Saturday, March 16, 2013


Just a few months ago, when we were trying to close in on a name for our new office, it was my partner who brought this up. She said that there were these “professionals” who helped you do it. Apparently they called themselves the “Naming consultants”, and helped you christen your venture. I was a little dazed at the concept initially, and it only got worse when she told me that they charged between $20,000 to $90,000 for a company or brand name. And with some crazy MNCs there are times they even charged above $500,000!!! Shocking! Like, Really? Isn’t it lame enough to open a shop and say, “we sell names”, much less, charge a criminally lofty compensation for each of it? At the time, I had no idea as to how big and ominously sprawling was this upcoming enterprise. But when I gradually caught up with the progress, the whole idea only fell further and further down into the ludicrous. That these clowns were not involved in any sorts of marketing services except give you a name for all that money was a little difficult to stomach. Was I overreacting? Of course I was, with a beam of new light flashing on my face, blinding me. Call it rigid human reflex to anything new (or alien). But is the blinding new light inevitable? Or required at all? I’d say I still can’t see the point!

So this is how it goes. Customarily, once you realize the need to “buy” a name for your venture, you are expected to approach one of these “professionals” who are basically ad men who cover a wide spectrum of your headache including “Name-Creation, Name-Critique, Name-Audit, Name-Trade marking, Name-Booking, Name-Seeding” and even the supernatural “Name-Numerology”, more than half of which you never even knew came with just a “name”. The spooky list naturally sounded to me like it was merely made to look tedious in order to devise excuses to wolf up all that dough, similar to all those self-help books which split your “confidence levels” into some “forty three and half basic tiers” and made it look like it’s a big deal. But ridiculing somebody else’s process is not what we do. However, they deliberate on your brand and conditions and lay in front of you a few options, “only the high contenders”. You either choose one of the names, pay and then move on, or you could take it to the next level depending on your budget, because the fee of the naming “experts” changes here. More the number of sitting, more you are asked to pay. Buy the end of it all, they sell you a word or a few words- a $500,000 something “term” to call yourself with which is supposed to be “memorable, likeable, trademarkable and campaignable”. Of these “trademarkable” I understand. But “memorable” to whom? And “likable” and “campaignable”? You gotta be kidding me! The hopelessness of the whole idea was making the worst out of the cynic in me.

I could not help but gawk at how fiendishly overpowering Human dependence was growing out to be, which these lamest of lame entrepreneurs were targeting at milking.  How difficult is it to come up with a name to call your own company, forgetting the “strategic” process to arrive at it. Even if you had to rake a little noise with some in-house brainstorming, it wouldn’t cost you a damn house! Whoever wants it to be perfect? (A saint’s name for a whore is not going to dissuade anybody who is in for it!) Because it’s after all just a name! And unlike “they” say, it doesn’t say it all!

Does ‘Orbit’ sound like a fitting name for a chewing gum? How about ‘K-Pax’ for a movie? Or ‘1984’ for a book, and ‘Death Cab For Cutie’ for a rock band? How innovative do you think the name ‘The Richards Group’ is for an ad agency? And does ‘Banana Republic’ suggest anything related to fashion? Does ‘MVRDV’ or ‘BIG’ sound like an apt name for an architecture office? Or ‘FOX’ for a broadcasting company? If you do, or do not, they are all hugely successful with their respective destination crowd. But then, you might not approve of a company’s name even if they were successful the world over. That’s how it works with names. What one likes, the other doesn’t. So that’s all the importance you need to attribute onto one.

From what I understand, there is nothing exclusively right or wrong about names. They are just personal choices. Making it unique and appropriate is all that you have to even consider, so that one could distinguish yours from the rest. And since what sounds musical to one might abuse another’s ears, there cannot be rules that these “naming specialists” could even pitch you with. Names, as mundane as dull acronyms, could be made a part of household vocabulary if it provide dependable service or make commendable products. As to what initial impact it makes on a stranger is immaterial in the longer run. (“First impressions” are nauseatingly overrated) The success of an enterprise can anyway not be based on its opening sales. It is true that an interesting name can garner initial curiosity. But that “good” name will definitely not keep afloat a bad product for long even with an effective ad campaign. However, like I said, the “good” and the “interesting” also fluctuate from head to head. So then what’s the point of all that burnt money? It surely is worth more than an “oops!” from somebody who wrongly judged your book by its cover.

I read somewhere on the internet, one of these naming jokers (with an outlandish office name) saying how we were falling short of words for internet domains with the population boom and everything. Holy Crap! It’s not like each one of us from the line of world population step forward and pick a word! They could have come up with a better excuse, now that they are smart enough to invent words and all! Even scarcity of domain names cannot be an excuse for that expensive a step.

Come up with a name of your own (everybody surely has that amount of creativity in them), then check the availability of internet domains and then, all that you need to do is to run it through the government’s trade mark database. Bang! There you have a name! It did not seem all that difficult to me. And if (and only if) selling that name is inevitable for the growth of your office, buy yourself the assistance of an ad agency. (All that hefty money could be used for actual marketing.) They can make even a “bad” name sound sexy. ‘Cause they are good with that kind of stuff as that’s what they do for a living. They could even help you out with a “campaignable” logo for your brand. Even the punch-line is their area. If you don’t need any of these and it’s just a “name”, it doesn’t have to be anybody else’s business. Wake your imagination. It’s not difficult!

Relying overtly on these lame naming cut-throats, with one of the most ridiculous job profiles on green earth, would only convince them to expand their territories slowly into babies, dogs and even newly discovered stars, and by the end of it all they’d be sitting and naming everything in the world, with names that come out of a single dye.

You cannot help but pat on the back of the first man who came up with this idea. With so little to do, a scheme is in full form already! Except that it actually sounds like a menace! A menace to human creativity and the element of diversity! Cull it before it’s out of the cage!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


It apparently happens towards the end of the war between ‘good and evil’ in one of the most celebrated epics of India, the Ramayana. To find out if this episodet got a clear enough mention in this colossal work of poetry in Sanskrit, one has to delve deeper into the nuances of its different versions (read over 300) existing in today’s day and age.

The abduction of Sita (as portrayed in Raja Ravi Varma’s Jatayu-vadham) which forms the crux of the series of events steering to the bloody end, is certainly vivid in the minds of everybody who is in the know of the epic’s plot development (and the artist’s work). The agony of separation from her husband and hardship she went through in the confines of the enemy turf is rendered in great detail, no doubt, and this administers to drive home the volatility of the adversary in more than convincing terms. But that did not involve any sort of bodily harm to the lady. What if a more heinous violation took place in the epic which in an attempt to glorify the ‘good’ got shrouded over time by the devices of sacred elements?

Jatayu-vadham by Raja Ravi Varma
Ramayana is one of those epics that transformed in time into hundreds of different versions (including the Muslim version and the non-Indian ones), some varying only in minor details while some others contradicting, by leaps and bounds, the main events of what is believed to be the original work by Sage Valmiki, the Valmiki Ramayana from the 5th century B.C. Even the “original” work as it is known today is supposed to have had numerous interpolations from much later dates, including the whole of the first and the last segment.

Of all the variants, one of the most popular and canonical versions is the Adhyatma Ramayana by sage Vyasa which, eulogizing the spiritual virtues in the story, projects it as a divine allegory, and over time became a guide to religious ideologists and soul-seekers. Raising the mortal cast of Valmiki’s work into divinities and ideal characters, this version, more widely accepted than the original, also sets a rather strong line between the good and the evil. This work forming a basis to a number of other versions that followed, the understanding of the essence of the original epic is largely lopsided. The flaws of Ram, the mortal protagonist, are veiled here by “the larger cause” similar to what is done to hide the virtues of the antagonist, the demon king Ravan. In the haste, to paint one side ‘good’ and the other outright ‘evil’, the excuse for the perpetration of one of the unfortunate exploits by ‘good’ on ‘evil’ does not seem to be reasoned enough. It is the breach of the modesty of a woman in the penultimate Yudha-Kanda that is shrouded in ambiguity here. The character in discussion is none other than the chief villain’s chaste wife, Mandodari, Ravan’s stunning consort whose beauty was extensively praised by Valmiki in the original, whom Hanuman takes for Sita at first glance and who in no way contributed to the hostage situation in the epic. 

It takes place nearing the climax of the battle between Ram and Ravan (the former waging war in an attempt to reclaim his kidnapped wife from the latter). Blood had washed the Lankan shores red. All of Ravan’s key warriors and sons, including the infallible Indrajit, had perished. Lanka grieved for their martyred heroes. At this juncture, Ravan is advised to perform a fire sacrifice to ensure victory. Perceiving the outcome of such a rite, Ram sends his monkey-army, headed by his trusted general Hanuman and the monkey prince Angad, to storm the ritual. What follows is what seems to have loosely inspired the last half hour of THE RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES- a hurricane of monkeys that mob the palace and its surviving inmates, wreaking havoc. They do every thing possible  to hinder the Demon King’s rituals. In the middle of the ruckus, Angad, son of the late monkey-king Bali, turns towards his eldest and the prettiest queens. He yanks at Mandodari’s hair and drags her around before finally crushing her to his will “in order to leave nothing pure in Lanka that could shield Ravan from the impending end that he deserved”!

Now, there are various versions of this incident that could seem like what scarcely survived the “cleansing” of the text. The Valmiki Ramayana stalls the atrocity on the queen where Ravan comes to her rescue abandoning the sacrificial service, scaring away the monkey prince. It stops at the part where she is dragged by her hair by Angad in front of Ravan enraging him. But considering the adulteration that even this “original” went through, the reliability is to be reserved here. 
The Krittivasi Ramayana takes the extent of violation a notch up. Here, there is a more vicious depiction of cruelty towards the helpless woman. It says that it’s not just Angad, but “monkeys” including him, that drag her around and tear her clothes off in front of her duty-crippled husband.
In Bicitra Ramayana and Khmer Ramakerti, the Indonesian version, it’s Hanuman, who was also a part of the breaking and entering, that snatches away Mandodari’s clothes.
In Ramakien, the Thai version, there is an extensively crafted con act that describes the “rape”. Hanuman disguised as Ravan Sleeps with Mandodari maligning her chastity thus weakening the enemy’s spirits.

Mandodari, one of the five holy virgins, Panch-kanya, in the Hindu canon that represents the model wives (the other four being Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Ahalya), was abused for no fault of her own. A similar act in the epic Mahabharata is what triggered the bloody battle of Kurukshetra that ruined an entire race. But here, who was to cry blood for the dishonored? The Man in the family was slain a short while after the assault. And to make matters worse, Mandodari was eventually obliged to marry his brother (Vibhishan) who played every bit in the downfall of her husband. It just did not stop happening to the poor female. She deserved better!

At the end of it all, it seems immaterial as to which one of all the versions that depicts the act of violation, however varying in degree, exactly formed the part of the original plot, because none of them seemed to have a justification, save the convenient “fairness in war”.

It could be understood as to why the preachy Adhyatma Ramayana underplays the details of the atrocity. And perhaps the idea that Mandodari was from the foe’s family reserved the pity that the offense deserved in the other versions as well. But does the chastity of your own woman score above the enemy’s wife? (Stop right when it starts getting preachy as hell. ‘Cause that ain’t selling no more!)
Also from the Ramayana series:

Friday, March 8, 2013


Last day a friend asked if we architects really believed that those spic and span interiors we first visualize and later slap on, on any indecisive wannabe residential client remained chic with the sheen of an exhibit throughout the entire run of the house. The answer clearly was, no, they will lose the luster over time. But on a serious note, he obviously did not mean the physical longevity of materials and finishes, but the quality of spaces that was so carefully deliberated and sold with the proof of Exhibit A; the stellar 3d models of the house and its interiors molded at the “whim of the architect”. 

The discussions strictly remained within the confines of residential interiors which, from the point of view of my friend whose newly designed house was “plagued by the so-called minimalist architecture”, raised a higher question: “Are you architects hell-bent on destroying the comforts of a house with your designs?” My blood pressure does rise in occasions such as this. This is the point where what starts as a tease swiftly slips into a serious discussion that would leave the hook of a huge question mark tugging on the analytical area of my thinking since.
A house where more than one person lives and where tastes only naturally differs, will not that gaudy relic gifted to your wife by her late grandma cruelly conflict with your younger son’s 8” G.I. Joe, least to mention the deafening disagreement of them both with the architect’s choice, a faux Giacometti? Yet all the three wishes to be given an audience, unyielding in their own separate positions. And to make matters worse, the mutually contradicting tastes only became more and more evident over time when further additions constantly jade the once “designed” look of that now growing stockpile (“which in a way also records the family’s existence through time”).

Furthermore, personalizing a room does not just restrict itself to adding artifacts of individual choices, but what decides the coziness of the space is “enhanced” over time by slight customization within the space by each individual. To what extent can a resident walk in the strict albeit invisible lines drawn within the plans by the architect in his own house? Perhaps the “extent” stops before it starts if they could help. 

That is the “problem” with a house! As that’s where we all go back to live, back to become real, no longer subconsciously pouting for the candid cameras. You relax. Because it’s only human nature to be ones true self in the unwatched comforts of ones own home. “Can one in the actual sense of the word really “relax” inside a place where you don’t want to be caught making mistakes while just moving around?” I was slowly beginning to regret the tour I took this friend through John Pawson’s works admiring it at every juncture earlier that day. This essentially was not an argument as to how Minimalist architecture fared well in house interiors. This was about those design approaches adapted by architects that constricted the ways of “comfortable living” in ones own house, minimalist architecture possibly being just one of them.

This is where our discussion slightly digressed on the basis of a defense put forward by the architect of the two. Women are said to be one of the prettiest creations by the Almighty Dude, the both of us agreed. But watching them when they don’t know that they are being watched breaks ground in the multiple possibilities closeted sloven-ism could be explored with. You would only be devastated to know that those pretty beings, you always wanted to lean over and touch, could actually pick nose and flick balls of boogers on the floor rug- again, only when they don’t know that they are being pried on. Those are probably very few moments when she doesn’t have to struggle hard to “design herself” to cope up with the high bars of the accepted visual character of her types, when she is actually relaxing. She would only be lying if she insisted that the same comfort prevailed living 24x7 inside that meticulously designed high floored Cavalli stilettos, which obviously is pretty as hell, but stops being “actually relaxing” after the guests have moved out. But who prefers the booger-shooting slob over the pretty thing it could transform into! Good for her that she could go in and out of character as she bloody damn well please. Sadly a house cannot be made and remade merely for the public eye against comfort, at the “whim of the resident” (this time)! There definitely should be a balance between the two. 

Otherwise is it human hypocrisy that we architects are exploiting while selling our “shit”? And is it the same, when the clients buy it just ‘cause “that’s what people in Paris do these days” forgetting what shapes their own comfort?

The waywardness of the discussion also raised another valid question. Is it absolutely necessary for you to be surrounded by filth to feel at home? Is it not clearing this filth from around you by educated thinking what leads you to qualitative living? But again, define filth! Back in the college days our hostel rooms were pigsties where boxers bloomed on table lamps. All I could say is that, those were “sinfully comfy” and there undoubtedly was a sense of distancing post the day of cleaning. But those are extreme examples of “comfort”. Getting closer to a more plausible state; "did personalizing a space make it ugly because it deterred from the architect’s concept?" It definitely did for the architect and did not for the resident. "Is that why it is called filth?" Surely we have to move away from a discussion on architects’ ego, here. But if architect’s designs aim at deliberately clipping extents of his poor clients’ comforts by instilling a code to involuntarily “behave” in their own houses in the name of aesthetics it seems bloody lame!

Are all these driving back to the basic concept of the beholder’s eye a.k.a. perception? If it is, things are getting awfully out of hand, and even the faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel is not in view. I can only see those umpteen number of question-mark-hooks lunging to reach at me from all sides.

It could sound a little lame but, sitting on either sides of a table, let human beings and architects come to think in concurrence about each others' lines and liberties to make the house a better place in the longer run. Architects, better be game for it if you don’t want to be where Mies was when Dr. Edith Farnsworth took him to court for building an ‘unlivable’ house for her. Laymen don’t give a rat’s ass as to what “puritanical vision of simplified, transcendental existence” is. But a clap after all needs at the least two hands, and again, there obviously got to be a balance between the two. Really!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


From what they say, I understand that it was like one of the four versions, the bandit’s, the wife’s, the samurai’s or the hunter’s, each narrating the same series of incidents but slightly varying in key details, in Kurosawa’s Rashomon. It is evident that Ben Affleck did not intend to project exploration of multiple realities like the master filmmaker, but certain Key details were apparently missing in his Academy Award winning picture Argo.

When I watched the movie unaware of the details and the political landscape of Iran at the time it appeared to be a well-crafted thrilling narrative attempting to shed some light on a part of history that Iran, for all the obvious reasons, wished to shut out from its memory. The rescue of 6 Americans caught in the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran by an undercover CIA exfiltrating specialist posed as a Hollywood filmmaker of a fake movie called Argo that forms the film’s premise was presented as a nail-biting suspense thriller, all thanks to the creative expertise of the makers. From beginning to end it fared high on all fronts, be it realism, acting or technicalities and it very well deserved the Academy’s pat on the back. But, zooming out onto the larger picture of the “story” in particular and a “filmmaker’s communal duty” to the world in general, the significance of the fact about the missing Key details becomes glaring.

It was when I recently read an article by Shiva Balaghi in Frontline magazine about the “jingoism” reflected in Ben Affleck’s masterpiece, that I felt the heat of the anger in the voice of an Iranian about the way his community was wrongfully represented in the movie. Even though I saw no attempts in the film to vilify the country, Iranians presented in it were mostly radical protesters which portrayed a collective hostility and hence it seemed like  “Iranians are, for the most part, dangerous and anti-American” in Mr. Balaghi’s words.  From the article it was clear that the key fact that was conveniently missed was the resignation of the civilian government of Iran “after the Ayatollah’s advisors supported the student occupation of the U.S. Embassy despite assurances by the government that it would end the seizure and obtain the release of the hostages” which could have echoed the actual view of the larger mass in the country and portrayed the human component.

The ‘two sides’ of the proverbial coin is sadly redundant when what is in sight from where you are standing is just one of its sides all the time. Perhaps you doubt even the existence of the “other side” that everybody is talking about least to mention start seeing the greenness of their grass. For that audience who never knew the drastic measures undertaken by the civilian government in protests to the stand of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni’s supporters, the position of the country as a whole naturally seemed supportive of the Khomenians.

Now it could be claimed that it was the artistic liberty that urged the filmmaker to clip certain parts of the events that interfered with the narrative or the overall structure. But personally, to me those details that were given a miss did not only seem befitting to the plot but also seemed inevitable to lay out an impartial narrative. But at the end of the day it’s the creator’s call if the baby should have an extra finger or a tail. Here there were a few parts amputated, that you get to know only from further delving into the details of the larger picture. Providing an impartial view of the events might not have been the creator's intention to begin with.

Ben Affleck made a terrific entertainer indeed but the Rashamon effect was desolately incomplete which could at least have laid forth a benefit of the doubt making the work only richer. But at the end of it all, its the creator's prerogative, and it's only human to take sides.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...