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Putting advertising in perspective for my kids! Battle is on- Aug 13, 2012

Aadyaa does not know what a cigarette is and am I glad about that! Stupid me brought cigarette smoking up in a conversation and met a blank stare! This is how it happened.
Lately, I’ve been getting plagued by her requests for products she sees in advertisements. She asked me for some Barbie accessories at a mall the other day. She was rather insistent but I wiggled out of it by saying we can make much nicer clothes for her dolls from scrap cloth we have at home. Which is true, but what sold the concept to get was that those clothes would be different, exclusive! Today she wanted something else. I couldn’t even understand what it was, probably something sweet and refined 🙂
So I had to say something to stem this tide. I have experience in conditioning the minds of children with respect to advertising about which I have very strong views! Udai had once wanted to have Complan and not Bournvita with his milk. Maybe it was the other way around, how does it matter? So I sat him down and told him advertising (mostly) was paid for by profit making companies to influence our minds so that we buy their product not their competitors. I also went on to say that brands targeted children as agents to influence buying decisions of adults who are parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles of impressionable and demanding kids! Also that claims made in ads may or may not be true. He bought the arguments entirely, to the extent that he started drinking his milk without either of those additives! And still does! This set of conversations also taught him not to accept everything at face value and not get carried away by gloss and glamour, to evaluate information and think it through.
Today I told Aadyaa all of that. And then I tried to give cigarettes as an example. That it is bad for health but advertisements can influence people to smoke! And there’s where I hit a dead end. I was thinking about my childhood. Things have changed now. Cigarette smoking is no longer the iconic cool thing it was, at least I hope so. Not only is there no advertising permitted for cigarettes and alcohol, smoking is banned from public places. So Aadyaa simply doesn’t know what a cigarette is! Blissfully oblivious. I don’t know what that means for her adult life and I am hoping it is a positive thing. But I need to find another example to revisit the advertising discussion. She is a tougher nut to crack, but I am getting there slowly! I have cracked through the obsession with girlie pink (also a sad stereotype created by branding and ads) and got her to appreciate the rest of the colour palette. I will convince her to see ads in a balanced way as well. The battle is on!


Satyamev Jayate: Can so much reality shake Indians out of their stupor? May 6, 2012

I missed the first episode of Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate this morning, but when I saw it trending on twitter and the sort of overwhelming response twitterati was coming up with, I had to watch! I am not a TV watcher at all, so its a big deal for me to stay up just to watch a TV show! Now, this better be good…

Just finished watching. It was good. All the right elements- well-researched, a tear jerker, Aamir’s humble attitude….Yes of course, as the twitter folks said, it is commendable that he’s putting his star power behind issues that matter, using his fame to change attitudes and influence personal decisions. I can actually imagine, in today’s Bollywood obsessed India, some guy (or woman, shocking but true and not an aspect Aamir dwelt upon!) actually refraining from female foeticide because Aamir Khan said it is a despicable thing to do.

But the most important thing Aamir said today, the one thing that struck me, is that we really need to believe that we are the change. The onus of India’s problems is on us, on each of us, and it is we who have the responsibility and the power to make the change.

What’s bringing India down is not the dysfunctional government or the corrupt babu; the real problem is us, for taking things lying down, for always passing the buck, for never taking initiative, for being passive citizens. We need to change that within ourselves, we need to reassert our right to live in a fair and just society, where everyone has equal opportunity; to live in well-governed cities and villages, breathe clean air, afford the basic necessities, live with dignity.

For any of us who have stepped outside India and visited developed nations, it’s not the glitz that dazzles us any more. We have plenty of our own in India now. It’s the fact that every citizen, however poor, can rightfully expect to live a dignified life. When we return, we are shocked to register that back at home, we have learnt to live without the basics. It makes my blood boil to live in an address where property prices per square foot are through the roof, but the road outside has no street lights. But we say nothing! People would rather lose their dignity and leave town than report a rape to the police for fear the victim, their daughter or wife or daughter in law, would never be able to live a life of dignity again! And we say nothing?  This list can go on. We need to find a way to make ourselves heard and change will come!

That would be Aamir’s true contribution. If Satyamev Jayate can be a conduit to capture the voices of India’s people, not just as statistics, but as footage, as letters, as outpourings of thousands of people who want to see the change, be the change, it would have done its job! Hopefully, the ‘last mile connectivity’ that the program offers in the form of support to NGOs that work for the causes he takes up, will also make its impact. Bravo Aamir, for subtly showing Indians that we’re sleeping while the nation falls apart, and then showing us how we can save it! Done like a true showman by changing the rules of showbiz once again!

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