Contemplation

Television commercials and The common man

Is there a way to sense the pulse of a village, town, city or a country that you are visiting? Where do you go to comprehend the locals, their mind-set and their varied interests? What does a normal household look like in this village, town, city or a country? These are some of the questions that often cross my mind when I travel.

For me visiting a new place not only means sightseeing and ticking a few must do things off my list (yes, that is one of the plans!) but travelling gives you a lot more to look forward to. You have a chance to experience a different way of life!

Visiting a new destination also poses a few challenges like –

  1. Navigating unknown neighbourhoods, which sometimes can be unnerving. I had one such experience when I had booked a room at a hotel in Ambilly, France (it was the most economical that I could find near Geneva). As my main aim was visiting Geneva, I went there only around evening just before sundown. To put it nicely, I was happy that it was just a one night stay!
  2. Battling the local transport woes. On a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal with my sister and a friend we had the ride of our lives while taking in the sights via local transport. More on that in a future post.
  3. Language! Again I come back to France. But I will be honest, it wasn’t as scary an experience as I had imagined. Thanks mainly to my friend Julie, who is French!
  4. Food! It was never such a big issue for me so far in my travels as I pride myself in surviving even on biscuits. But on our trip to Nepal, this friend of mine who is vegetarian had major issues.
  5. Understanding the local customs. You either behave like you are trying to blend in or just stand out as a tourist. Either ways, having an understanding of the local traditions and customs helps. Like while visiting the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, my friend decided to stay out as the temple only allows Hindu’s.

From my personal experience I have come to believe that an understanding of the local culture and its people’s sensitivities make your travels a tad more smooth. But the point here is how do you know these local customs and intricacies of everyday life? I found this answer in a quote I came across in one of my travels. I do not remember the words, but it credited the local television channels of making the travellers aware of this.

I was intrigued by this thought. Can watching local television during your travels really increase your understanding of the locals? I put this idea to test when I travelled to Nepal in 2012. One evening when we had just returned from an early dinner, we browsed local channels. Obviously language was a barrier, but watching news, songs and most importantly commercials was not only entertaining but gave some insights too. Lot of questions were answered about how the local population dressed, how they spent their free time, where they ate, what products were popular, what did the non-touristy spots in Nepal look like! It wasn’t a complete A-Z guide, but knowing a few of these points was helpful in a better know-how of the region and its population.

So it just crossed my mind why not put this to test in India! How do the commercials shown on Indian television portray the local sensitivities to visiting foreigners? Do they give insights into the daily life of the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man)? A few that in my opinion did this are listed below (in no particular order) – 

1. Good things are happening

The Changing mindset – TANISHQ

2. We can be cheeky! Especially with those that rub us the wrong way.

The guide and his guidance – COCA COLA

3. Yes, our men care! And no, this doesn’t mean our women are weak.

Men will be men – ICICI PRUDENTIAL

4. Making the most of what we have.

Stuck in traffic – CADBURY DAIRY MILK SILK

5. Not a blanket rule, but many have specific days.

As Indian as it gets – McDONALDS

6. Of the people, for the people, by the people…. hmmmm!

Proper Parliamentary behavior – THE HINDU

7. We can even sell an air-conditioner to an Eskimo.

The Indian salesman – TATA SKY

8. Our reality

Manhole – CEAT TYRES

9. We still have families that eat together and live together!

The joint family – FEVICOL

10. Our ugly truth.

How can this be ignored? – AAJ TAK

11. Making hay while the sun shines…. and taking shelter when it rains.

Made for every season – CENTURY PLY

12. Yes, love happens in arranged marriages too.

Arranged marriages – CARATLANE.COM

What do you think? – Agree or disagree? Have any other examples to share. Please comment below.

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Calm in the Chaos

Its Friday evening…teen-agers huddled together on a broad side walk facing the Arabian Sea, talk in whispers. Under the fading light and the sound of sea waves crashing against the wall, I try to sneak around and eavesdrop. Suddenly I hear a loud cheer, and the group breaks into a familiar song – Happy Birthday to you…!  A scene encountered on many of my strolls along the Marine Drive.

I’ve lived a life of a nomad for the last 12 years and have had a few opportunities to ‘settle-in’ in a few places. Mumbai is one which I called home, albeit for a few years. One place I and probably most Mumbaikars love is the Marine Drive, ‘The Queen’s Necklace’. Stretching from Nariman point, it is a 4.5Km ‘C- shaped’ boulevard in South Mumbai. Right from the moment the sun rises from behind the high rise buildings lining the boulevard till it disappears into the Arabian Sea; Marine Drive exemplifies this city.

The Queen’s Necklace is a place where the space-crunched city breathes some fresh air. People from all walks of life come here to find solitude. Young couples steal kisses, joggers get their daily health fix and kids play around while their parents enjoy the sea breeze. There are many vendors selling tea, coffee, warm salted peanuts, packaged water and so on. These are the things that add to our experience on the shore – good or bad is subjective!

Mumbai

Mumbai

Over the years I have bonded with this city both as a tourist and a local. My early visits were pure touristy. These were my student days, when going to a big city made teenagers have stars in their eyes. I was no different. Having seen the city and especially Marine Drive umpteen times in Hindi movies, I was mesmerized when I actually set my foot on it.

On my subsequent visits as I became more familiar with other parts of the city, my fondness for this metropolis grew beyond bounds.  And no sooner had I returned from my study and work stint of four years in England, I took up work in Mumbai in 2011. Life in the city was exciting and the crowd energetic. But I realized that this was not what fascinated me. It was my independence and solitude that I loved!

Among the places I sought for my ‘me time’ was Marine Drive. On some weekends when I got up early, I managed a walk on the boulevard, a cuppa hot ginger tea and newspaper. On a few weekdays, after office hours, it was a place to catch up on some office gossip, contemplate and watch the setting sun while gulping down scoops of ice-cream. Coconut, pineapple and chocolate were all time hit flavours.

With changing times, a lot of the city has transformed into unrecognizable forms. And over all these years the Queen’s Necklace has been a part of this city’s shifting dynamics. The sidewalk has been extended to accommodate a growing number of admirers, a huge sea wall built to secure the shore, comfortable sea facing benches and some flora thrown in to add to the beautification process. Like the city and its citizens, it has also seen a natural calamity, terrorist attack and communal riots. It however still remains a refuge for its citizens where they often find calm in this chaos!