Why does everyone like boycotts?

At 8 am I wake up to the momentous news that a brand campaign has indeed managed to unite all 1.3 billion Indians. In case you missed it, let me summarize the ad for you. Two girls are preparing for Karva Chauth. One is helping the other apply bleach on her cheeks, giving her the best face look for the occasion. They talk about keeping a fast for their partner. The climax, accompanied by a sweeping orchestra of passionate music, reveals that they are a gay couple fasting for each other. The marketing geniuses behind a bleach brand’s Karwa Chauth campaign created so much furore that the ad had to be pulled. Here is a list of the offended people.

Illustration credit: Chad Crow

1. Orthodox: People who believe in the patriarchal tradition of wife fasting for the long life of the husband, are offended by wives fasting for each other.

2. Liberals: This group is concerned about the promotion of what they call regressive practices.

3. Straight people: These people are horrified that the LGBTQ+ community has taken over their heterodox rituals.

4. LGBTQ+ community: They are equally horrified at being cast as a trope in advertising.

5. Dermatologists: They are offended as they believe that bleaching is harsh for the skin.

6. The pro-fairness brigade: They’re furious because the bleach is delivering a golden glow, not the promised fairness. He argues that if this was the desired result, he would just apply turmeric on his face and not spend money for bleaching agents.

7. Anti-fairness advocates: This group is upset because products are still being sold based on the assumption that beige is better than brown.

8. Hindus: They are angry because they feel that the brand has played with their religious sentiments.

9. Other religions are equally angry as they are not represented in the advertisement.

10. Uncle: Have objected to why a woman does not wear bindi. Oops, my bad, false advertisement. That protest was against Fabindia.

11. Minister: They are upset because they believe that this is a bigger atrocity than anything else in the country and it should be stopped before it corrupts all the daughters of India.

12. Me: I am very hurt because everyone is more upset than two women celebrating Karva Chauth that same-sex marriage is not recognized in our country. Now, we should be pissed off by that compared to an ad promising a golden glow.

A pot of black coffee at 11 am and scrolling through my feed makes me realize that baap re baap, many sons of famous fathers are in the news. Even good old Superman. John Kent, Clark Kent’s son and the new Superman, has come out of the closet and he’s showing off more than just his bright red underwear. Her new boyfriend is Jay Nakamura, and they seal the deal with a passionate kiss. There has been an expected outcry. But to all the deniers, I want to ask, ‘Is there any greater superpower than allowing generations of ardent fans to see themselves represented in their beloved comic books?’

At 5 pm I decided to go to a literature festival with my cousin. Two decades younger than me, she often lectures me about gender identity, including sending me an article titled ‘How JK Rowling Became Voldemort’ to show me how regressive my generation is compared to hers Is.

Arriving at the venue before them, I save my seats and peruse the show pamphlets. This is an in-depth read of Meiko Kawakami’s Paradise. The show has two young actors reading a book and a beautiful singer humming in between. When we end the show, I say, ‘That was a very impressive reading and I love the way he sang.’

She nods, ‘No, the children were only listening, not singing.’

I nodded, ‘Yes, I know but I am talking about his singing.’
She frowns and misses a step at the uneven turn, ‘Didi, are you okay? The children were just reading out loud.’

‘Yes,’ I reply, ‘I know that. You know, I’m not a stoner. Singer, his pronoun is he.

She is surprised and says, ‘Oh! It is very understandable for you because it was a female performance.

‘Not that,’ I say smoothly, ‘they! Now I hope you will stop underestimating me just because I am from the generation where we all used to think that waking up is just the past tense of waking up.’ I refrain from telling him that I would have been completely clueless if I hadn’t reached out to him and scanned the pamphlet that spelled out the pronouns of each artist.

Hunching over the laptop at 8 pm can really cause neck pain and when I complain to my best friend from across the street in Miami, she says, ‘Did you try putting cannabis oil on that before you go to sleep? Is? It really helps! In fact, did you know that Martha Stewart has a line of CBD products! Even Justin Bieber is launching pre-rolled joints called ‘Peaches’ and Seth Rogan has a weed delivery business. I have an idea, why don’t you give up all this candle making business and we can start our own cannabis-based product line?’

‘stop! Don’t even say it as a joke! In fact, to be safe, I’m going to refrain from using words like blast, high, diet coke or even ‘Wankhede’ stadium because you never know what meaning they’ll conjure up. They confiscated my phone and saw my WhatsApp chats. And as you may have noticed, applying for bail these days takes longer than graduating from high school. So sadly I do not wish to discuss your proposal for this particular JV.’ Let me clarify right away because ‘they’ will be listening. And we are clear that this ‘they’ is plural and not a preferred pronoun.

For all those now laughing and saying, ‘We told you this pronoun business sounds confusing, ungrammatical and weird.’ Let me just add in Mr. Bachchan’s baritone, ‘You see sir, I can speak English, I can play English, I can laugh in English because English is a strange language.’

English is undoubtedly a strange language so there isn’t much we can do to make it more confusing, especially not by introducing ‘they’ as a singular pronoun. Think about it? Why is the ‘s’ hidden around the island or why are there so many letters lined up after q? And what about homophones like weil, vale, whale or ware, wear, where? Now, if you find this too confusing to read now, may I suggest that you boycott the entire language.

Well, I have to cut it short as I am about to indulge in yet another boycott, this time of Sabyasachi’s mangalsutra. Like the rest of this angry group, regardless of whether we’d even considered buying it in the first place.



The views expressed above are the author’s own.

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