Killing me softly with your words…



The wordspinners - an enormously (though unnecessarily) respected species in the corporate community, these sophisticated ‘pieces of work‘ have the uncanny ability of plucking words out of thin air and piecing them together in any random sequence in a manner that could cause serious mental damage to any self respecting, independent thinking person. Since that kind of person is on the brink of extinction in the business community, no causalities have been reported…yet!

"When the warm brew concocted from the great eastern lands moves over the parched areas of the gullet, a sense of blissfulness overcomes oneself" Ram Shankar stirred into consciousness, as he found a teacup nestled in his fingers as Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen boy) vanished into the slipstream of those profound words.

Ram found himself imprisoned in a meeting, where the strategy for the brand for the next seven (don‘t ask why, but Vikas had a thing for seven) years was being discussed.

And that was the kind of forum for Dharti (the self professed ‘down to earth‘ account planner).
Dharti had joined the agency recently and came with a host of recommendations from various groups.

There was the first group, people who had been with her in meetings and were never quite the same thereafter. Their conveyance vouchers never got passed, friends wanted them like Sourav Ganguly wanted short pitched bowling, all their neighbors vacated the building, basically something had changed in then that was beyond human intervention. Thus the second group understandably consisted of those who through their entire careers had studiously avoided graduation to the first group.

" As we are discussing itching creams today, it might be instructive to examine what is it exactly that causes a man to start itching. In fact much before the itch lies ‘the niggle‘. Something that is so latent in nature that it seldom manifests itself at a conscious level. In fact the roots are psychological rather than physiological. It might have to do with the ancestry of the person in question, or the lack of it. There are niggles in the karmic cycle that get passed on from generation to generation and therein lies the genesis of the itch."

Dharti paused for air briefly, and also to survey her hapless hostages, who could feel the will to resist ebbing at the same rate as the number of people returning sans ‘accent‘ after finishing an overseas MBA correspondence course.

She was a strikingly beautiful woman. On first glimpse you had to double over like you were hit in the solar plexus, with a well directed jab (I really meant ‘strikingly beautiful‘).

There were those who managed to shut their minds and just pass the time in meetings watching her lips move and getting onto flights of fantasy thereafter. There was even a frequent flyers club for such people. No one dared to stop her when she was in full flow. It just wasn‘t worth it.
Mr. Bose and Vikas were staring at Dharti in rapt attention, quite mesmerized by the sequence of words, the ease of flow and how little sense it made to them, people who had been on the brand for years.

PP (the creative director of exaggerated moustache fame), was trying to make sense of the whole thing and he soon discovered a little man hammering away with a sledgehammer against the sides of his temple. And the hammering was getting louder and louder and louder.

"That makes a lot of sense," interjected Vikas, clearly all at sea, but finding it necessary to increase his share of voice in the conversation.

"What sense does it make?" boomed PP, trying to drown out the little man with the hammer, "I haven‘t heard anything of the sort in years."

"Quite right you are PP", said Mr. Bose, " We always needed this kind of strategic input happening on our brand for years," he paused to sigh for a moment "finally there is value addition happening from the agency‘s side."

Dharti smiled at Mr. Bose. It was a smile that would have reversed an order to go to war.

"What sense?" quipped back an irritated PP, tugging at his whiskers with increasing fury, "I can‘t see how this helps anyone or translates into any creative?"

"Well to be frank, I agree with PP, what exactly are we boiling down to?" asked Ram, with as much as ‘unconfirmed innocence‘ that he could muster.

There was a shocked silence in the room. No one at Ram Shankar‘s level was supposed to do anything more than record the happenings in such meetings and organize for sustenance items.

PP smiled back at the support with kindness, Mr. Bose completely ignored the underlings comment, but Dharti felt she must address this inquest into her expertise.

She fluffed her eyelashes in his direction in a manner that caused Ram‘s heart to do a sub 10 second hundred-meter dash.

"Ram, isn‘t it?" she asked, tone mellifluously low and enticingly exciting, "Do you want to continue in the cesspool of mediocrity that you find yourself mired in, or do you want to ceaselessly endeavor on a path of continuous paradigm shifting, constantly adding value to the processes in your routine, making them more cerebral so that you opinion is coveted by one and all?"

Ram staggered with the impact of those words, he had a fleeting impression that he was being mocked but he just dismissed that as an occupational hazard in servicing.

"Yes I agree", said Ram, not knowing what else to say.
"Then I would strongly urge you to record every syllable that I utter and then read them post the meeting and you will evolve to the next level" concluded Dharti, as she turned her attention again to the bigger fish in the meeting.

"PP, dear don‘t worry, its all strategic issues, read Ram‘s minutes after we finish and it will all make sense" she continued in the same contemptuous tone that one reserves for people who still think artworks today involve cutting and pasting.

"What strategic issues are you talking about? I‘m equipped to talk strategy with anybody?" asked PP, thumping the table so hard that it caused a minor tremor in Turkey.

"Well it‘s only a matter of capturing the sublimely obvious in the neo cortex, the whole phenomena of itching or scratching began in the Vedic era, when a certain sage cursed all those who refused to give him alms with bodily discomfort that would be just enough to keep them alive, but not let them live anyway. Thus was born ‘the niggle‘. The power of ‘the niggle‘ increased manifold over generations, as genetics passed it on, almost as a legacy. Why it amplified is open to interpretation. Some say that the seismic thrust of the earth, as generations walked by on it, caused it‘s magnetic fields to realign in a manner that caused ‘the niggle‘ to become a scratch and then evolve from a scratch to a rash. Then the principle of proximity took over. Man is a social animal, however this very socializing caused the rash to spread from one to another so as to assume epidemic proportions. That‘s why I never socialize, so none of you should ask me out. Anyways the balance of nature subsequently took over. As there was the incidence of rashes, or rash incidents over the world, probability kicked up its differentiated head and came up with the antidote, so that a balance could be maintained and human society could prevail and flourish. This has been the equilibrium that has been maintained for centuries.
The question we must ask ourselves as we are launching any new brand in this space is that, are we upsetting this balance in any way? Are we being responsible earth citizens? Will we do something that will irrevocably alter this tenuous equilibrium? And the answer lies in the brand proposition itself. The answer is…"

Dharti stopped mid sentence. PP lay with his mouth open, head on table, tongue hanging out. Vikas was down on the floor for the count. Mr. Bose had disintegrated into microscopic particles that had escaped through the AC vents.

Ram Shankar was still awake, as he had focused on watching Dharti speak rather than hearing her words.
Dharti aristocratically winked at Ram and strode out of the room with the aplomb of a champion boxer leaving the ring after a knockout.

"Old Chinese proverb, never underestimate the power of the spoken word. It can kill you." The hushed Chinese accent, the instant delivery of the teacup and Chai-La vanished into a pack of itching cream on the table, scratching his privates on the way.

After stints at Lowe, Mudra and Everest the author is now with Triton as Associate Vice President Brand Services. In addition to that he is also patron saint of Juhu Beach United - a movement that celebrates obesity and the unfit ‘out of breath‘ media professional of today. To join up contact

(The views expressed here are those of the author and need not necessarily subscribe to the same)

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