t in the same league!) can one get a driving license this easily. So what’s the way out of this mess? Only one: the media needs to run a sustained, lasting campaign against the nation’s RTOs. Not the sort they do with the usual stories… milk the masala, suck it dry and then chuck it. It has to be dealt with in the way a Jessica Lal murder case got dealt with. Continuous pressure and hammering till the RTOs get cleaned out. The tests become very strict and the process becomes ghoos-free. And only the truly deserving people get licensed to drive.
Frankly, I can’t think of another way out of this mess. Hope the mass media journos are reading in. With some effort, we can save many lives.
Friday, 19 February 2010
Everyone is well aware of Mr Ayer’s great qualities as a top leader. Let me therefore relate two incidents to bring out the humour and compassion the tough exterior packed in.
On my first day at OBM, where I joined as a nervy, shaky, trainee account exec, I was assigned to work under Chris Bhang (who was an account supervisor at the time). Being a tea addict, when I asked Chris what number to dial on the intercom for pantry service, he matter-of-factly said. “333”. (Chris, you dog!) So I promptly dialled and demanded, “Bhidu, Anil Thakraney bol rahaa hoon, ek chai milega?” I heard some heavy breathing on the other end, and then a fearful nasal twang, “This is Mani Ayer speaking.” I dropped the phone as one would a deadly cobra, fled out of the office building, downed three cigarettes in a row, and contemplated my next career option. (Chris, you dog!!) Anyway, the same noon Mr Ayer walked past in the corridor, and even as I tried to slink away, he caught hold of me, laughed loudly, and ordered the pantry fellows to serve me tea. Don’t think I had chai at OBM for one month thereafter. (Chris, you dog, stop giggling!)
On another occasion, I had to present some Titan Watches ads to Mr Ayer. His secretary, Phil, sweetly informed that boss was out on a meeting the entire day. Assuming he was held up in some corporate shindig, I shrugged and moved on. It was only on the next day we found Mr Ayer had spent the entire day at the funeral service of a peon who had passed away of old age. Not just that, he spent hours with the family comforting them long after the funeral was done. I simply can’t think of another Chairman giving such personal attention for a peon. Most top men would delegate ‘chores’ such as these. But Mr Ayer was a special man. A special boss. A special soul.
In the recent past, Mr Ayer would now and then react to my blogposts, and leave insightful comments. Here’s what he wrote on my post, last year, concerning the general apathy of the state government each time the Thackerays hold the city to ransom. Should give you an idea of how sharp and agile his mind was till his final days.
“Dear Anil, I read your 'Conspiracy of Silence'. Yes, we have a destructive monster staring at us, and the party in power seems to be the only one that seems oblivious to it. Else people like Shivraj Patil, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Ahmad Patel, etc, would by now have been turfed out. Even Bombay's Girni Kamgar Union wouldn’t tolerate such incompetence! Regrettably, all the problems we face are due to the Congress and one particular individual - Indira Gandhi. The Shiv Sena was nurtured during her regime to keep the Communists out (don’t forget she was solely instrumental in kicking out, by 'sleight of hand', the first Left government in Kerala… she hated Krishna Menon, a man with left leanings and thought he was instrumental in ending her father's charisma and stood for elections against a Congress candidate in North Bombay). So in comes Bal Thackeray to do 'seva' for madam, and the list is endless.
Sometime in the early 80s, there was a cartoon that showed two scrolls of honour: One said, 'Mahatma Gandhi's men: Pandit Nehru, Vallabhai Patel, C. Rajagopalachari.’ The other said: ‘Indira Gandhi's men: Antulay, Gundu Rao, Bhajan Lal.’
And if this was to be extended to the 2000's, it would perhaps say: ‘Sonia Gandhi's men: Shivraj Patil, Arjun Singh, Vilasrao Deshmukh.’ That’s progress for our Bharat Mahan!
Unfortunately, Indira Gandhi has so firmly established a political culture that suits every political party including the Left. Symptoms: money politics, rented crowds, dynasties and manipulation. Why won’t the MNS suit this environment?
The answer lies in the Congress being kicked out and staying out of power for a long time which forces them to rebuild without any traces of the current culture-dynasty, cronies, etc. The last time they were out of power was too short (eight years only). Or we should have something like the set-up in Kerala - two fronts with differing philosophies and some similarities. And they get kicked out if they fail to perform. In this format the regional types like the MNS are marginalised (see the plight of the so called Keral Congress or The Muslim League).
Anyway, good luck with your mission. Mani Ayer.”
Rest in peace, dear Sir. You were a truly special man.
(This article was originally written for IMPACT mag.)
Friday, 5 February 2010
I had the great fortune of having worked closely with Suresh Mullick when I was a lowly account executive at OBM (now O&M). He used to write press ads for Titan Watches himself, and my key result area was to make sure the artworks (that was the format used in those days) reached the client in Bangalore in time. Despite being essentially an unglorified courier boy at the time, this close proximity to Mullick told me a lot about the man. Apart from being a solid creative mind, he was funny, easy-going, kind and a very generous soul. Which is why if he were alive today, he’d probably give a rat’s arse for not being given credit for the new Phir Mile Sur film. Not just because he was above all these small-minded things, but also because the sequel is a complete disaster.
However, since he’s not around, it becomes our responsibility (those who worked with him) to set the record straight on the Mile Sur controversy. Mile Sur was ENTIRELY Mullick’s idea, passion, conceptualisation and execution. It was his baby all the way. However, any creative director needs a filmmaker to shoot a TV production, and that was the role played by Kailash Surendranath. It’s possible he made value additions along the way (ad filmmakers are supposed to!), but make no mistake about it: Mile Sur had Suresh Mullick stamped on every frame. In fact, the last crowd shot in the original film consisted of OBM staffers, bus loaded to the Film City!
In this context, it’s both shocking and unfair that the new Phir Mile Sur film ‘forgets’ to mention Mullick. The correct thing, at the very least, ought to have been this: the last shot in the film should clearly have read: “Mile Sur was originally created by the late Suresh Mullick”. But that did not happen.
So then why was this obviously ethical thing not done? No idea. Personally, I would not blame the channel or the sponsors, though they should have considered the issues of proprietary. I think it was incumbent on filmmaker Kailash Surendranath to have ensured this happened. Because he had shot the earlier film, working closely with Mullick, so there’s no way he isn’t aware this was Mullick’s brainchild.
Grapevine suggests Kailash is a bit miffed at not having been given adequate credit for the original version. If this is true, he ought to have raised his voice then. And not found a way to make ‘amends’ years later. As they say in the ad world, a great idea has many fathers...
Anyways, apparently the channel has promised Exchange4Media they will take corrective action, so that’s that then. But here’s the bottom-line: Had he been alive, Mullicksaab would himself have guffawed away this controversy, and would probably have invited Kailash over for some strong beer at the Bombay Gym. And given him some rocking feedback on the sequel, in his inimitable way. Truly talented people are above these petty things.
PS: Isn’t it ironical that this ‘credit’ tamasha should have happened over a film that encourages people to bond and integrate? Life’s a bitch, man.
(This article was originally carried in IMPACT mag.)