Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Branded Patriotism

Believe it or not, but the horrific terror attacks that devastated India’s psyche, have become money spinners in Mumbai. I nearly fell off my chair when I received an email from a respectable book shop inviting me to attend a “Terror Attacks Event.” I thought there was some ghastly mistake – maybe a typo. But no. The graphics on the ecard were perfect – an artistically designed blob of blood at the top, that left a trail which ended with the name of the p.r. agency hired to handle the canapés and celeb list. This is but one example. Over the past week, I have received at least fifteen invitations via smses, phone calls, printed cards, letters, flyers and personal visits, to participate in various ‘events’. Amazingly enough, most of these are ‘branded’. If there was a so -called citizens’ drive asking Mumbaikars to turn up and put their signatures on a mile long scroll on Marine Drive that was meant to represent collective anger, every few metres of that laminated strip featured logos of well known brands. I felt really sorry for the poor suckers who’d taken trains, buses, taxis or walked all the way to Marine Drive, imagining their signatures would count. These are the innocents who are consistently used by self-serving publicity hounds in order to pump up their own constituencies. The shrewd organisers are the ones preening for the cameras while the aam janata writes heartfelt messages of peace and solidarity that nobody reads. Does anybody ever ask what happens to these petitions once the tv cameras move on to the next story?
My guess is the sponsors look for the biggest garbage bin and throw the scroll away, having got their mileage from the – you’ve guessed it – event!!Right now there are enough p.r. professionals who have gone into a huddle trying to figure out ‘discreet’ and ‘tasteful’ ways to capitalize on the somber mood. Media savvy artists are busy painting their ‘anguish’ (for a fat fee, of course), and fashion designers are working on their next ‘terror-themed’ collection. If this is sounding cynical, that’s too bad. But what is happening is far worse. With elections round the corner, national security is going to be the top issue for politicians of every hue. Realising that, most political parties are rethinking their strategies and redoing their posters. Within hours of Mumbai losing three top cops, there were gigantic hoardings put up all over the city ‘Saluting the Martyrs.” It goes without saying, the hoardings also carried mug shots of politicians seeking mileage from the tragedy. No wonder, the biggest villains in Mumbai at present are our netas, who have never had it this bad – from the prime minister to the sacked chief minister, people are openly expressing their frustration and contempt for our leaders - the first time ever. In fact, when I met a cabinet minister last week, I told him he should wear a burqa in public, even though he was not directly involved in handling the calamity that devasted our city. Mumbai’s anger against politicos this time is on an unprecedented scale.No wonder most Dilliwallas are sensibly staying away – their minders must have advised them to avoid direct contact with Mumbaikars, who are livid enough to give vent to their contempt in unambiguous terms.
And yet, lessons have still not been learnt. Just yesterday I , along with several other motorists, had to pull over during peak hour traffic, and wait for over twenty minutes for a VIP cavalcade to pass. Perhaps people in Delhi are accustomed to this. But in Mumbai, nobody is a VIP in quite this way… and it annoys the average person that on one of the busiest stretches, with two main hospitals, three colleges, four schools, several offices and hundreds of residential buildings, people are denied access even if they themselves are facing an emergency. Why? Because some minor mantriji gets priority over us – the tax payers who shell out the lolly for those ten police cars, an ambulance and god knows what else to protect these non-entities. The time has come to review these antiquated, feudalistic and worthless rituals. Politicians are public servants – not ‘rulers’. Let them set the example themselves by voluntarily giving up these absurd and expensive perks. Now that’s what I’d call a top class ‘event’ that doesn’t need any management. The first person to do so, gets my vote!


hitch writer said...

Alas !! It is shocking to read this... really. If people are brandishing this event it just goes to show their sensibilities rather should i say in-sensibilities.

Unknown said...

Hi Shobha Ji,

I've been following your blog from last 2-3 months. The way you have expressed the feelings shared by all indians after 26/11 attack, made me bigger fan of yours. I really condemn the people who want to gain from this unfortunate event in any way.

Anonymous said...

Advertising is everywhere. The number of popups and banners that I see everytime I log in online illustrates just one example of how advertising has a tendency to run amok and annoy even the most patient selves.

Some people in PR will utlize any piece of rope, crook, or cranny upon which they can hoist their calls for attention. Using the terror attacks as one such platform for advertising is morally corrupt. And as you pointed out, many people who fall for the bait are innocent. And since one cannot be outraged about an injustice that one does not know about, the only thing that can truly stop the advertising evils is altering one another about what's going on. That makes the 'innocents' aware. And then they can protest.

Bhavisha Joshi said...

I agree with you .. The way you have expressed the feeling after 26/11.. you are putting your honest efforts to keep the flame high for transformation in our country.. i am more scared, forget netas, but our own people are trying to get their own benefits from terror attack..

I believe this fight is not only to transform the system but to transform our own mindset..

Its not impossible... it Just need to reach to common man that we have been used after going through this tragedy, some people are still sucking our blood to added an extra point to their brand.. We should not support those people..

rainboy said...

i hope some of them do show that they have leader in them..a meek hope though.

recently it was in the news that the Mla's from haryana would not have security guard...at least we have start.

Munmun said...

I totally agree with you. Everywhere we keep boasting we are the largest democracy in the world, but are we really?

Nevertheless, in that regard, I would also point out that it is "us" we elect such incapable politicians; and give them the stature to rise up to be rulers. Unless we ourselves are conscious, awakened, enlightened, whatever you call it, it's unfortunate that mere complains from you or me are not going to suffice such periods of crisis !

Unknown said...

yeah, i agree with you about the superfluity of politicians.

Unknown said...

u look at the scenerio around, its nearlly going to be a month to attacks and nothing has been done.UNSC has banned that outfit and thsts it!!! there leaders are roaming free in POK where as our leaders are just acting like barking dogs.Its strange to find such a big heard of impotent men at place(indian politicians).Have u heard this Ms.Shobha, reward pakistan is getting for attacking Mumbai usd$15 billion dollars which Senetaor keery was refeering that it would be linked to conditions , which is absolutely crap.All the last aid has gone in pockets of generals and rasing terrorists.Inspite of all this all the world leaders are coming to India so that we dont attack Pa.well i think they forgot in last 1000 yrs India have never striked anyone first so all that amunition which we pay by our taxes is actually rotten bcso of these impotents SOB's.

Anonymous said...

“Deep down we have the qualities of clarity, awareness, sensitivity, warmth and love,

but , we have little idea at the outset just how deep and vast those qualities can be”
s.v.siva reddy

Vikrant said...

hi shobaa mam ,
hats off to you ,
ur the one persoan or i ill say after rakhi sawant ur da one who realy meant of straightforward
keep it up i am with you
best regards,

Reflections said...

LOL Vikrant is funny...can just imagine the expression on ur face:-D.
But jokes apart...I wish I was there....to catch u almost falling off ur chair;-D

mannab said...

Dear Shobha,
This is typical of North Indians' culture. We Marathi Mumbaikars should not follow them and you have rightly expressed anger. Do you read Sadhana, Pune's Marathi Weekly? Their latest issue dated 13th Dec has thought provoking articles one after other. Apart from Shri Govind Talwalkar and Suhas Palashikar, some readers have written very thoughtfully. All these Marathi magazines do not even intend to make any business out of this calamity of 26/11.
Mangesh Nabar

Anonymous said...

Hi Shobha,

Have you done anything else than giving interview to NDTV and other channels and charging them heavy fees?

Ankur Kakkar said...

well in that case Mrs De... your first vote must go to our honorable union home minister Mr. P.Chidambram, who has declined the offer of Z category security cover for himself... In my opinion, he has set an example for other politicians to follow..

Sathyanarayana said...

The government should be afraid of people , not people who should be afraid of government. Every minister who tries to enjoy any kind of perks, should think before hand, if this is going to be issue with the people. Having lived in the welfare countries like Europe. I feel government here atleast looks after people, as they pay their tax, sending a mobile document, Health insurance for every citizen(NHS in UK), subsidized medicines(NHS in UK), Mid wives for pregnant women paid by government, and even a guy who is on unpaid leave due to sickness- french government pays him 100% salary. Why the F**k, is Indian government just counting the tax money of poor middle and lower class people, without actually think of reforms to help it's citizens.


Gautam Satpathy said...

The Public Servants are the rulers! And their servants are worse than their mistresses.

I thank you for the unambiguous statement, Shobhaa. I too will vote for the Public Servant that learns to behave like one.

And speaking of servants, the so called Civil Servants are much worse. At least the politician was elected by a majority vote and can be kicked out when they don't deliver. What of the fat cat IAS, IPS and other idiots who lord it over the nation and do little to no fruitful work? I, a worker ant, bring in the dollars and pay the taxes. All these idiots do is count my money and spend it while driving around our cities in Honda Cities that my tax Rupees paid for. Accountants! Who think they are better than I!

Thanks Shobhaa for a nice post.

By the way why are you on Blogger? You should have your own domain name.

Arjun said...

"The time has come to review these antiquated, feudalistic and worthless rituals."
Very well said!!!
Methinks it's time we rocked the boat!!

yogendra said...

nice views on 26/11..but keep mentioning these useless politicians in sumway or other in ur evry article .as a anecdote or sumthin,even aftr 2-3 months..cos i m sure these useless ppl who wre vry forthcomin in announcin money for families of the dead n injured wll 4get dem soon...n after 2-3 months u wll c those injured ppl in JJ hospital unable 2 pay their bills..

Sruthisagar Yamunan said...

well if you are waiting to vote such a person then I am really sorry to say that you will never get a chance to vote :D

You talk so much on this issue. Why not join politics and try to bring a change?

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Branded Patriotism by commercial interests in somewhat understandable but not condoned at all. They make no bones about the fact that they are in business to make money off our happinesses and tragedies.

What I find reprehensible is when Politicians indulge in promoting thier own brand blatantly using this tragedy as a backdrop.

Case in point...

AR Antulay was CM when I was a student back in Mumbai. His record was dismal and then he was investigated for corruption of the highest order. He has been in the political wilderness since. I am not sure how much sucking up he had to do to HIB (plenty I imagine, because HIB has a insider political reputation for wanting much in exchange for little mercies... after all she has learnt at the feet of the Master, her MIL) to get to be Minorities MInister.

This statement is a blantant and disgusting attempt at keeping his brand (and his reason for being a minister at all) relevant.

I would not mind if he privately expressed doubts to the investigators about the circumstances of Karkare's death. After all every circumstance must be investigated. But such public statements slyly insinuating that a certain section "offed" the man is totally uncalled for and takes the focus off the real issue.

Oh and I also think Narendra Modi (very able administrator he may be) is also guilty of promoting his own brand reprehensibly in his Mumbai Drama.

Oh and who can forget those disgusting billboards saluting the dead with the politicians faces prominently displayed?

Which is the greater evil?

Politicians or Commercial interests indulging in brand recognition campaigns and propoganda at a time of tragedy?

Oh and if I recieved an invitation to a "terror attacks event" I am not sure what I would do... laugh hysterically or cry! Both by turns I imagine.

Anonymous said...

This is infact a good example of how our politicians are a reflection of our own society. We get what we deserve!

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