07 February 2012

Here’s some loooooooong copy Krishna

In April 2004, having quit my job at the Sunday Island, I began working as a part time copywriter at Phoenix Advertising.  That’s how I met Krishna Iyer. 

Krishna, a Creative Director, was from India, knowing that I used to work in newspapers, gave me an assignment one day.  He said ‘You like to write so here’s something you can do.  I want you to write long copy’.  I didn’t know what ‘long copy’ was, at least not in advertising terms.  It was for Singer sewing machines.  I remember writing ‘long copy’ and Krishna telling me ‘what is this?’ in a half-annoyed tone.  My copy was flowery and contained very little information.  Krishna taught me how to write long copy. 
Krishna left Phoenix a few months later and returned a few months ago as the Executive Creative Director.  He explained, ‘I love Phoenix man, so when boss called me I jumped at the opportunity’.  ‘Why did you leave?’ I asked and he said ‘IDD calls were too expensive man!’ 
Then I remembered.  Krishna got married not long before he left Phoenix.  I distinctly remember him designing the wedding invitation card.  It was a simple and elegant.  Two names:  Krishna and Radha. The reference was of course to the God and his consort.  The twist was what made it memorable.  ‘Radha’ was crossed off and above it was inscribed the name of ‘The Beloved’, Gayathri. 
Krishna gave me a lift a few months ago. That was when I told him that I got a regular job, i.e. as Editor of ‘The Nation’.  ‘Lovely man!  Let me know if you need any help with photography; I studied photography in London’.  I told him that I would be reserving an entire page for photography and invited him to contribute a photo essay. He was thrilled. I also told him that I planned to redesign the paper. ‘Please…please let me do it.  It’s a dream.  I studied design and always wanted to design a newspaper.’  And here we are today with a redesigned newspaper (along with a photo essay by Krishna)!

Krishna worked long hours with typefaces and spaces, colours and colour combinations, shapes and lines, without once neglecting his work at Phoenix.  It was not difficult to understand the strain, but what amazed me throughout the process was the dedication of the man, the meticulous attention to detail and the passion that drove him to ‘get it right’.  Trying to get it perfect even as we did our best to meet deadlines was tough and at times frustrating.  It was all new in many ways.  Krishna not only broke the design mould but broke the moulds of familiarity, custom and comfort.  We are still learning. ‘Teething’, if you will.  We are not exactly bawling, but there were certainly many wtf moments for some of us.  And for Krishna too, I am sure, although he’s patient and understanding and does a decent job of hiding his frustrations. 

Anyway, it is all out now; a work in progress, perhaps, but certainly showing both ‘work’ and ‘progress’.  And at this moment when we are almost ‘all done’, I remembered something from a long time ago. 
I would come early to Phoenix, often before anyone else.  Krishna walked in, went to his desk and sat down.  Then he brought his hands together and worshipped the computer.  I doubt he considered an Apple machine to be some kind of deity, but the act was no different to a farmer showing veneration to his implements, especially the mammoty.  There is humility in the act. There is acknowledgment of dependency.  I believe it comes from a decision to interact with the world in its biotic and abiotic entirety in a particular way and moreover helps shape the ways in which one communicates with one’s fellow creatures. 

There’s a thing called work ethic and then there is passion. Together they are potent.  Add humility and skill and we get something special.  Today, that ‘something special’ is actually a ‘special someone’.  Krishna Iyer.   Deserving better ‘long copy’ than this certainly but a victim of his own guidelines regarding length.   On the other hand, maybe if I made this longer, it would take away value.  Maybe it is ‘just right’ and if that is the case, then Krishna himself is the man who should be thanked. 
Got to stop now. Reaching word limit.  Thank you man.
[Published in 'The Nation', February 4, 2012] 



Lara de Silva said...

Thanks Malinda. As always it's inspiring to read your words.. and be able to go back to the Home page and take something along with me at the same time.. more power to you and do keep writing..