Sunday, July 15, 2018

Parent Allergy

 `Teenagers’ Parent Allergy starts at 13`, screamed the headline of an article in a leading daily. The article talks about how parents find themselves in confrontation with their children- boys or  girls-as they enter their teens- the age of thirteen to be precise; when nothing that they do sits right with their teenagers. This phase can last a couple of years or even more depending on how the parents are able to handle their children.

A few months ago, a friend came to me with loads of complaints against his teenage son  who had turned extremely hostile towards his parents accusing them of real and imaginary charges .  ‘You don`t like me because you don`t allow me to do anything that I want to do. You are my worst enemies… I hate you.` he screamed at them one day.  He even threatened to walk out of the house and start a life on his own.  My friend`s efforts to get a few people close to the son to talk to him was also not working. The friend was obviously shattered.

I told my friend that almost all parents go through this phase with their teenage children when they begin to have their own dreams, different from their parents dream for them. Very often the teenagers’ thoughts are greatly influenced by their close friends and peers.  Once the teenagers have had time and space to establish their  own skills, interests and tastes, their allergic response to their parents usually dies down.

I remember the time when we faced  problems with our elder daughter as  she entered her teens .  I was very busy with my career and other activities and it was my wife who had to face the brunt of the tantrums that my daughter used to throw from time to time. As a writer, my wife even wrote an article on the problems she was facing with her daughter, which was published in a leading Tamil monthly for women.

My advice to parents; Try to be friendly parents instead of being bossy. Listen to your children and try to understand their own aspirations before you start imposing your ideas on them. Most important, keep a careful check on the kind of friends that they are close to when they enter their teens. Friends and peers at this stage play a major role in building or ruining a youngster`s life. I know of any number of brilliant students going astray and ruining their lives after they get into bad company at this stage.  Very often such friends belong to  more affluent families  where either the parents have no time to spend with their children or the child comes from a broken home  where the parents are separated. A careful use of `carrot & stick` approach and enormous patience should help parents tide over this particular phase in the upbringing of their children.

Tailpiece:  My friend who complained to me about his son, informs me that, on the verge of entering a college, his son is slowly coming around to becoming a normal boy. God Bless him!

This article appeared in the Adyar Times issue dt. July 15-21,2018 under my columbn `Rajan`s Random Reflections`

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Memory Hooks

Some brands become famous because of catchy tunes or a sound effect used at the end of the spot. Just by listening to the tune you can recall the brand being advertised. The signature tunes of Airtel, Titan, Nirma, among others, are famous examples of this.

“The secret of a good advertisement commercial is to ensure that it has a good memory hook which people can never forget. It could be in the form of a sound effect, catchy jingle or tune, a striking visual effect,  a striking action or even a celebrity” said  a successful director of several advertising commercials.  He was famous in his times for the success of brands like `Regaul Blue  powder and  Rasna . Who can forget the memorable `Chottu Neelam Doi…` advertising commercial featuring Kushboo which made a big success of the Regaul Blue brand . `I love you Rasna` series of spots  were also produced by him. In the same vein you cannot forget spots with catchy lines like `Boost is the secret of our energy` or ` I am a Complan boy`.
Many brands also use memorable caricatures which get deeply associated with the brands. The oldest example is that of `AIR INDIA  Maharajah`  and the cute baby featured in the Amul Butter series, which incidentally celebrated its golden jubilee recently. Like the famous, ageless `Markandeya` in our mythology, the age of the Amul baby has remained frozen at 5 even after fifty years!  How can you also forget the iconic `Devil` used by ONIDA for over three decades in all their advertisements , who told us that `Owners Pride is the neighbours envy`. In recent years `Vodafone` has made use of caricatures like `Zuzus` to bring memorability to their brand.  The cute `pug`` they used in their spots earlier has made a comeback with its whole family being featured in the latest Vodafone spots.

Today scores of Corporates’ use endorsement of their brands by celebrities.  Hindustan Lever was one of the earliest to use this idea for their `LUX` soaps. For over 80 years they have been using famous film stars of the time to promote Lux . Today modelling for brands has become a major source of income for celebrities ranging from film stars to sports icons. The Big B has been one of the most famous and enduring celebrity endorser of brands- from `pin to elephant` followed by Sachin Tendulkar who is fast being replaced by Virat Kohli.  Our own `Ulaga Nayagan` Kamal Hassan broke his resolve not to model by agreeing to model for `Pothy` range of textiles last year!

`Thanda Matlab Coca Cola` was another  memorable series of commercials featuring Aamir Khan donning the role of characters from different regions to promote the Rs. 5 bottle of Coca Cola primarily aimed at the rural markets, now withdrawn. 
In recent years Kent water purifier and the Dream girl of yester years Hema  Malini  have become synonymous. At a session in the Hindu Lit Festival held this year  where she was a guest speaker, a member from the audience asked her if she really used the Kent air purifier,  she responded with a smile that she really used the brand at home.  It is important that the association between the brand and the celebrity is  credible.
Similarly, using clever gimmicks which have no relevance to the brand as memory hooks can very often misfire. The audience will remember the gimmick but not the brand.

This article has  appeared in the Adyar Times issue dt. July 1-7,2018

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Hitting a double century!

 With the publication of my article titled `A Biography that became an autobiography` based on the book by Dr.S.Krishnaswamy in the Madras Musings issue dt. 16-30 June,2018 , I have crossed two  milestones.  I now have  200 articles published in various periodicals  which includes the publication of 50 of my articles  in Adyar Times under my column `Rajan`s Random Reflections`.
Encouraged by the success of my autobiography titled ` Courage My Companion` I started   writing on a variety of topics and posted on them on my blog. My first article titled `ubiquitous Velaikkari appeared in the April,2011 issue of `Eves Touch` magazine which  had the veteran journalist Mr S.Muthiah as a consultant editor. Later an  article titled ` Lord`s Abode- 106 plus 2`` based on my trip to Divya Desams appeared in the Open Page section of The Hindu in June,2011 for which I received an overwhelming response. Since then my articles have appeared in a number of periodicals which include Hindu,  Times of India, New Indian  Express, Madras Musings, Dignity Dialogue, Infinithoughts, Anglos in the Wind, Rotary News, Rind Survey & Vidhura ( publications of the Press Institute of India), magazines of the Madras Boat Club & the Gandhi Nagar Club. My dream of becoming a regular columnist became a reality when Adyar Times published my first article under my column in October,2015.

In the last eight years  I also have the satisfaction  of  publishing  eight  books covering 6 genres of writing.  I am happy that my taking up writing as a  hobby post retirement has worked well for me keeping me very  busy. God willing, I hope to cross some more milestones as a writer  and am looking forward to publishing my first  novel by next year. I believe age is no barrier for having dreams!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers who have kept me going as a writer with their often appreciative  and some times critical feedback on my articles. I would like to specially thank  Mr.S.Muthiah and my good friend  S.R.Madhu  for their constant encouragement.  And my brother Seshadri and my daughter Sowmya for their valuable inputs on my articles before I release them for publication.

Sunday, June 10, 2018


Etiquette is defined as the `Rule of polite and correct behaviour` by the Oxford dictionary. Right from our childhood we are taught to behave correctly in different situations by our parents. `Eat with your right hand`, `say hello to uncle`, ` don`t bite your nail`.. `Do this… Don`t do this…`, the list is endless. While these are basics, we learn more about etiquettes in society as we are growing up in life. Some lessons we learn the hard way. As I did, early in my life.
The etiquettes that I had learned in my school and college days, staying in a chawl in Bombay,  had not prepared me for how I should behave in high society.  Especially when I entered the glittering world of advertising as a Management Trainee.  So when I was invited by my lady boss for a celebratory dinner at her home in the posh Malabar Hills in Bombay, I was very excited. It was my first experience of attending a formal dinner and that too in a luxurious flat.  At the party, when I saw the spread on the buffet table,  I went berserk. I started piling up my plate with all the delicious items on the table and started eating like a glutton, using my fingers. Suddenly, I found a hand gently pushing me to a corner and whispering in my ears, ` You are embarrassing me Rajan`. It was my lady boss in her best attire.  I did not know what wrong I had done. The food I was eating choked in my throat.  Completely shaken up, I quietly made an exit from her home, much to her relief, I guess. I was crying all the way back home because I was sure that I was going to be sacked from my dream job for not following some etiquette.

 The next morning, when I sheepishly walked into the office I found that my boss ignored me but did not sack me. Meanwhile, a good friend, who had seen what had happened the previous evening,  told me that my behaviour at the dining area was a bit uncouth. He volunteered to teach me the etiquettes to be followed in high society starting with how to dress  and  how I should use the fork, knife and spoon  etc.. Over a period of time I learnt quite a few lessons in etiquette.

Now, it was my turn to teach some etiquette to an old  friend from my chawl days when he came visiting  me in Chennai, where I had moved as a senior manager with an advertising agency , with a company car.   When I offered to give him  a lift in my car to go to  his next appointment, he was delighted. I was in the driver`s seat and when I asked him to get in,  he promptly got into the rear seat. When I requested him to come to the front he innocently remarked  ` Oh, I am very comfortable in the back seat`

I had to gently explain to him that etiquette demands that when a friend or a near & dear one is driving the car, you sit next to him/her. Only when an employee driver is driving can you sit in the rear seat and do backseat driving. Of course I did not tell him that some politicians, like the former nonageneraian Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,  always preferred to sit in the front seat next to his driver. Fortunately, by doing so he was not breaking any etiquette!
This article has appeared in Adyar Times issue dt 10-16th  June,2018 under my column `Rajan`s Random reflections`

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Eat `shamelessly`

 `Pandhikku Mundhu` , Padaikku Pindhu`- roughly translated,  this Tamil saying means` First  at a Feast and  the Last for a fight`. I am one of those who has been following the first part of the saying religiously whenever I attend a marriage or any other social gathering where a feast is being served. When the Muhurtham rituals are in progress I will discretely visit the dining area and find out the time when the catering team  would start serving the meals to the guests. At the appointed time I will position myself strategically so that when the door to the dining area opens I can occupy the corner seat closer to the service station, in the first row of the Hall. The idea being that when they start the service I would be the first to be served. Of course there are occasions when I would find that a few others have beaten me in the race  for the corner  seat.  Unfortunately, on many occasions the service would start from the corner seat in the opposite row with the result I would be the last to be served in that section of the `pandhi`. Imagine my utter disappointment, impatiently waiting  to be served the dishes.
I know of some senior relatives who would not proceed to the dining area unless the hosts personally invite them to do so. Some of them would even leave the marriage hall in a huff without partaking the meals, if the formality is not adhered to by the hosts. I have no such complexes. The reason why I try to occupy the first Pandhi is because I do not like to wait in a queue before entering the dining hall.  If there is no one to control the queue you will find the impatient guests getting in and waiting behind the chairs while people are still having their meals, putting enormous pressure on those guests to finish their meals early.  There would be someone who is not in a hurry to finish his or her meal, unconcerned that he or she is holding up the cleaning team from clearing the table so that a new Pandhi can be started. The moment seats are  vacated the waiting guests, irrespective of their social status,  will occupy the same, not even waiting for the cleaning team to clear the table. Who cares? Their seats are secure.
It is a different experience at the buffet meals offered at the marriage receptions held in the evenings. If you don`t enter the dining area early you will have to stand in long queues at the   counters. Some impatient guests can be seen jumping the queues much to the chagrin of the other guests. I am one of them. Since I have become very choosy about what I eat to look after my health, I first do a survey of the dishes on offer and decide on the couple of items I am going to eat.  Then I discreetly reach for them, breaking the queue with the permission of the people already in the queue who don`t mind accommodating  an old man in a hurry!
Invariably in most of the weddings,   representatives of the hosts go around  the dining hall requesting the guests  to eat well. In one of the weddings I was shocked to see a gentleman going around the Pandhi and telling guests to  `Eat shamelessly`. Later I realised that he was persuading guests to  `Eat well without feeling shy`.  In trying to show off his limited English vocabulary he had  literally translated  the Tamil equivalent into English!
This article appeared in the Adyar Times issue dt. 3-9th June,2018, under my column Rajan`s random reflections
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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

New Life for Goli Soda

In recent times the word `Goli Soda` became famous in Tamil Nadu as the title of a successful Tamil feature film released in 2014,  warranting a sequel titled `Goli Soda-2` which is under production. It is also the name of an online store in Chennai which showcases products of innovative designers using recycled materials.  But to a whole generation of Indians, Goli soda, or Goti Soda meant a fruit flavoured soft drink used to quench a thirsty throat in the sizzling summer months. The popping of the `goli’ or the marble with the index finger would pave the way for the fizz coming out of the bottle, which was an experience by itself. When I had this experience at a party in Chennai recently, I decided to explore the story behind the `Goli Soda`.

The bottle and the idea for the drink were imported into India in the early 20th century. Hiram Codd of Camberwell, a Britisher, designed, developed and patented the Codd Bottle for carbonated drinks in the year 1872. Also termed as the Codd-neck bottle, it encloses a marble and a rubber washer/gasket in the neck. The bottle is filled upside down, and pressure of the gas in the bottle forces the marble against the washer, sealing in the carbonation.
The 150-year-old eco friendly bottle has remained unchanged over the years, and the design is quite ingenious. One side of the bottle has two ridges on the neck. It is only from this side that the drink can be poured out into a glass or straight into the mouth. Try pouring it out the other side, and the marble automatically bobs up and acts as a stopper.

The Codd Bottle became popular in Europe, Asia and Australasia but not in USA. In Japan it is popular under the brand name Ramune, available in 36 flavours.  In India the Codd Bottle is also known as kancha bottle, goli bottle, and soda bottle in different parts of the country, Goli Soda being the most popular name: available in two varieties viz. Plain Soda Water (Aerated Soda Water) and Flavored Soda Water (Aerated Beverages) containing flavors of lemon, ginger (Masala Soda), milk rose ( Panneer), mango, pineapple etc in syrup base and this preparation is also made using carbon dioxide gas (Co2) under pressure. 

Goli Soda production was essentially a cottage industry in India because of the ease with which the manually operated system could be set up. In the olden days every well to do family had a unit operating within their homes. The clinking and clanging sound of the bottles by the vendors promoting various local brands of Goli soda was a familiar sight near bus & rail terminals across the country.

The advent of the multinational soft drink brands like Coke & Pepsi and a whole range of regional brands of soft drinks available in disposable plastic bottles at affordable prices has almost sounded the death knell for the traditional Goli Soda makers. Besides the high cost of the Codd bottle and also stringent rules governing food & beverages have resulted in many of the traditional bottlers of Goli Soda exiting the market. According to a veteran Goli soda maker in the city, Madras had close to 500 soda manufacturers in the 70s. The number today has dwindled to less than 30.  Most of them are cheap products produced in unhealthy surroundings without any quality checks and are sold at Rs 10/- or less.

Kali Aerated Water Works, one of the oldest soft drink manufacturers in the country with brands like Bovonto, had been a popular goli soda maker in Tamil Nadu. They exited the business because of difficulties involved in cleaning the bottle. The shortage of glass bottles controlled by a single supplier in the country based in UP also added to the conundrum.
There is hope for the revival of this business thanks to the initiatives of some young entrepreneurs, professionals who have given up secure corporate jobs in order to give the goli soda its fizz back.  In its new avathar Goli soda is positioned as a premium product. In an attempt to capitalize on the growing apprehensions about the negative effects of plastic bottles on the health of the people they are promoting the eco friendly nature of the glass bottles used in Goli Soda.  The fact that the new brands are adhering to quality standards prescribed by FSSAI and are produced in hygienic conditions adds credibility to the new efforts.
The brands are also trying .to invoke  nostalgia in the old timers and offer younger generation a new experience of drinking an alternative soft drink in recyclable glass bottles, with less preservatives, chemicals and plastic contaminants. The negative publicity against the multinational brands and the decision of the dealers to boycott such brands in Tamil Nadu last year have opened a window of opportunity for the Goli Sodas in the highly competitive soft drink market.
Though priced at Rs. 50/- plus, (some high-end restaurants sell the product at Rs.125/-) the growing popularity of Goli Soda among the younger generation belonging to the upper class in Chennai, especially at parties, high end restaurants and the popular clubs, where these brands are available, provides hope for the revival of the Goli Soda idea. But how will any new comer face the perennial problem of short supply of the Codd bottles, when they decide to scale up,  is an issue for which there seems to be no immediate answer. Yet I am sure that the youngsters will find a solution to the problem as and when they have to cross that bridge!
The edited version of the above article has appeared in Madras Musings issue
 dt 1-15th  May,2018.
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Monday, May 7, 2018

Missing chappals!

   Last year, within six months I lost three pairs of new chappals (footwear)- one outside a temple complex, one inside a marriage hall and one outside a Doctor`s clinic.  Having been `thrice bitten` I have learnt my lessons. Today I carry an extra-old pair of chappals in my car which I wear whenever I enter any public place where I am expected to leave behind the footwear before entering the venue. If the distance between the parked car and the venue is short I  leave them behind in the car  and walk barefoot to the venue.
It is not uncommon in many of these venues to find your new pair of chappals  missing and in its place an identical but old worn out pair staring at you. 

A  friend was reluctantly compelled to walk away with someone else`s pair of chappals when he found his own missing outside a temple in a village. ` What to do yaar, I heard that there were no footwear shops in the village and  it was so hot in the afternoon that I shuddered at the thought of walking around barefoot,` he said sheepishly. So much for his conscience!

I remember an occasion when I was the guilty party. Let me explain. I was travelling back from Trichy by Rockfort Express.  I normally get off only at Egmore, the final destination of the train. But that day as the train was entering Mambalam station I had an impulse to get down so that I could save some time reaching Adyar where I live.  As I was  getting out of my chappals after reaching home, I realized that one of the chappals was brand new-  identical to the old one I was wearing on the other foot. Obviously in my great hurry to get down I had blindly worn the mismatched pair of chappals next to my seat. The number of times I choked on my `saliva` (Porai) that morning  made me realize  that the gentleman who lost his brand new chappal must be cursing me repeatedly.  Thanks to my absent mindedness I had made two  pairs of chappals; his as well as mine useless!

Then there are people who are so possessive of their footwear, old or new , that they discreetly  pack the pair of chappals in a bag and tuck it under their armpits as they walk into the sanctum sanctorum of temples. You see, they don`t trust the guys who promise to look after their  pair of footwear for a small fee. Reminding me of the old pre-security days, when villagers, who could not afford to hire rooms,  carried  their small steel trunks containing their belongings on their heads inside the sanctum sanctorum of the  Balaji temple in Tirupathi causing a lot of inconvenience to fellow devotees; especially those behind them whose view of the deity was obstructed by the trunk.

I have also come across anxious devotees, when visiting small street side temples, who keep peeping out every time they come to the entrance, while going around the sanctum sanctorum  to ensure that the footwear that they have left behind just outside the temple, is not missing. They are more worried about their footwear than concentrating on the deity.

One solution to this problem can be to insure your expensive footwear from loss due to theft, fire etc. Will insurance companies consider such an insurance policy not only for foot wear but also other expensive items like mobile phones, wrist watches, gold jewellery etc which  we have in our person  when we go out? An idea worth pondering over!
This article has appeared in Adyar Times issue dt.29th April -5th May,2018 under my column `Rajan`s Random Reflections`