Comment Essay

Dropping Names in Columns

Recently, someone called Krishna commented on my piece about BPAC in an insightful way.  Comment below

(“…Liked your ego bashing undertone. At the same time citations like “I was here because Ms.X, Rock Star invited me” and “my husband was here because Mr.Y, Super Star invited him” rankled… :-(“)

My response to the comment below within parenthesis

(“I thought about that, Krishna. The thing is that Nisha Millet is a normal Bangalorean; and so is Stanley Pinto. The Mohandas Pai was name-dropping, I guess. But the thing is that– wierdly– people only remember this sort of thing. Why is that?”)

To write about celebrities inviting you to a place and then talk about not being egotistical is disingenuous.  I get that.  But after years of getting comments, I remain fascinated that people comment on these “trivial” personal details.  I would have written this long article about something; and they will remember the wierd, irrelevant personal stuff I say.

Why is that?


  1. It would be interesting to see (read) you follow up on this group’s activities, say, a year from now. Cant help but think of BATF, though the BPAC FAQ section on the website smartly precludes this query / connection and differentiates itself – wait and watch and follow you perhaps!

    On people remembering the weird personal stuff, it is a double edged sword – it is a strength in your writing where you bring in an emotional connect. At the same time, it carries the risk of being out of place, pompous, ….


  2. The name dropping is not the real problem. Half the article was a guest list (sort of funny when it isn’t really one’s own list) and the other half seemed to be a “gossip” of others and the behavioral aspects of other similar organizations.

    BPAC first needs a clear idea and goals. The behavioral stuff alone won’t do squat. I guess it is like food presentation. If the food is bad then the presentation simply won’t save it. But if the food is really good, then poor presentation won’t destroy it.

    Hardy once wrote that exposition and criticism is work for second rate minds – second rate in the sense of a food writer who can’t cook or a music critic who can’t play music. And when this tone deaf music critic writes, with obsequious eloquence, about the attire and accoutrements of the A list guests at a music festival, he achieves the pinnacle of his craft. For the dissonance of his article is truly deafening.


    1. Feluda: your oblique critique is (like most criticism) hard to swallow, but point well taken. Nicely done!! Kudos. I am smiling as I write this. Maybe I should quote Hardy and Churchill when I yell at my kids. I thought the guest list was the side show to the actual point which is ego-lessness; and how to start a movement. Anyways….different readers get “different things, surely” from one piece of writing.


      1. Shoba, I did not presume “yelling at kids” when I quoted Hardy. If your kids can understand Hardy, btw, then you probably don’t need to yell at them; an explanation will surely do.

        Point was that your article starts off as “need a mascot, power broker [etc] to start a movement” and the rattling of a guest list “ace swimmer A, rock star B” smacks of “bling” not “doing things”. I am sure NRN would agree.

        I actually re-read the article before writing this, and I still can’t find what BPAC is about or what it aimed to achieve in the next year (there are some very slight references to voter registration and waste/water treatment maybe). You’ve quoted the speakers’ vernacular salutations and switch/es to English, then more names, then … I found myself asking “where are you taking me”?

        Consider this. “Last night I went to the Mozart recital. Al Franken was there, so was Bob Dole who was wearing a blue necktie, and of course Charlize Theron and David Blaine, who invited me. Elaine Benes was visiting from the West Side, what a treat. The musicians started off in G-minor but eventually switched to D-major. It reminded me of what Denise Richards said in TWINE, ‘it’s major man’. Musical concerts need three things to be successful – money, successful patrons to attend, and effective fundraising to support more concerts and tours.”

        I suspect your piece subconsciously self-affirms if moving to India was the right choice? But by your own definition, remember that simply naming people in 20 of 50 states does not make you an American. It is not, one of your words, “visceral”.

        So, can you give us the real details behind BPAC so we can repast, not merely riposte?


  3. …It’s a bane of authors, Shoba.. When you write a book like R2I, people get images of a person that has an intense association with the cultural constructs ( remember the elaborate references to those Carnatic music concerts, silk sarees and Jasmine flowers amongst your magnets..! ) of your mother-city besides patriotism to the Motherland. Such a person’s involvement with the initiatives to improve her city would be seen as a direct extension of her concern rich, intellectual persona, in a voluntary, self-effacing sense. That answers why people remember such (not so) trivialities because they graft an identify with the author of the book and don’t bother so much about the penumbral person in the shade that didn’t quite make it into the book. Hope we are one – or am I missing something yet…?


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