As a digital marketing transformer skilled at designing and developing cross-platform content and integrations, I am adept at managing multiple content management systems, communications software, and IT platforms. Being an ardent follower of digital trends helps me structure ideal solutions for digital problems. Strong adherence to guidelines and processes allows me to lead end-to-end business and marketing strategies, promotions, and initiatives. I thrive in challenging environments, am passionate about continuous learning, and have successfully managed high-pressure jobs for over 20 years. Now I am focusing on creating responsive digital magazines and publications. I design and implement end-to-end workflows and processes including getting the story, interviewing people, writing content, photographing, video casting, podcasting, designing for print, online, and apps; setting up the tech environments, implementing, and securing them; training staff; and publishing them to respective platforms and mediums. My story ... ... Let me craft yours.
My rollercoaster creative career ride began in Bombay, India. The first part took me through the world of journalism, instilling in me the finer aspects of writing, editing, print production, and interviewing. I embarked on the second leg of my career in Dubai. Besides enjoying the duties of a copywriter and creative lead at one of the bigger regional advertising agencies, I taught myself graphic design and gained experience in pre-print production. Two decades ago I moved to Toronto which coincided with the third and most exciting aspect of my career. The learning bug had already made my mind a permanent home. Tackling the internet and related technologies, I taught myself website and app design and development keeping in mind the constantly changing trends and raising my standards intuitively. I am now well versed in the latest digital technologies and multiple marketing and communications platforms. One of the major challenges that I successfully tackled recently was in finding an integrated solution to digitize marketing materials and publish them on websites and mobile apps at a fraction of the cost and time. I am now ready for fresh challenges. Taking a cue from ‘disruption in every industry’ I decided to create a print-and-digital magazine which is both a case study and my portfolio! - Madhav Kochunni The ride that honed my skills as a writer, designer, developer, and storyteller Musings What’s in a name? Nature’s brush strokes. Lotteries, a worthy cause! Colors of nature. Walk for cancer. Freedom at 10! The countryside that drove me nuts! 99% Canadian! Effective communications An African Adventure Case studies Publish content to hybrid apps in half the time and cost - p. 6 Contents Design. Development. Strategy Publishing Print. Websites. Apps. Writing. Editing. Designing. Marketing. Email campaigns. Analytics. Workflow processes Content Articles. Blogs. Speeches Advertising Copywriting. Graphic design. Creative direction Analysis Apps. Websites. Business cases Conceptualized, designed, written, and published by Madhav Kochunni. Image credits: Pages 24 and 30 by Fabrizio Frigeni and Marcus Lewis from Unsplash.com. Create memberships with drip content on WordPress - p. 15 Combine a POS system with online shopping cart - p. 14
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 4 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . Design and development Software and technologies include Adobe Dreamweaver CS3, Photoshop CS3, Flash Professional CS3, Illustrator, Premier Pro 2.0, Acrobat Pro, Expression Web, Microsoft Suite, PC and Mac platforms, XML, HTML, CSS, and RSS feeds, email marketing, multimedia. Design, development, and maintenance of Conquest Vacations’ websites; deployed and maintained web analytical tools; edited and updated editorial and graphic content; coordinated with marketing agencies; designed and developed interactive projects. WEB
. . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r 5 m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m Design and development of product launch (interactive) presentations for Conquest Vacations’ winter brochures. Design and development of LiftOff, Conquest Vacations’ inflight magazine, for online. Created with Adobe Flash. Design and development of a newwebsite for the Writers Community of Durham Region
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 6 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . Publish content to multiple mediums at a fraction of the time and cost continued ... STRATEGY App mockups for ivari Zero Print - The Marketing Director of Transamerica Life Canada, where I was working at the time, came up with the idea of ‘Zero Print’. The idea was to stop printing marketing materials and deliver them digitally. An ambitious target was set at the end of 12 months. For a three-person digital team this was quite a challenge. All marketing materials were till then printed as and when required which was a major expense. It took a long time for the design, approval, and printing process; and the moment it was printed, it became outdated. I took the initiative to work on it and asked the manager’s permission. Drawing on my varied experience in publishing and IT gave me the confidence that it was theoretically possible to deliver all marketing materials through apps which had more engagement than a website. Over the next two months, I researched on various software platforms to create content that could be easily updated and digitally delivered. Major coup Since it was ‘zero budget’ for research I bought my own hardware [MacBook Pro] and experimented with trial versions of various app platforms. Within six months, after learning the software and developing prototypes from various app publishing platforms [Adobe DPS, GoodBarber, Shout’em, ionic, Appery, Mag+], I created and showcased a proof of concept for the web and app platforms. This was a major coup as our team was developing outside the purview of IT but with their blessings. Once the POC was approved by managers in marketing I presented and demoed the solution to various IT departments including software evaluation, security, web services, and implementation. I documented the whole workflow and process and trained two of my colleagues on the content updating process. This was a new foray into the app platform for the company so I took on the challenge of submission process to the app stores as well. This new process saved the company $15,000 in printing each brochure and drastically shortened the timeframe in designing, developing, and updating them from two months or more to less than two weeks. Analysis I began recording the thoughts and processes in finding an ideal solution to the problem. Based on requirements and where you are on the shifting digital landscape there will be many more solutions and approaches. At the concept level, some of the ideal requirements for the digital initiative were: - have a relatively low learning curve, - be cost effective, - easy to implement and maintain, - quick turnaround in content updates and that too to be done by marketing, - leverage existing design skills and software, - a high level of reader engagement, and - the content should be available on mobile devices [tablets and smart phones] as a native app. Tall order The requirements were a tall order which would have drawn resources from various departments in IT and marketing! Digital has both bridged and divided marketing and IT departments. Traditionally the fountainhead of anything connected to technology, IT was slowly loosening its digital grip to marketing, or at least partly. On the flip side, marketing can also be said to be encroaching into IT territory such as measuring (analytics) and digital publishing. I have been researching digital publishing trends and took on this initiative as a challenge. The first phase was to find out everything about the current design software, content
. . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r 7 m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m continued ... App download page in App Store App page on ivari.ca sourcing and approval workflows, and the publishing and ordering process. The second phasewas to identify possible solutions to address at least some of the requirements. The third phase was to demo the final solution, rigorously test it, launch it internally, work on the feedback, and launch externally. Most corporate environments have a rigid structure of processes and protocols for reasons of compliance and security among others. Getting a conversation started to digitise print materials would have taken weeks. Add to the mix, creating a digital strategy, deciding on a name and registering the app on the popular platforms, getting a development team together, etc. We are talking months and half a million dollars just to get started. Solution The final solution took about six months from concept to launch on both the iOS and Android platforms! This timeframe includes approvals from IT departments such as security, software, and network, and from product and marketing.
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 8 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . Thinking about digital formats from a predominantly print background requires a different mindset. Someone who has transitioned from traditional print to digital formats will understand. Once content reaches the art department, it begins to take shape on Adobe’s InDesign; from there to print and alternatively on the website in PDF formats. From a digital perspective, conventional workflows slow the process of content updates. When a marketing manager initiates awork request it follows a predictable path shuttling between marketing, product, and art departments, then the sign-offs, and on to the printers. To upload PDFs and link it to content on the website usually took another work request as websites are under the purview of IT. Depending on the size of the IT department and workload this could take months, unless the update was critical. Reducing this timeframe was another project and not addressed at this time. There are two thought streams here: a) find a solution revolving around the design software, or b) rethink the whole process from a digital perspective. Thinking ‘A’: InDesign, the design software used to create marketing materials, lend itself to at least two solutions – Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite [DPS], and MagPlus’ Designd. What better stream of thought than to go with Adobe as it was a natural fit for InDesign. After much research and testing Adobe DPS emerged as the ideal solution. But then Adobe changed its price points and this solution became prohibitively expensive. Back to the drawing board with the second solution. Designd is a plugin for InDesign and proved to be the ideal choice. Thinking ‘B’: Adobe was already dabbling in a product called Adobe DPS [Digital Publishing Suite] and this has now become part of a larger platform called the Adobe Marketing Cloud. This could be a long term solution provided the price justified the requirements. Phase two: My research at the time was in everything digital. This required more focus on converting print to digital. Digital landscape at the time was quite fragmented and there were a lot of players in the market. The ideal STRATEGY Since it was ‘zero budget’ for research I bought my own hardware and software and experimented with trial versions of various app platforms. continued ...
. . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r 9 m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m solution would initiate the process from pre-publication stages [with familiar print design software such as InDesign or QuarkXPress] to pushing content in digital formats on to a mobile device and to the website. The complete workflow began with InDesign and InCopy giving the designers, writers, and editors absolute control over the content and graphics without treading on each others’ toes. Content was published to the WordPress website which was also pushed to the apps. All the development, updates, maintenance, and analytics were done by the digital team which dramatically shortened the timeframe and costs required to push content. continued ...
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 10 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . STRATEGY Integrated publishing
11 . . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 12 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . Corporate content is traditionally communicated through word-of-mouth, marketing, and advertising campaigns. When such content finds its target, users are directed to websites (and other media) to search and ‘pull’ relevant information. Websites continue to be a major source for information online. But, with the increasing popularity of smarter mobile devices, creating exclusive content for small screens has On effective communications become a necessity. Companies are beginning to develop more digital content to help drive customer loyalty and sales. The name of the game is to ‘engage’ the end-user, and the ‘content app’ steps up to the challenge admirably. Rules of engagement Initially, the content app is introduced to the end-user by continued ... STRATEGY Comparison of traditional [IT] content updates vs the marketing one
. . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r 13 m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m way of marketing. Email and othermodes of communication direct the mobile user to the appropriate app store. Once the app is downloaded, it serves as an information gateway through which content is ‘pushed’ on to mobile devices. When content is published or updated, the user is alerted to new information. Unlike usual content, information on the content app is designed in an interactive format to engage the end-user in an immersive experience. Till recently, creating an app was an intensive process involving resources from IT and a long development time. Now there are solutions that give the designer absolute control over the end-to-end digital publishing process. Two of those solutions leverage existing software and design skills to create and publish content on multiple mobile devices and platforms. Publishing a digital publication can be achieved at a fraction of the time and cost as compared to existing methods while still maintaining the integrity of a secure process and workflow.
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 14 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . Combine a POS system with online shopping cart STRATEGY The requirement was to install a POS system for a nonprofit with minimum costs. And it had to be done in a couple of months in time for the launch of the new temple [Guruvayur Temple of Brampton]. The process included researching various options, learning the sales process, testing the environment, setting up multiple POS terminals including mobile, implementing the processes and workflows, training the people involved, troubleshooting, and maintenance. The POS system facilitated the generation of $500,000+ in 14 days. After testing multiple systems including Square my presentation of the cost savings and recommendation of QuickBooks Online was accepted by the board and I set off to implement the processes and workflows. The products and services were loaded on to the system. Multiple user accounts were created, 12 voluntary users trained with POS and eCommerce integration
15 . . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m Create drip content on WordPress with member profiles STRATEGY multiple dry runs over weekends, four main laptops and two back-up computers sourced, software and connections to wired and WiFi hubs [1GB TELUS] and multiple printers were set up; two mobile devices were also used to reduce the wait times on line-ups. The process went without any major hitches and was a major success. The alternative was to have manual accounting and receipt books. The second phase is ongoing and will connect the online store to the same backend. The front-end used is WooCommerce with APIs to the backend to integrate with QuickBooks Online. A complete refresh of the site with online payments, author profiles, etc. The focus was on digital strategy and condensation of the existing site, taxonomy, setting up member profiles, online payments, membership and sponsorship plans, integration with PayPal, workflows with WooCommerce and PayPal, events calendar, implementation, security, and maintenance. WCDR website
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 16 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . Diverse skills spanning multiple fields ... MIND MAP
17 . . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m ... yet complementing each other!
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 18 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . 25km walk for cancer awareness and cure FOR A CAUSE Initially it was a search for answers, trying to find the strength to comfort my wife, and coming to terms with what we thought usually happened to someone else. The earliest signs appeared in October 2014 amidst the packing, booking tickets within the sub-continent, buying pieces of Chinese-made Canadian history for friends and family, scheduling our jaunts to align with marriages and other family events, and urging friends to recommend watering holes and restaurants catering to unique cuisines from all over India. Late into an autumn night Jaya, my wife, found a lump in her right breast. When she told me, I dismissed it as knotted excitement awaiting to unravel. [An earlier suspicion had ended up as water sacs.] Wiser counsel prevailed and soon we were waiting in the consulting room of our family doctor. Between looking at the graphic posters of 90% of the world’s diseases and hastily tacked baby pictures, I was trying to conjure up positive thoughts. Painful process Although the family doctor could not physically detect a lump, she prescribed mammogram and ultrasound. Mammogram, as Jaya puts it, “is a painful process”. They pull, stretch, and squish you to get the best possible scans. The radiologist did the ultrasound twice, which in itself raised the red flag on the pole of suspicion to its highest level. On seeing the results, she was asked to wait. Jaya sensed something was terribly wrong; my heavy dose of positive mantras miserably failed its purpose in life. We do find the images a little different from last time, so we need to do a biopsy. The Chief Radiologist was outwardly calm. “But I am flying out in two weeks.” Lady Luck intervened; with the Chief Radiologist’s influence Jaya was able to get an appointment for biopsy on Monday! After that, the long wait for results began. I think there is a major opportunity to improve the process here.ÂThe results are sent from the lab to the hospital. However, the hospital needs the family doctor’s approval, to contact the patient. In such a critical juncture, do we need this red tape? “You can expect a [dreaded] call.” The family doctor called at the end of the week, “You can expect a call on Monday from the surgeon in North York General Hospital [NYGH].” She had no supporting information. The surgeon’s assistant called with detailed information about the time and place; they are not privy to any other information. The weekend produced no sleep. A winter’s storm raged. I cranked up the thermostat, but it not remove the chill. We had, by then, stopped packing for our long-delayed trip to India. Intimidating environment We arrived at the NYGH well ahead of schedule. By N. American standards, NYGH looked small. We pass it every day, and have for the past decade and a half. But, it never looked as intimidating [unless you go in senseless] as it did now. The experience starts at the parking lot; the cheapest fare: $22. Jaya felt we’d be coming back; so I settled for the package: $60 for five days. I held Jaya’s hand and pussyfooted through the corridor with the faint hope that Fate did not know we had entered the building. I looked at my reflection in the sign board with polished lettering, “Breast Cancer”. I could see my thoughts reflected from the outside; the worry lines shifted as I kept looking at it. My warm breath made funny shapes on the metallic continued ...
. . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r 19 m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m to be continued in the next issue ... letters. I thought my racing heart touched the letters a few times on its wildest beats. After a short while, a tall slender kid entered the consulting room and introduced herself as the surgeon. I can still see the smile which lit up her face much later, when I became more mindful, I noticed that it lit up the entire room. Are we going to entrust my dear wife to this child? “Jaya, can I call you Jaya?” And introduced herself as Dr. O. We nodded. Dr. O got straight to the point. She kept the yellow folder closed. The results have come back from the biopsy. I am sorry to say it is cancer. The surgeon reached forward to support Jaya. My overwhelming sense of denial had Freedom at 10! Women think way far ahead. They plan, plot, and gently let their men loose in a maze that resembles their mind! And those pour souls believe they are getting away with ‘it’. It could be anything from an iPad to an unsupervised visit to Costco or Best Buy. Some Sundays I get the freedom – the nod to go to an electronic shop or even Costco, unsupervised. There is no pattern to this period-of-enjoyment. This Sunday the leash fell away just before 10 in the morning. In between calls my wife expressed a desire to get two things from Costco. I was out of the door with a leap and a bound. And bolted in right back. The weather woman had me again. She had promised 14 C. Gloomy, but double digits. With a blowing wind the day was chilly. I grabbed a jacket and made it to Costco under three minutes. Scheming mind! As soon as one enters the world of Costco, the scheming mind of supermarket chains becomes evident. The size of TVs seem to grow every week. The brightest, sharpest, and biggest in front. The smaller ones at the back. Four rows of moving images on TVs thinner than my eyeglasses. I caressed the bigger ones, turned them around, measured the thickness with my fingers. I walked to the end of the electronic isle. Like a pup I wandered the aisles of the electronic sectionwith a drooling tongue and wagging tail. They were offering giant TVs for such a low price. Not that I could take home a fourth TV. I stopped in front of BOSE speakers and turned it on. Two companion droolers also joined me. I closed my eyes and listened to the pure crisp sound. I went through the accessories aisle. I can probably manage a $50 purchase without authorization. But I had most of them. Propped up next to the external hard drives was a small black box that promised to stream YouTube directly to TV. That would save so much of time and effort hooking up the laptop when my wife desired to see an ethnic movie. [These desires are often a few collection of words, sometimes a “hmmmm”, a nod, or a mere look. I have written a book of codes to decipher them all!] Ticking freedom My freedom time was ticking along. The Citizen watch with eco-drive looked tantalizing. So did the wireless pod lights. I pondered in front of the automatic night lights on stairs and dark hallways that doubled as flash lights. The Dyson vacuum cleaners were obscenely expensive. The U-shaped computer station looked neat. At $19.50, the battery recharger was cheap. I pulled out the snow gloves. Four layers of padding. I always had problems with my fingers freezing in winter. It did not have my size. The choice in shirts was limited. There were more fleece and Calvin Klein sweaters. Calvin Klein! I took off my hoodie and tried one. No. I will need a new closet to hang any more sweaters. Steve Jobs’ biography caught my eye. Just like all Apple designs, even the book on him was clean. At least on the outside. But it will be in the library soon. When I was in line paying for the groceries, there was a pain in my stomach I could not figure out. As I got into the car, it hit me. I did not buy anything for myself that I wanted, but did not need. possessed me completely. I could not bring myself to hold her hand, comfort her, even say anything. The world had split open in so many ways. When I stole a glance Jaya was composing herself. We have weathered many storms but, this was the mother of all hurricanes. I knew Jaya from the age of 15; and we’ve been married for 30 years. She was always the human side of our relationship. “Do you know what stage?” “We know that it is neither stage one or four. We will know after the surgery.”
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 20 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . What’s in a name? Everything! Two weeks ago I was peacefully watching TV when the phone rang. It was a 1-800 number. Usually I do not pick up marketing calls. That day I was indulgent. “Hello”, I put on my booming, deep, scary voice. A female voice spoke back to me in a high pitch, “Hello, may I speak with”… There was a pause”…she was trying to pronounce my name. After 10 seconds she came back, “Hello, may I speak with Mahavas?” I told her that was not the way to pronounce my name. Over the next couple of minutes she tried many combinations to unlock the tangle of letters. Every time I said no. I was beginning to enjoy this. Finally I told her to call after she got it right. When I hung up the phone, I thought, What’s in a name? I realized, everything. I went back 40 odd years to the day I was born. I could clearly see my mother. She was knocked out after her laborious effort at giving birth to her first child. Me. I was born into a family which follows the matrilineal system; basically in such households women had the power and controlled the finances too. But by the sixties (1960) men (who follow the mat’ system) were beginning to protest and demanding more share of the power. To appease them women tossed around a few tidbits from time to time. One of them was naming new born children. At the time my father was working miles away. By the time he heard the news and took the train down south, it was five days. So for those five days, I happily rested in my crib like one of those “No Name” [unbranded] products in a Loblaws Supermarket. On the sixth day my father came to see me. He took me by my feet and dangled me [Michael Jackson took a cue from my father!]. That was the first time I saw my father. Upside down. I hung there like a well-fed bat with my arms akimbo and an irritated expression on having my sleep disturbed. Now you have to remember that here was a man trusted with a very important job: naming his only child. My mother was lying in bed propped up by pillows. Grandma was fussing around and waiting for the precious name to be uttered. My father was still hanging me; he was at a loss for letters, names. Grandma gently reminded him, “What are you going to call him?” “Mmmmmmmm” My father was at a loss for words. He had one forefinger on his unshaven gaunt chin trying to push the words out. For a moment I thought he might bounce me up and down a couple of times to see what comes out. Then he set me down and mumbled again. “Mmmmmmm” Grandma took the cue and wrote “M” on the wall. Father was still trying to jumpstart his brain power which refused to start. Then he saw the “M” on the wall. He said, “Aaaaaa!” Grandma added an “A” to the “M”. I was also watching the most important ceremony in my life. I was so disgusted with the whole process, I said, “Duh!” That was my only contribution to my name. “D” also went up on the wall. “MAD”. On seeing this, father couldn”t but help laughing. “Ha” he belted out. To accelerate the process, Grandma added “HA”. The whole process of naming was getting on my father”s nerves. He stepped out to catch some air. At that time we had a fleet of vehicles from a bicycle to a scooter and car. He took the Vespa scooter for a spin and came back an hour later. He was so impressed with the scooter that he decided that “V” should definitely be a part of my name. Now that he was getting the hang of things he was on a roll. He added another “A”. Grandma said, “Duh!” D went up the board. Father had to add the only vowel he seems to know. Another “A” for the child, please! By now all of us realized that he was losing it. So like an overinflated balloon in a tropical climate he deflated and sat down on the recliner. “Ssssssss.” Grandma added “S” and put a stop to the circus. So as not to repeat the process with my last name, she took my father”s first name and added it as my last name. Now the engine had a locomotive and can embark on its journey. Very close friends call me “Mad”. Some friends call me “Madhav”. My wife and thousands of my relatives call me “Madhu”, which means honey! Then there is my official name, Madhavadas, the story about which you just read. And then enter the telemarketers with their own versions. By now I have developed split personalities ready for a blockbuster. You may ask now, What”s in a name? Everything. Remember to name your child a short, sweet name that is easy to pronounce and that can be remembered. You may even want to throw in a couple of numbers and signs @*&% just like in a password! MUSINGS I was born into a family which follows the matrilineal system; basically in such households women had the power and controlled the finances too.
. . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r 21 m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m MUSINGS Nature’s broad brush strokes Our annual fall colour drive this year was in and around Bon Echo Provincial Park. The two and a half hour drive from our house was further stretched by my wife’s altered map of driving through country roads, pottering around antique shops, fully appreciating the depth of colours by stopping at every whim and fancy, and directed by hunger and washroom breaks. Some of the highlights revolve around a Buddhist temple [Orgyan Osal Cho Dzong] in the middle of nowhere, drinking moonshine with off-roaders on ATVs by an abandoned mine, staying at an AirBnB and meeting an Indian restaurant owner in Madoc, trekking up 100 metres up Mazinaw Rock, kneeknocking walk on another two hour trail, fighting the cold winds on the shores of Bon Echo, and making it all worthwhile at the marvel of nature’s colourful and masterful brush strokes. This pilgrimage happened during the weekend of Thanksgiving and days after I watched ‘At Eternity’s Gate’ painting the last days of Vincent Van Gogh. I had a brief glimpse of the light Van Gogh was trying to capture in all his paintings. When I stood in the middle of the forest and looked up I saw the sun shining through the golden and red maple leaves. The celestial dance of nature before the shimmering leaves gracefully floated down to the forest floor, be one with the earth, and sprout again with a spring in April next year. continued ...
. . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r 23 m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m Colours of nature Standing speechless on a Mazinaw cliff, Struggling to pan my body gone stiff! Intensely colourful are the strokes of nature, Wonder what camera its beauty can capture! Vibrant canoers tickling the playful waves, Whistling winds tuning the rocky caves, Anxious and in awe at the rock climbers’ might, Needs a lifetime to take it all in one sight! Welcoming hearts What it takes to open their doors, Heavenly smells, cats, dogs, and more. Welcoming smiles from the charming wife, Sharing more than a glimpse of their daily life. Gleaming wood touched by that country charm, Leading the lady holding on to my arm, Up the stairs to a wider space, The Airbnb room decorated with grace. Count my blessings Deep in the forests around Bon Echo, Past the walking trails, deer, birds, and gecko, Fallen leaves colourfully hiding the metal road, Leading to a clearing hiding a heavenly abode. Joining Buddhist monks with my silent prayer, Mindful of every moment now my hair is greyer! Thoughts and emotions shedding on the wooden floor, Cushioned by the blessings that touched my inner core.
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 24 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . Mazinaw Rock in Bon Echo Provincial Park
25 . . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m
. . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r 27 m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m When I was a bachelor, as a prank, my friends published a classified ad in the newspaper. The ad gave my skinny profile and postal address under the title, ‘Wife wanted’. Over the next couple of weeks, I received many letters. Most said the same thing, “You can take my wife.” I assure you I did not poach. I wooed mine fair and square. I was born in Kerala, a tiny coastal state at the southernmost tip of India. Kerala has an interesting statistic. For as long as I can remember, the women population of Kerala outnumbered its men. So when it came to marriage – the percentage of arranged marriages in our community is 70% plus – men had the delightful option to pick and choose. This poses major challenges to parents with daughters. The moment a daughter is born, the parents start investing for her wedding. The money goes mostly for the purchase of gold jewelry the bride wears on her wedding day and the fortune [including some outrageous demands from the groom] she will take with her. An arranged marriage! Let me introduce my nephew. For the purpose of this story he will be Arun. Six months ago, Arun phoned and said he wanted to get married. I advised him, “Do not take this extreme step, my boy. Man may be incomplete until he is married. And then, he is finished!” Arun was determined. In every sense of the term, Arun was a ‘suitable boy’. At the time he was 26 years old and was working as a software engineer in Seattle. Much before Arun expressed his desire, the complex machinery of finding a ‘suitable boy’ was set in motion by a professional group of spotters. Spotters, usually aunts, frequent social events and carry with them dossiers of suitable boys that keep the industry busy through the wedding season. Arun was ‘spotted’ at a wedding on one of his home-coming trips. Once a suitable boy is spotted, the matter is handed over to verifiers who check out the family history as far as the Stone Age. Verifiers collect relevant/irrelevant information about the boy that puts NSA to shame. In Arun’s case the spotters and verifiers had put together a sizeable dossier. They confirmed with their discreet overseas network that Arun had a sizeable bank balance, was of sound mental health, and had no known [visible!] damaged body parts. Both sets of parents have their set of spotters and verifiers. After the filtering and matching process, Arun’s parents were presented with the horoscopes of three girls with the finest pedigree. This is the last part in the process. In our community, when a child is born, the parents consult a ‘good astrologer’ and based on the time and date of birth, the astrologer charts the horoscope. Astrologers play a major part in one’s life. From birth, to passing of exams, finding jobs, maintaining health, and even death…. they have the power to predict fortunes and misfortunes; if they see red flags they even ensure that their solution templates are followed! For a perfect match, the stars have to align. Different astrologers are employed by the boys’ and girls’ families. When it’s time for a ‘match’ astrologers play god and find a partnership made in heaven. Two weeks later Arun called to inform me that the marriage was fixed. After giving the mundane details, he wanted to know what it would cost to get married. I told him, “I don’t know my boy; I am still paying for it.” The astrologer gives three dates and a timeframe on those days as the most auspicious time to get married. The wedding planner then takes over and books the wedding hall on one of those days. The planner organizes everything from the guest list, to the entertainment, the menu for the banquet, and more. The bride’s family now scrambles and heads for the great gold rush. Every bank deposit and investment is broken. Mattresses and other hiding places [even backyard] are taken apart. With wads of money [black and white] stuffed in hand bags, the bride and her family head for the shops – mostly gold and clothes. Arun had a memorable wedding. What’s even more memorable is the fact that the first time he saw his wife was on the wedding day! You’d have heard the expression Love is blind. In our community of mostly arranged marriages, we take it a bit further. Love is certainly blind, but marriage is an eyeopener. This business of marriage! MUSINGS Once a suitable boy is spotted, the matter is handed over to verifiers who check out the family history as far as the Stone Age. Verifiers collect information about the boy that puts NSA to shame.
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 28 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . The English countryside that drove me nuts! The first time I drove a car was in India. A friend taught me the basics in his father’s 1960 Fiat that had doors opening from the front. The road had no markings. The general sense was as long as one stayed on it one was fine. In Dubai, I learned that the road had two sides. One drove on one side of the road and returned the other. The Malayalam speaking instructor, Hamza, introduced me to the concepts of clutch, gear, leg and hand brakes, accelerator, ignition, and the steering wheel. With daily practice I was able to coordinate them all in a couple of months. I passed the stringent UAE test in a manual white Toyota Corolla on the second attempt. For the next two decades or so I drove only automatic cars. Till my wife, in the summer of 2018, hatched a plot to travel across England! Growing up I’ve followed British authors painting the English countryside with colourful words. This left a permanent post in my bucket list under ‘Driving through the English countryside’. When the UK travel plan took shape, booking the car took most of our time. Renting an automatic car for 15 days was almost double the price of a manual. So we pondered on it and pitched the idea to a few friends who had lived in the UK and driven there extensively. They vehemently shot down driving a manual. The price difference weighed on our minds and seeped into our dreams. We doggedly settled on the manual transmission but decided to rent it outside London. The blind decision to drive manual Then it dawned on me: the blind decision to drive manual transmission in a foreign country without any practice amounted to sheer stupidity. A week before the trip I began researching for comments, ideas, and a crash course [very punny!] on driving a manual car [www.shifters.ca]. I found one and managed to fit in an hour’s session the day before my flight! If one were to divide the world into countries driving on the right and left sides, then Canada and the USA got it right! The UK, on the other hand, is a major upholder of what’s left in doing things the traditional way. Countries like India are a strong proponent of the Non-Aligned Movement and have adopted a general middle-of-the-road approach. When we got the car in Oxford, a Vauxhall Astra in steel grey, my wife had the good sense to go around and click pictures. A short spin in the neighbouring parking lot of a trucking company gave me the courage to conquer the English countryside. There is a sense of absolute power in driving a manual car. My left hand caressed the leather-bound shift and refused to leave it. I learned to drive with just my right hand. It took me some time to sub-consciously open the correct door to get in and drive! By the end of the day I thought the constant shifting of gears and flexing of elbows and knees would take its toll. But I was surprised at how well my body accepted the challenge. “To the left, to the left!” My wife and I were very vigilant to keep to the right [left!] side of the road and getting into the lane early enough at roundabouts. I kept repeating in my head, “Keep left”. Mywife kept repeating, “Keep your distance, watch the lanes, to the left, to the left”. After a long stretch of highway I forgot about the clutch, the engine turned off, and we jerked into the middle of a roundabout! Luckily there were no other cars bearing on us. Roundabouts in England come in different shapes and sizes, and few of them have stop lights. A stretched roundabout can bridge over highways and let loose six or more exits. Getting into the dedicated lane before entering a roundabout takes coordination between the navigator’s interpretation of Google maps and the driver’s skill to push into other lanes. We went round and about a couple of times doing complete loops at many roundabouts before exiting. We took the wrong exit a few times and came back fighting between ourselves and our egos. Soon I learned to don the mask of a Brit with a stiff upper lip. On the first day itself we drove down a narrow country road; ‘was it deliberate or an accident’ is still a matter of heated discussion. At a blind turning going downhill, we stole up in front of a massive farm tractor with a zillion attachments hogging the road. All of us stopped and were taken aback for a moment, even the cows in a nearby farm; in a situation where size mattered my car, and then my resolution, meekly gave up. I reversed the car up the hill into a lay-by; probably the highlight of my skill in learning-to-drive in the UK. Every once in a while there were dug-outs on both sides of a country road for letting oncoming vehicles pass. Both drivers acknowledge each other with a gesture. continued ... MUSINGS There is a sense of absolute power in driving a manual car. My left hand caressed the leather-bound shift and refused to leave it!
. . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r 29 m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m Everything in the UK was a bit squished, especially when one visits from Canada. Roads ran across the countryside with a narrow frame of mind, some more so with brooding rock walls hugging its sides. In some places there were cattle grids to prevent sheep from venturing into fresher pastures. Twice we coaxed sheep and cows out of our way! Two places in England really tested my levels of anxiety and driving skills. Haworth, or Bronte country, had really steep roads. I reversed at the mouth of one side road that fell down at a 40 degree angle. I had to get out to see the road drop! In Clayton, we went up a really steep narrow road praying that no other vehicle ventured opposite ours. Despite the minor challenges it was a pleasure to drive around the English countryside. The vast undulating expanse of Yorkshire dales and moors forced us to stop every once in a while. The beauty of Cotswolds and Lake District combined with the moody English weather left an undeniably strong urge for us to return! Next time I’ll be better prepared. The English country roads that drove me nuts!
6 4 7 . 9 8 9 . 2 1 9 6 30 t h e p o r t f o l i o o f a d i g i t a l a n d b r a n d c r e a t o r . . . I feel good today. Hopefully,mycontributionof $100 towards the research of a deadly disease will save someone’s life. That’s the best part. On the other side, research into my lottery buying habits has begun. If an electronic tracker got hold of my life record and played it back, she/he can trace the origins of my lottery buying habit to the impressionable age of 16. College years. The days when meagre pocket money rubbed against each other in tight jeans’ pockets. The day I got hooked was a Tuesday. The year: 1985. I was on my way to the bus station, in the pouring rain. At the entrance was this guy wearing a lungi* hollering at the top of his lungs. ‘Today’s Draw! Today’s Draw!’ He was wearing a faded brown shirt and rolled a lit beedi*** from one end of his nicotine stained mouth to the other. In his hand he had a clip board with 10 stacks of lotteries from different parts of India. I had not even heard of most of them. The elusive smile of Lady Luck ‘Take a ticket. Take a ticket. You never know when Lady Luck will smile on you. It maybe during your bus ride ; maybe when having a tea’. maybe when walking past me; Later on don’t tell me, ‘Adbul why didn’t you sell me that ticket?’ Abdul, I presumed, was looking directly at me. The pessimistic side of my mind took hold of the reins and steered me past him. I reached the bus slot I was supposed to take; it was empty. I turned around and almost bumped into Abdul. ‘Take one ticket.’ He thrust the colourful and wonderfully printed tickets into my face. The best ones were glossy and were arranged in between the less attractive ones. Within 5 mts, without much pressure from Abdul, I took my first lottery ticket. My first ‘prized’ carrot**. All through the one hour journey to my grandma’s I looked out of the bus and searched behind trees, houses, and clouds for that elusive smile – that of Dame Luck. A few old toothless women smiled back at me from various bus Lotteries. A worthy cause! stops. Countless lottery tickets later I stopped buying lottery tickets. Fast forward. Years later, after various ups and downs in my life and career, I dug up the roots of my old habit. This time, the venue was in the Middle East. The odds were attractive [one in a thousand], the stakes were high [$1 million], and the price of the ticket steep. The cause this time was selfish. If I won it would only go towards lining my pockets. Since the price was disgustingly steep, tickets were bought in groups of ten or less. From odds of ‘one in a billion!’ in India to odds of one in a thousand in Dubai seemed very fair. Countless tickets later, the habit died down again. A ticking clock with no alarm settings The behavioural pattern shifted continents and emerged on the other side of the Atlantic. We migrated to Canada. There is no dearth of lotteries and causes over here. My habit was, by now, a ticking clock with no alarm settings. I practised with the smaller lotteries like the Super 7 and Lotto 649, getting ready for the big one. So once a month on an average, I’d go, on my way from work, to the lotto store strategically positioned at the entrance of the subway. Many a time I had caught the woman behind the counter looking at me and thinking, ‘Will he, won’t he? Usually, I wait for the big prizes. Then, I’d meticulously punch six or seven numbers [according to the lottery] and give it to her, who’d tender my change, ticket and wish me all the luck in the world. And I’d walk away from her, light-hearted, down the subway escalator sighing. By the time I settled down in the seat, dreams of cars and houses would be lulling me to sleep. Then the big one came up. Research for this-and-that lotteries. Pricey at $100. But hey! Look at the prizes! An Early Bird prize! Three, not one, $1 million prizes, and countless cars and smaller prizes. Just calculate the odds – 1 in 15 chance of winning!! Who could pass this by? I did. For three years, in a row. All this time the carrots Fate planted on this side of the Atlantic were growing up. Sometime in December 2003, Fate announced the ripening of the first carrot. I bit hard. continued ... MUSINGS The day I got hooked on lotteries was a Tuesday. The year: 1985. I was on my way to the bus station, in the pouring rain. At the entrance was this guy wearing a lungi* hollering at the top of his lungs. ‘Today’s Draw!’ He was wearing a faded brown shirt and rolled a lit beedi*** from one end of his nicotine stained mouth to the other.
. . . c r e a t i v e s t o r y t e l l e r, a n d s t r a t e g i c t h i n k e r 31 m a d h a v @ k o c h u n n i . c o m | k o c h u n n i . c o m continued online [scan QR Code] ... I called up and bought my first $100 ticket telling my conscience that it was for a good cause. [By now I’ve learnt to weave my conscience around my little finger!] So the next thoughts were what approach should I take when they called to congratulate me on winning the Early bird prize?’ I decided that I’d appear nonchalant. ‘Thank you for your call. I will definitely think of contributing a portion of my winnings for more good causes.’ Furiously I penned down responses. They announced the first round of winners. The Early Bird flew past my 15th floor window northbound. Migrating to luckier pockets. There were still three one million prizes to be won. And cars to fill a multi-storey parking lot. So we plodded along, past the New Year which I spent in bed conserving energy for the day when we won the one million. I had, by now, specialised in being nonchalant. The date of the big draw arrived. We kept the phone free, the cell phone turned on throughout the night. We even had a lit candle by the bedside when we slept at night, so that we don’t have to grope for the phones. [The draw was said to take place at midnight.] Next morning there was a four page pullout with newspapers listing the winners. The first page did not have my name. Neither did the second, the third or the fourth ... 210,010 people bought the tickets. 210,009 people won something or the other. I told myself that I am the only true contributor towards charity. I felt really great! Among the news pages of the main section, I found something else. Lottery for another worthy cause. The odds here are 1 in 12. Even better! I am reducing the odds. See! * Lungi is a graphic piece of cloth worn below, or under, the belt till it covers the ankles ** I continued to bite into juicy carrots throughout my life. My eyesight is still as bad as ever! *** Beedi is a palm-rolled tobacco in tobacco leaf; an ethnic version of cigarettes but usually just a couple of inches long. My journey to become Canadian started 20 plus years ago. I was told Canadians are very nice people. The same person told me, in Canada there are people from all over the world. So, before I reached Canada, I decided to find out about the different forms of greeting people. At a young age, I was exposed to the Indian form of greeting, Namaste. As a person of Indian origin, this is how we greet and respect our elders. How did it come about? No one knows. ‘Respect your elders, or else’ was the general policy. But I believe this is how Namaste came about. We have swarms of mosquitoes in India and so one goes about killing them. At the same time we had to respect the elders. So when we see an elder person we go about clapping our hands in front of them and bowing down. Imagine, if the mosquitoes were not there, the population of India may now be double! Let’s shake hands on that Learning to shake hands was an interesting experience. The British introduced the handshake to Indians 400 years ago. This was how communication between the two groups of people started. There was a big crowd of Indians waiting at the docks to welcome the first English boat. A tall Englishman jumped out of the boat and headed straight to the head of the village. The village head was standing there killing mosquitoes. When the Englishman extended 99% Canadian! MUSINGS his hand, the village head jumped back and asked, “What are you doing, Sir?” He thought the Englishman was going to grab him below the belt. This was also the first form of miscommunication between the two countries. To gain ‘Canadian experience’ I had to shake many hands. The handshake I shudder to think about is the cold and clammy one. It’s like a sponge. You hold it, squeeze it and out comes the sweat. Then there is the floppy handshake. It flops into your hand and stays there. You can play with it, mould it like clay, and hand it back to its rightful owner. On my way to Canada, I worked in the Middle East for a few years. At one of the parties, I got to meet the local Arabs. Their form of greeting is a combination of a hug and a kiss. They grab you by the shoulder and scratch their cheek on yours making an audible sound, like a kiss. That evening my lips were sealed, but my cheeks were getting blisters. Towards the end of the evening, this man with a full beard grabbed me and proceeded with the greetings. Once. Twice. Thrice. I stopped. I thought the greeting was over, but he came back a fourth time. Thankfully our noses got in the way. I was this close to being kissed by a total stranger! When in Toronto, I realized one will never become a true Canadian if one doesn’t hug. I went on a hugging spree. When I mastered the hug, I thought I’ve become Canadian. 100% maple leaf; but no; I had to get my accent right.