Sunday, April 29, 2007

Eye Candy

She stared lasciviously at the sexy man talking to her husband. Sharp features, slight stubble, short hair, ready laugh, confidence oozing from every pore. She drank him in with her orange juice. Dreaming about him would be easy. That face and the well-toned body were easy to memorise, to imprint on her mind, on her body. She felt hot, trapped in her clothing. The air-conditioning was no use as the heat and the view warmed her senses. He smiled, reaching out a sinewy forearm for his coffee. He leaned back in his chair, sipping his coffee and smiling indulgently at her husband. Sighing, resigned, she watched the man she was married to—a study in contrast—talking and eating noisily, ketchup adorning the extremities of his mouth. If he knew she was staring, leching, at another man there would be hell to pay. Defiant, unafraid, she stared on. Her burkha had its uses…

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Peddler of Wares

Naked, I cannot cringe under the glare of the powerful lights trained on me. The men who will dress me up for my next look crowd around me, busy with the materials of their trade. The busy highway whizzes past me, cars light me up with their curious headlights as they go home without so much as a second glance. I bear it all. Unmoved, immovable, immobile, wooden.

For I am used to this. To this blatant peddling of wares. To selling what I wear the best way I know. By wearing it and daring others to dream. Men will look at me and go on home to their lamp-lit, cosy homes and snuggle close to their wives for warmth as I stand in the rain. Women will glance at me from the comfort of the air-conditioned cars they drive as I continue to exist in the harsh sun. Children will gaze at me vacantly as they go by, their eyes sweeping from one sight to the next without anything to hold their attention on this busy link road between cities.

And I, dwarfed by the under-construction skyscrapers all around me, in this city that is hurrying to be something new, something else, something modern, will be left behind, standing there, stripped for the world to see---if it has the time---what I really am: just a frame on which new posters will be stretched and fitted every few weeks, selling houses, cars, food. And no one will see me underneath it all as I watch the world pass me by.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

For Commercial Use

I recently visited the toilet while at a huge mall in Dubai, spotless clean with two women mopping the shining floors furiously. As I shut the door behind me and started to hang my bag up, I noticed a poster covering half the door, just below the bag hook. It was an ad for Lifebuoy handwash that said "Look closely: There are 189 kinds of invisible germs in this toilet." Eeks! The shiny cubicle took on a menacing look and I hurried through my business and raced out to wash my hands. I don't think it was Lifebuoy in those soap dispensers though! Talk about foolish, mindless placement of ads. Yes, Lifebuoy was paying them pots of dirhams, but did they really want to put that ad in their painstakingly clean loo?

On Indian TV, I enjoy watching advertisements almost as much and sometimes more than the TV programmes they sponsor. I find them to be much more in tune with local realities than soap operas that show over-lipsticked, over-sindoored, "pativrata" women plotting nasty schemes in their chiffon finery.

I see ads as yet another form of entertainment. Rarely has an ad moved me to go for the particular product (unless it involves images of chocolate). Instead, they can amuse and surprise. I've seen some fabulous ads that left me smiling for the rest of the day. And I'm sharing some ads that I tracked down online so that you can enjoy them too.

One series of ads we have all grown up with in India are the utterly butterly ads for Amul. I remember picking which 500g pack to buy depending on the cartoon I liked best.

Topical, amusing, and often using clever puns to comment on what was going on, they were eagerly looked forward to. See the one below, during the Emergency when Sanjay Gandhi went on a compulsory sterilisation drive.

Or this one, when INSAT 1 had problems with its flaps on launching.

I was dazzled (pun intended) by the Happydent ad. On the same note, the Orbit White ad, with the famous cow and Dr Bhatwadekar is perfect! See the storyboard here, the English version here and the Hindi version (sadly, not half as amusing) here.

Check out these stickers Wrigleys placed under Starbucks cups. I am not sure though what they want to say!

Or the ones put up by a Paris stripclub all across the city.

Or even this one seen in Germany during the Football World Cup: an ad for Adidas. The caption where I got this image from said "If you're currently in Germany, you may be driving under the world's biggest set of balls."

We've all had flyers for home delivery from various restaurants tucked into our door handles or mailboxes. But this pizza company went one step ahead.

For more images like the 4 above, go here.

The Madhya Pradesh tourism ad, Hindustan ka dil dekho is another one that has me tapping my feet and mouthing the words. (Special mention of the visual "aankhen phaar phaar dekho"!)

And then what about that Mentos dimaag ki batti jala de ad: See the storyboard (can't link the video for some reason). Obviously whoever thought these up had a 100 watt bulb in their brain!

Of course, some ads can (and maybe should) shock the viewer into behaviour change. For instance the famous one on passive smoke, which coolly spoofed Marlboro. I thought this was very very clever.

And, to end on a high note, check these out. They were forwarded to me lately, and I laughed my head off at the first two. The others are funny too...worth a look!

PS: Please let me have your links to good ads and I I'll put them up as a follow-up to this post!

My First 55

He handed her the vial. The translucent, prismatic poison glinted against the light. “Works in 15 minutes”, he assured, and went to wash up before lunch. This man she’d silently loved all her life. She watched him stride back, handsome, unattainable, cruel to a loving heart. His drink sat there, waiting for his unsuspecting lips.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


He was on his way back from work, having left the snazzy, new-age, all-glass office in the heart of the city's financial centre. Sitting next to the driver in the battered, used, overused, abused taxi, the young consultant let his gaze wander to the horizon, trying to overlook the rows and rows of cars clogging the well-maintained road that sped through the Middle-Eastern city, lined with pink and white creeper flowers all along the way. A distance of 3 kilometres and it could take him another half an hour or even an hour to cover it.

Curious eyes watched him from the back seat. At least 4 pairs. He hadn't looked back long enough to check. There were women in burkhas, an old man, and a little child, who lisped and asked for water every few minutes. There was none in the car, and the consultant, used to solving people's problems, wondered what could be done about it in the middle of a traffic jam. The father of the child, sitting at the wheel, growled in Malayalam to the boy to sit quiet, or the police would take him away. At least, catching the word 'police' in the torrent of Malayalam that left the driver's lips, that's what the consultant figured. The child shrank back till thirst conquered fear for another attempt.

For no fault of anyone's, the overfull car with old upholstery and insufficient airconditioning smelt to high heaven. The driver had turned the AC on as a kind gesture. If only he hadn't...rolling down the windows would be infinitely better, thought the consultant, as he held his phone to his nostrils in a futile attempt to subtly block the fragrances of all the passengers in that long, sweaty, desert day who had ridden that car.

The taxi driver who picked him up each evening at a fixed time for a fixed rate had brought his whole family that day. Were they planning a picnic after dropping him off? Or had they come along for a ride, for lack of anything better to do? They seemed absorbed in watching him. The young passenger wondered what he would do if his boss pulled up next to this tiny Nissan in his silver Jag right at that moment. Slink down in his seat? Or roll down the window with bravado and cheerfully introduce his adoptive family to the Brit?

This was still better than the morning, when the young 'Paakstani' driving him to work had started showing off his new handmade shoes from his 'vatan' just as they pulled up at the porch. The consultant had jumped hastily out of the car, paying exact change to avoid waiting, before others coming in to work saw him being threatened with a pair of rough leather handmade shoes brandished in his face.

Of course, any of this was better than the agency telling you, in this city of too-much-traffic-too-few-taxis-too-many-people, that inshallah the cab would be there on time, if at all. Or the cab driver calling to say he was 'here boss', at 4.30 am instead of 7, as he sat bolt upright in a too-springy hotel bed, hair on end, wondering why it was dark out at 7.

As he sat and thought about all this, he was disturbed by a crackling sound of static as the driver, bored in the car, started fidgeting with the radio controls. No please please please, he thought, cringing mentally at the thought of Malayalam music flooding this overcrowded tin box.

Suddenly, 'jhalak dikhlaa ja...ek bar aja aja aja aja aaaaja' pounced out of the radio and attacked the smelly space. The back seat yielded first, focusing on the music rather than this fellow Indian who'd sat uncomfortably in the front seat as his collar bristled under the scrutiny. The driver tapped the steering wheel in time to the music. And the young consultant found his feet tapping too. All of them could close their eyes and imagine they were transported to a street in Bombay, in Kolkata, in Cochin, in Kozhikode....The whole car grew happier, and the traffic started creeping forward as a distant light turned green.