So Surf Excel released a ‘Holi special’ ad and is met with a mammoth backlash. #BoycottSurfExcel is trending webwide. It’s a crazy situation out there. India is spiraling into the intolerant zone just ahead of elections. Believable! Shameful!
Or is it?
Let’s cough out the pseudo- secularism that gets shoved down our throats every time we are up for a celebration, take a realistic look at what went down in the ad and understand why, at all, has the brand turned a big chunk of its consumers against it. Before we jump into that we need to address a less than viable interpretation here. The ad promotes ‘Love Jihad’, as per some outraged netizens. Ummm… how about a ‘NO’? These are kids.. 5 or 6 years old maybe. Okay 7 at best. What do they even know about love, Jihad is a far cry anyway. If you are pissed at the ad because, ‘it promotes Love Jihad’, don’t.
If not ‘Love Jihad’, then what? Well, everything.
Not very long ago, a former Vice President of SECULAR India had refused the Aarti and turned away from Tilak on the occasion of Vijaya Dashami – as though the touch of it would strip him off his religious sanctity. This was an unabashedly blatant insult toward the revered practices followed by the majority. Mainstream media and their secular representatives defended his action as a personal choice. That their reaction when a Modi or a Yogi refuses to accept the skull cap takes a total different turn, is a fresh debate for another day. Anyway… so, why do I exhume this buried incident today?
Because the repulsive behavior of our former Vice President returns with a roaring resonance in the Surf Excel commercial. It’s Holi, children are jubilantly throwing colors at each other, the air is rainbow-like. And then comes along their feisty little girl challenging these kids to color her. She hops from one balcony to another, keeps daring these kids to throw color till they have no colors left. She challenges as though the colors of Holi pitched at her are bullets of a pallet gun, are meant to injure her; and she is braving them like a knight.
Now I won’t apologize if I appear to be reading a little too much between the lines – because reading between the lines is NECESSARY. I refuse to brush off this conceited attitude as a child’s play because this didn’t come to her naturally. There is an entire team of professionals who conceptualized this condescendence, this arrogance, and put a child in front of the camera so all the intended disrespect gets watered down. Once the Gulal and water colors have exhausted –portrayed as though the kids have run out of armaments – the girl reaches a boy of a different community, offers him a ride on her bike to his prayer venue. A regular child comes to drop a balloon on them but is stopped by another.
These are colors, harmless colors, for the love of God. The kids were not flinging a granite on the white-clad child. What earth would have shattered had his sparklingly white Kurta caught a little Gulal? He would have become unsanitized for his prayer? Kids that young, that innocent don’t throw colors to harass each other; they do it out of love, they derive unadulterated joy out of it. And I was under the impression, Apno ki Khushi mein daag lag jaye to daag ache hain. Isn’t that the case anymore?
HUL goofed up miserably, because this is the second time in less than a week that they have exposed their Hindu-phobia. That revolting tea commercial that pronounced the Kumbh Mela as a venue for Hindu children to abandon their aging parents was still fresh in our memories when they chose to slap us with yet another distasteful ad. Truth be told, we are done with these moral, political and social policing right ahead of every celebration. From Sankranti to Dussehra, every Hindu festival is an occasion of virtue-signaling for these corporate houses, and we are not very ecstatic about it. We detest being preached to avoid sweets during Diwali, by the same outlets that put out list of desserts to devour during non-Hindu festivals. Dear Surf Excel. You have a detergent powder to sell. Do that. I am a Hindu; I am, by default, secular. I do not need you to teach me a virtue I have innately inherited.
PS: We condemn the use of word ‘daag‘ for gulal. Colors of Holi are not blemishes.