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Urban Junkie

Saturday, February 25, 2006

9x9 misery

If I haven’t been posting of late it is because I have lost my soul to Sudoku. Also most of my time, my peace of mind and whatever little I have that can reasonably be called a brain. I know, I know – I have nothing to say in my defense. I am a Sudoku Slave and it is time to freely and frankly own up to it.

But really … you have to try it yourself before you judge me. It has something evil about it, this vile, fiendish, diabolical, infuriating 9x9 numeric configuration, that won’t let you go once it’s got its talons into you. You will only know once you have taken the plunge.

It began innocently enough one morning when I found myself on a longish flight without a book, and nothing other than The Times of India and Jetwings as literary stimulation (a condition deserving of sympathy, you will agree, and one that left me understandably vulnerable to what followed next). What followed next was my First Encounter with Sudoku. Having avoided it thus far out of (a perfectly natural and healthy) distaste for anything numerical, I was pushed into a tentative experiment with it after having finished with the crossword, the Spellathon, the Scramble, the Mindbender and other similar distractions offered by the TOI. And sure enough, my first encounter reinforced the wisdom of staying away from all things numeric. I filled in several wrong numbers in several wrong boxes, scratched them out, filled in some more wrong numbers, and 45 minutes later pronounced it a silly puzzle and stuffed the paper back into the seat pocket.

That, in all honesty, should have been that. But then the Brat next to me picked it up. A child who could not have been more than 7, who asked to borrow my paper, then asked to borrow my pen, and then, with my pen and my paper, over my crossed out wrong numbers, proceeded to fill in the right numbers in less than ten minutes. I saw him smirk as he returned the pen. Really, I would have been ok but for that smirk.

Gentle reader, it was a crushed and despondent me that walked into my house that morning. I eyed the newspaper for a long time before giving in. The smirky child needed to be Put In His Place, even if only in my mind. And so I picked up a fresh clean Sudoku, with a pencil this time.

Five and a half hours later, I emerged triumphant. Aaaah, I cannot describe the elation of that moment. The joy of a filled-in Sudoku, with each row, each column, each cluster of 3x3 boxes perfectly fitting into each other. Nine beautiful numbers, nine times over, blending into each other in 27 different patterns. Magic!

And now, of course, the TOI Sudoku no longer provides the same kick. Nor the one in The Hindu. They are gone in less than 9 minutes. Everyday, I need something stronger. I prowl Sudoku websites for more and more challenging puzzles. I am told it is possible to download one on my phone. Ah, it is a curse, this thing. A curse if you solve it too quickly. A curse if you cannot solve it quickly enough.

Unsuspecting reader who has not yet discovered this self-inflicted torture, I implore you to stay away.

But then again, what a pity that would be.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Abhishek's birthday and high romance

One fine Sunday morning, on 5th February 2006, several thousand Hutch subscribers were woken up with joyous smses announcing wallpapers and ringtones for those who wanted to celebrate Abhishek’s birthday. At least, I hope it was several thousand subscribers, and not just me who was considered a suitable target for a message that went roughly like this:

“Hot Abhishek turns 30 today. Download ringtones and wallpapers from hot Abhishek movies”

Several reminders through the day, too. Never one to let an opportunity slip by, our Hutch. And AB’s birthday does seem to have got them all aflutter at the marketing possibilities it offers. Oh well. There is undoubtedly a solid consumer insight here which I’m missing at the moment. I do want to know, as an interested consumer at the receiving end of these pleas, why I should be the one downloading the ringtones. I mean, shouldn’t his mother be doing that? Assuming that phones singing hot songs from his hot movies are indeed likely to make him happy on his birthday.

Or perhaps I’ve got this wrong. Perhaps the world is full of Abhishek fans who would gladly play his hot songs on their phones if that’s what he wants for his birthday. Fans who share the Hutch Vision of a million phones belting out ‘Dus Bahane …’ when he drives past them on this special day. Perhaps.

The thing is, AB’s birthday ringtones are part of a larger issue that has been worrying me for a while. Too many of the marketing messages I come across these days leave me wondering who they are meant for. Check this out, for example.

One of the FM stations, I forget which, is running a Valentine’s Day contest, where the avid contestants will have a chance to win (yes, really) the 10 most romantic sayings of all time. So that (it gets better) they are equipped with the tools to win the hearts of their loved ones. Oh wow. The 10 most romantic sayings? I really do want to meet the people who are dashing out to enter the contest dreaming of this reward. And then lying in wait for their beloved armed with the potent list.

Have marketers completely lost it? Or do they think consumers have? Or (most alarmingly for me, given my job) have I completely lost touch with what makes people tick these days?

On Tuesdays, it appears, we all ought to be downloading Hanuman Ringtones to make the most of the auspicious Hanuman Energy. I am not sure what a Hanuman Ringtone sounds like, but I'm intrigued enough to check it out.

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