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In a manner of writing

Ask Dinyar about minding Ps and Qs: after being sacked from any number of jobs, he has now begun taking etiquette classes

Dinyar Dastoor: `It all boils down to what buttons you're pushing in people. The right stimuli will get you better results.' — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

DINYAR DASTUR is a busy man these days. He's been flooded with calls from the most diverse places: a man in Gulbarga asking what to do with the bones on his plate at a buffet, the Karnataka Housewives Association requesting an etiquette workshop, and a young girl in Coorg wanting to be an image consultant. This is all a part and parcel of writer and voice-over artiste Dastur's newfound role — as etiquette consultant.

He was passing through Bangalore about two months ago, when he got what he calls his "big break" and the original two-day trip is now stretching past two months. Every Thursday he faithfully postpones his ticket to his home in Ahmedabad, and stays on just a while longer as his pile of work grows. "It's the old story," he says. "I was passing through Bangalore some years ago when I just fell in love with it. I make it a point to stop by whenever I'm in the South. It has the innocence that Bombay has lost... there's that inexplicable something in the air and an inescapable romance." Dinyar the poet? Perhaps later. Right now it's creative writing workshops and an etiquette manual that's keeping him busy.

Etiquette trainer

Dinyar's first etiquette assignment was teaching employees at international fashion label Tommy Hilfiger's Bangalore office how to mind their Ps and Qs. "I didn't know the first thing about etiquette," he confesses. "For me, it was synonymous with Please and Thank You. But then I scouted around some shops, sourced some material and then made a call saying `Let's do it'. An amazing package on etiquette emerged," he says, that was much bigger than even he thought it would be.

Etiquette is not just restricted to dealing with foreigners, says Dastur. It's also about domestic skills, professionalism amongst staff, introductions to conversations, office etiquette to travel etiquette, telephone to netiquette, body language and grooming, he says, adding, "It all boils down to what buttons you're pushing in people; right stimuli will get you better results."

It seems strange he should be training people in etiquette, considering his claim of being sacked from numerous jobs. "Respect is synonymous with grovelling, and maybe it's because I couldn't kiss up to my bosses," he justifies. After being a management trainee and working with air coolers and telecommunications (at different times, of course), he finally began questioning whether there wasn't any skill he had that he could sell, and as a result struck out bravely as a freelancer, with one brochure in his portfolio, he says.

Dastur has written several humorous articles for leading newspapers, and was short-listed by a senior journalist for an anthology of the best humorous journalism in India, he says, but unfortunately there were apparently not enough "funny" writers to fill the book. He now devises and conducts creative writing workshops for kids. It's assignments of this kind that keeps him in Bangalore.

"Unless you can pass on your knowledge, it's not worth it," he says, explaining that, "What you write comes out of what you know, so the aim is to increase a kids' body of knowledge through quotes from films and books" that educate and keep them engrossed. He hadn't realised how much he loved working with kids till he began taking workshops ("There's a hunger for workshops here," he says about Bangalore) and has found that a lot he learns at kids' workshops especially about keeping people engaged can be applied to the adults' etiquette workshops as well.

His voice has also featured in several documentaries including a government film on the Brahmos missile. "I lent my voice to spread death and destruction," he declares with a tinge of cruelty, but it doesn't seem to bother him since he's a self-confessed mercenary. "I don't make money," he says, "but I never starve and I'm a hardcore capitalist... a total mercenary. I don't believe in living on love and fresh air." Pause for though and then, "Well, not on fresh air, at least."

Footloose Dastur

It's fascinating being single, he says, describing the spontaneity of living week by week, just taking things as they come. It also means having "the freedom to walk out of any guy's office without worrying about what the boss is going to say."

It doesn't get lonely far away from Ahmedabad, which was home before the Bangalore bug bit hard.

Dastur thrives on comics, hotly defending their value — "think they're much maligned... more sinned against than sinning. I learnt much of my English through them." And then he's a total music buff, he says, besides playing the piano. But most of his time right now of course, goes in answering the critical question: "Where do you put your bones in a buffet?"

Want a creative writing workshop or to peek into that mammoth etiquette manual he's compiling? Just call Dinyar on 9880437016


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