Nadeem F. Paracha: The fantastical world of advertising

Jan 21st, 2011 | By | Category: Blogs

What would life be like if it resembled any of the numerous TV commercials that are forced down our already choked throats?

For starters, all the women in the family would remain (dressed to the nines, of course) in a kitchen, preparing all kinds of food with a favourite cooking oil which they see as the real source behind their husbands’ and in-laws’ approval and love.

Oil. YUM!Each time the in-laws crack open their wide, greedy smiles after tasting the food, and the hubby shows more interest in her cooking skills than in any other of her equally good talents, she will point to the cooking oil ka dabba and pat it proudly – as if it contained some kind of a magic potion that helps keep her family eating and smiling, eating and smiling, eating and smiling all day long …

Her entire life would comprise of a vicious circle where all she does is get decked up, go into the kitchen and prepare food, with the cooking oil right there besides her of course. When in reality the damn oil ka dabba should have been swung unabashedly at the heads of the grinning in-laws and the stupid hubby!

By the way, if the lady also has kids (wonder when or how that happened with the amount of cooking), then most probably she will also be (literally) singing praises for a milk brand that she sees as giving her children brilliant, encyclopaedic intelligence and all sorts of powers which may include x-ray vision, gravity defying flight, and the ability to climb and jump over tall buildings like Spiderman.

But no matter what, the lady of the house remains glued to the kitchen while the in-laws remain stuck to the dining table, asking for more and more with not even a rudimentary burp distracting their enormous appetites.

In this fantastical world there are also women who are forever seen hovering around washing machines, constantly doing mad experiments with two different types of washing powders.

At times they almost push their kids to the brink of hysteria just so the poor kids can play in a puddle of filthy mud and get their clothes dirty, enough for the ladies to effectively conduct experiments with the detergents to see which one cleans the best.

It seems that from all the mad washing powder experiments, a Frankenstein-like dhobi smelling of assorted detergents will appear and take care of their washing needs! Ah, the wonders of corporate science.

Alas, as we move beyond the women stuck forever in the kitchen or the mad women playing with washing powder brands, we are introduced to the women (again, all decked up, of course) doing a crisscross between the Macarena and assorted filmi twists in front of deep freezers and refrigerators.

As if disillusioned by human beings, they have decided to fall head-over-heels over chunks of smooth metal and plastic, and sing cheesy odes to them just because they either make great cubes of ice or can safely store a month’s supply of bukra eid gosht! Remember the in-laws, mate? Always hungry.

As we leave the (demented) ladies of this fantastical world to their appliances, we come across the men of this world. The sort who actually love cars, bikes and mobile phone more than their mothers and wives!

It also seems they are capable of selling their grandparents to get their hands on the most recent mobile phone model just so they can listen to the latest R&B ditty as a ring-tone. It is kind of fascinating watching all these macho metrosexuals swinging to music.

Their girlfriends/fiancées are wasting their time with these guys unless of course, they are smart enough to get their men’s instant attention by:

(a) Applying tons and tons of magical fairness creams on their faces (because otherwise, they are destined to die as rotting, dark spinsters) or,
(b) They are always ready to break into a Bollywood style group dance with the guy at the drop of a hat!

Obviously, these men are never expected to bring home some hard-earned money to put food on the table, but hey, who cares about real world stuff when you can move like Hrithik Roshan tripping on nitrous oxide!

But there are some “sober” men in this fantastic world as well. The really hung-up ones who are always in designer suits, always “on the go,” either making animated presentations in boardrooms or flying first class, and to whom a wife is nothing more than a husky voice on an expensive mobile phone. He also sees more children as cabbies on a golf course than he sees his own kids at home.

My question again, exactly when do these men and women get the time or chance to have kids? But then in this fantastical world, children it seems, are actually custom-made in some Chinese factory in the Xinjiang province.

Anyway, one must remember, that these men must also be seen on a golf course even if they do not know how to play the game. All they have to do is just stand on the course, swinging away in spite of the fact that they are probably scoring more mosquito kills with their expensive irons than birdies.  In the real world such men can easily be mistaken for inanimate coffee tables but in this one, they are kings, baby.

As we move on, we come across groups of teenagers who think that acting stupid and silly is akin to being “khool.” We also see grown-up men and women actually drooling, with eyes popping out as if suffering from a sudden attack of epilepsy as they hear about the lakhs and lakhs of rupees that they can win by simply collecting coupons in tea or detergent packs.

We see the same kind of people, now with their eyes directed towards the heavens and the archetypal bright, milky-white Islamic crescent forming over their heads when told that getting a certain mobile phone connection can land them in Mecca for a quick round of Umra – and that too with a wonderful Islamic kind of guy who in all probability is nothing more than an imposter. But hey, who is thinking?

And now, if I do not get out of this freaky world, I am sure to end up landing in some cuckoo institution comparing washing powders with the demented detergent ladies.  Out I go …

This post was published on Dawn’s blog on 20 January 2011. Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com.

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