Keeping count

We were all set to get into a meeting and the phone rang. I had a few minutes. I picked the call to hear a lady with an impeccable accent speak.  She cut through the basics as only accomplished professionals can. “We work on getting you more followers on twitter” she said.

In another few minutes of conversation, it was widely apparent that she not only knew what she was talking about but was also good at speaking about it. It boiled down to this: For a fixed fee, my follower count will magically increase. It was a tiered approach. Different fee for different slabs!

I was more than intrigued for several reasons. For one, she gave me stats about my twitter account that I hadn’t quite bothered to keep up with.

Second, ‘enhancing follower count’ was a ‘business model’ that merited an outbound call to an individual (and not a brand). After all, getting marketer friends to think and talk beyond buying ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ on Facebook and Twitter has been an uphill trudge of sorts.

But to an individual?

An individual buying more followers (“Grow the follower count inorganically” as the lady put it) seems very creative but doesn’t cut much respect. This of course is my perspective and I can frankly do with some education here.

Forgive me if this sounds clichéd and you can’t help letting go of a yawn. I come to twitter to learn. That learning is from conversations. And benefiting from all the stuff people around the world are sharing on a continual basis. The follower count and all the statistics thereon, matter much less, relative to all that I am garnering from the place. It is a fantastic market place of sorts filled with rich conversations often blossoming into relationships and influence beyond borders.

Short cuts come with compromises.

“Isn’t it easy”, I asked her, after recovering from the initial surprise, “for anyone to click on the “followers” you are promising to get, to figure out that most of the followers are eggheads”?  Or at best, a smorgasbord of flotsam and jetsam. Or people with absolutely no relation to what I tweet about usually. Isnt it a sure fire way of destroying reputation? Wasn’t it flirting with disaster?

By now, I guess she realised, that there wasn’t much of a point to her continuing the conversation with me. “Look, who has the time to click into your follower list and verify?”, she said with mild irritation. “And lots of people are doing it”. That was the last straw. Of course, I know people who are doing this to themselves. It saddens me, but then, who am I to judge.  Perhaps a few calls like this one went lured them or tipped them over. Whatever! I hung up soon after, thanking her for the midweek lesson and politely told her that I have no names to offer her as ‘leads’ (after she asked).

The ask on twitter is simple, it is to give! It is to participate in conversations and exchange ideas. Or at least that’s how I work it. If there is an interesting point of view or a conversation thats on, I relish and jump in. Irrespective of follower count.


From Hugh MacLeods @gapingvoid Daily Cartoon for March 10, 2010

Euan Semple wrote a fantastic post on ‘agency’.  The stuff that he didn’t write about there, is that it takes time to build relevance and agency. It takes hard work. Buying your way into ‘relevance’ doesn’t work. For in most cases, it so easy to lose what you build when word spreads!

Another fantastic post that I came across some time ago is this.  Do give this a read. It is about crafting your story. Not just the story, but to live a life that is worthy enough to tell that story with pride!

The lady was right. I dont have the time (and more importantly the inclination) to peer into anybody’s follower count to check if we should chat. A point of view, a pointer to a resource with respect and fun is nevertheless going to get me and most people started on a conversation.

I guess the classic ‘goals & measures’ debate applies. The goal in some quarters is to ‘have fun / influence / learn etc’ on twitter. Sometimes that gets measured through follower count. In the melee to get more “followers” the goal of being ‘really successful’ in twitter is missed. And slowly the primary goal becomes increasing the ‘follower’ count and voila, the measure has morphed to become the goal. When measures become the goal, mayhem follows.

Am not sure if there is anything more than a sustained enthusiasm to evolve and revolve around sharing and being of help in the stream. Wichever stream. Followers and reputation will happen, with engagement and relationships over time. “Pay to magically grow your twitter followers” doesn’t quite add up in my mind. At any point in time, it can singularly ruin a reputation.

I am sorry if this post takes a ‘holier than thou’ hue. Thats not my intention. To experience a marketing campaign that attempts to lure people down the wrong road (or so I think) raises a few heckles in me.

Sometime later, I read this “Eulogy for Twitter” (with a subtitle which read “The beloved social publishing platform enters its twilight.”) and this response to it on Slate. Of course all via twitter.  I thought again of the impeccable accent and the call. Several things began to fall in place.

Now that the rant is over, here’s wishing you a fantastic week ahead. May we all work at the arc of possibility and create futures that we can be truly proud of.

walk on

Somewhere in Dec-Jan evey year, devotees of Lord Murugan ( a.k.a Karthikeya ) will walk to his abode in Palani and several other places in Tamil Nadu.

Although that sounds like a sleepy airy walk in the park, it isn’t so. It actually translates to several days of walking 30 odd kilometers daily.

It is the annual pilgrimage. Walking with their bare feet carousing the tar of hot roads, on which see some reinforced steel radials with hot speeds, more often than not. They walk. Carrying their belongings and all else that they would require on the journey atop their heads or slung across their shoulders

Unmindful of approaching traffic that could consist of whizzing buses or wheezing bullet carts, they walk. They are easy to spot. Dressed in a radiant yellow or an ensemble of green, roads in rural TN close to the foothills of Palani see them walk on.

I am told that they walk early in the morning. And late in the evening. Together making for almost 30 KM every day. They chant the holy name of Lord Karthikeya. And walk on.

The same happens in Maharashtra chanting the name of Sai Baba.

In Kerela they walk in the name of Lord Aiyappa.

The Amarnath Yatra up in the Himalayas.

And so we walk in the name of every God that we call out to. Mother Mary. Allah. Krishna. Shiva. Buddha. Mahavir. And ofcourse, Karthikeya. All over the country. And around the world too.

We walk many many miles over many many days. In penance. In celebration. In thanks or asking for something dear. I presume all the time that the mind is active while the legs plough on will provide for some reflection and reordering of thoughts. As well.

And so we walk on. For many miles over many days. In a strange quest for discovering love. Compassion. Peace. And well being.

Incase you cant imagine doing this with this level of an intensity, here is a suggestion. The battery of good Lords will agree, we have traversed an almost similar distance when we walk half way down the street and smile at our neighbour, help someone, do our duties with diligence and spread some cheer.

Walk on people. Walk with hope. Walk with joy. Walk with belief that life can and will be better for all of us.

By the way, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. All doctors. Walk on.

Life has to go on !

This is Peddar Road. A road on which I frequent more for running than for anything else. Once a week, and this road and its incline is a nemesis of sorts for inept runners like me. A Sunday morning on this road, looks like this.

On weekdays, this road holds more wheels than legs. Definitely more expensive wheels than most districts of Mumbai. Quite naturally, there are innumerable number of hours that you could be forced to spend stuck in a signal. Not knowing what else to do, but for twiddling your thumb and swearing at how ineffective our governments are and how fundamentally vacuous our democracy is.

The government has been proposing a construction of a flyover. Eminent residents living the area have resisted this. For a number of reasons that must be patently obvious to them, but cant seem to make sense to the rest of Mumbai, let alone the rest of the word.

So we see a logjam. Everyday, cars pile up. Inconceivable number of motorists hurl the choicest of abuses. Ofcourse, I don’t know for sure. But given the propensity of several motorists to heap abuse for anything starting from following traffic lights when no one is around, this is more than just probable.

Now its become a political issue. With parties taking a stance for or against. No one wants to give an inch. Life goes on.


Somewhere in rural Maharashtra. One of the roadside stalls had this to offer. Now, red guava is a personal favourite. Naturally, the foot came off the accelerator and the car came to an instantaneous magical halt.

Drooling with vivid pictures in the mind of red guavas, we went in and chose a few guavas.

Only to find just a while later, just as the teeth were sinking into what looked like one heck of a luscious red guava, that it wasn’t red inside after all.

The vendor, without bating an eyelid, informs that the ‘red’ in the ‘red gauvas’ kept on display were ‘painted’ guavas. The only guavas he had were all white !

I am livid. I ask him if he is right in doing this. He shrugs his shoulders and says, ‘Life has to go on sir’!


Theres this store in the corner. Which sells short eats through a window. It was a village sometime back. Now, it’s a well respected suburb of big city Mumbai. In the neighborhood tall buildings scrape clouds. Cars zip in and out of the building and life reeks of a certain ‘busy’ness.

Amidst all this hustle bustle, somehow, this store has survived.

The genial Maharastrian gentleman who runs this store, is usually very warm and receptive. So is he today. He smiles at me and asks ‘2 packs’ ? I smile and nod. Two packs of chewing gum get placed on a bottle.

There is no one today. So I chat up. What does he think of Foreign Direct Investment in Retail I ask. Filled with the usual city-dweller arrogance perhaps, half thinking the old man that he is, there isn’t going to be any answer. Leave alone, a cogent one.

‘Let them come sir’. He says. ‘

They can never be me. I can never be them. We all have our roles’.

With a pause and a smile he says, ‘Life has to go on’ !

Have a lovely week ahead people !


There have been numerous ads for new flats going on sale. Enticing they seem, from afar. Only when you go closer, do you realise that the asking rate for these flats is an arm and a leg.
From this birth and the next one too.

You drop the idea and want to walk away. Only to be enticed into seeing the sample flat. And the salesman wants you to remove your shoe to go inside and look at the sample flat.

You frown hoping that he gets the translation of the frown as ‘you must be nuts to ask me to remove my shoe’. Surprisingly it works. He asks you not to bother, and leads you to another part of the room. To this box.

He asks you to put your leg into the box. And voila, there is a plastic cover that envelopes the footwear. Like a spiderman web. Or something like that.

And tells you that after walking about in those blue semi-transparent overalls, you can discard the plastic and walk away !! And keep your shoes on.

You stare open mouthed. The salesman is quick to spot that all his talk about the flat, its layout and features didn’t get you as excited as this plastic vending gizmo. He adds. ‘This is for VIP customers sir. We cant ask everybody to remove their shoes’ !

VIP customer ! You try best to control the laugh. A chuckle escapes. And almost at the same time, he says, ‘In the US this is used in hospitals. Doctors use them’.

You are silent. Still struggling to come to terms with a label like VIP customer, and a special distinguishable perk : A blue plastic covering your shoe.

He walks you around the sample flat. It is immaculate. He explains every corner and commode. With a swollen chest and beaming pride, almost certain that he would get you to buy the flat, he asks, ‘So, sir…do you have any questions?’

And you answer. In a hesitant tone.

‘err…can i keep these plastic covers on my shoes?’

His swollen chest shrivels. He still smiles. And walks you to the door.You walk with pride. You are a VIP. With a funny blue plastic on your shoe as proof.