Lessons from the Past 62: Seeking Attention
When I was in school, I remember my mother often asking my father, in the morning when he was immersed in the newspaper, ‘What is the front page news today?’ And he would patiently spend time telling her about what was happening in the world and in the country. This was all covered in the headlines on the front page. I sometimes think about what would be the front page news that he would relay today? 
 
Today, the front-page news is “OnePlus Nord 2T/5G” and the other, it was ‘Magic BOOK Pro- supercharged by M2.’ Yesterday, it was the Citroen car—the new edition just introduced in India—and so it goes! Finally, page 3 is where some of the news headlines appear. ‘Some’, because page 3 could be half a page. So, one would have to extend to pages 4 and 5, and perhaps, beyond!
 
Following this new trend for the 2000+, and seeing how effective it is, many politicians have vied for positions on page 1 of widely read newspapers. They have taken ‘solo’ positions to project themselves and talk about the significant work they have done in their states, or in the country, in their sphere of activity or responsibility. It does not matter if there have been floods, which have crushed two states in the country. That news can wait for page 3, or even 4!
 
Seeking attention now goes on to hoardings. In large cities like Mumbai, hoardings are an important channel of communication. The idea is to project the image of the person who has done so much for the benefit of the community, and therefore appeal to vote for him/ her again when election time comes around. More and more people want to see themselves on the hoarding at these critical viewing points.
 
So, they begin to crowd the hoarding with as many people (faces) as have the influence to get included. Sometimes, there may be as many as 10 – a few more or less. When you pass by in a vehicle, you barely have time to focus on more than two. All the others can have the consolation that they see themselves and that at least their friends and neighbours know that they are important enough to be included.
 
When you attend large meetings (not public meetings, but those in a large hall and by invitation only), being addressed by some very important person, there is room on the stage for only three or four people. There are many important people invited, but they are in the audience. Some of them feel lost. 
 
They are not used to being perceived as being part of a crowd in any meeting. So, they take the opportunity to be among the first to get up and ask questions, after the announcement, “Questions from the audience are now invited.”
 
It gives them a chance to loudly introduce themselves to the whole audience: “My name is X. I am Chairman of Y Company.  I thought your observations were very correct. In my own experience……”  
 
What was the question? None. 
 
It was the time-tested method of seeking attention and, to that extent, they will have succeeded. What was said was an extension of the main lecture. Sometimes—and worse—it may be a part repetition of the main talk!
 
At every such meeting, you will often find the same ‘star questioners’ from the audience. 
 
Seventy years ago, you would never (or seldom) hear of anyone being commemorated, while he was still alive, with a statue of himself or the naming of a hall or school or any other institution. But times have changed. Today, this is extensively done, with the celebrity himself going to the inaugural functions. 
 
Just imagine, Mahatma Gandhi rushing across the country garlanding statues of himself, when he was still alive! 
 
Again, a matter of seeking (or not seeking) attention!
 
I was once placed in a very difficult situation in Thailand perhaps 30 years ago, where I was conducting a training session for 25 participants, who were middle and senior managers. Just before the lunch break, one of the participants who was European, got up to say loudly to me and the whole class that all I had covered that morning was basic and was what he already knew. He had decided not to attend after lunch. It was a slap in the face, for me. 
 
Actually, he wanted to show that, among this group of Thais and a few Indians, he was the best informed, having done some programmes at the London Business School in years gone by. He wanted to seek attention but, in that process, he destroyed the enthusiasm of the whole group. They felt demoralised and so did I – although I tried to carry on regardless. (On refection later, I should have asked him to conduct the next session since he knew the subject so well.) 
 
It was a heavy price to pay for his compulsion to ‘seek attention’!
 
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are "Marketing in a Digital/Data World with Brian Almeida and "Customer Value Starvation can kill" with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India)
Comments
jvyakhmi
3 months ago
The author has put the focus on methods adopted by attention seekers in this age of fast communications. The incidence of a young participant going overboard in his reaction expressing his dissatisfaction at not learning anything new during the training session by the author, was definitely an attention seeking but ill-mannered attempt.

The ‘star questioners’ exist in any audience, seeking attention of the speaker by starting with ‘Sir, as you rightly said…’, earning sympathy even if their comment/question is meaningless.

A prime example of attention-seekers are Bollywood actors/actresses, who get stories published in newspapers about some inane happenings to them, accompanied with their photograph projecting their youthful charm or physical fitness.

We see frequent full-page ads by state governments listing their achievements and goals, not only in local but even in newspapers published a thousand kms away.

Announcing to the world the birthday of a prominent social worker is done quite often on hoardings hung at vantage points. Waiting at a traffic signal, recently, I counted at least 50 pictures of the local social workers on a single large hoarding put up by a political outlift. Only 4-5 pictures among them were large enough, the rest were small like postage-stamps arranged in rows.

I grew in a place surrounded by cotton ginning mills. Every week or so, sirens will sound and fire engines were on the run to extinguish fires on cotton dumps. The fires were real, or part of a nefarious attempt to claim insurance money, I could never find.

Honking by vehicle drivers whenever the traffic ahead of them stops, or during the duration of a red signal, is no way of seeking attention. It only raises the unhealthy decibels. The same is true of drivers of ambulance vans, with whom the rest of the traffic co-operates to give way, but who keep ringing sirens continuously even when a choc-a-block traffic can be seen ahead of them.
jvyakhmi
3 months ago
Among the sounds welcome to seek our attention are: (i) the shrill sharp horn of a through train, not stopping at a small railway station, sounded incessantly as it passed through at high speed, to avoid accidents; (ii) A flour mill two kms away in countryside, making a Tuk-Tuk sound indicating it is running; (iii) Dinner gong in old mansions, housing guests; and (iv) the soft sound of a milkman opening the large round cover of his milk drum, two of which were mounted on the rear seat of his bicycle. This soft noise alerts housewives to rush with their vessels to get fresh milk.

In Mumbai, if one hears a soft ‘pom-pom’ sound of a brass horn with rubber hand pump, it is an Idli-seller on a bicycle, who also sells tea in labour areas or slums. A pomfret fish seller wants to sell quickly to avoid decay of the exotic variety, and so yells, ‘Paaplate!’ signaling his arrival in the street.

A few vendors use their signature calls for an inspired sales-pitch, such as: a blackberries (jamun) seller singing ‘Jamu kaale nee ra’, while pushing his handcart; a dahi-vada seller shouting ‘Bhalle, Bhalle!’ from his handcart parked under a shaded tree in the month of June; or, the vendors who rushed into the Novelty cinema hall of my home-town as soon as the Interval was announced shouting ‘Reod, mungphalli, papad-e’ with baskets holding large papads, and packets of groundnuts and revadis.

Bottle-openers are made to create noise over glass bottles to attract attention of viewers who come out during the Interval of a movie in cinema theatres, or even opposite school-gates during recess.

A newspaper vendor selling Evening News of India near Flora Fountain in Mumbai during late 1980s made a unique soft hiss behind you, whispering ‘Ek-dum mara gaya’, creating enough sensation to trigger you to buy his newspaper.

BEST bus service in Mumbai uses no electric or electronic horns. Their drivers use a soft ‘bhompoo’ instead, when needed. A conductor in a BEST bus just makes a sound of ‘tick-tick’ with his ticket-punch to alert a passenger to buy a ticket, if not done till then..

At times, an event can be signaled without making a sound. Food trolley girls in a Japanese shinkansen train turn back towards the passengers to signal their exit before moving to the next bogie,

Quite the opposite of attention-seeking is the use of tall concrete poles with colorful paintings of birds on top of each of them, set up along the road stretching between Santa Cruz airport and Bandra during mid-1970s, to distract attention of the arriving tourists from any depressing views of slums on the way.

- Prof. Dr. J.V. Yakhmi
kantharajd34
Replied to jvyakhmi comment 1 month ago
Interesting attension seeking reply
Free Helpline
Legal Credit
Feedback