Hello hate! India lost its sheen over the Tanishq ad row

Sanjay Jha
·Former National Spokesperson, Indian National Congress party
·5-min read

I grew up in a crowded, chaotic family; there were three of us born within three years of each other. Clearly, my parents were still in the first flush of passionate romance despite ten years of marriage (in our current Tinder Age, by now it would be on a third affair after a second marriage ).

Naturally, managing the disequilibrium caused on account of this serial overproduction stretched my parents’ capabilities in ensuring that their children had uniform attention.

There was not just the risk of a lone black sheep but an entire flock turning riotous altogether. My father (like all indulgent fathers) chose to mollycoddle my noisy sister and my brother (one of those fair babies with the Farex flabbiness) was the apple strudel of my mother’s eye.

Which left me, a scrawny, skinny and sulky lonesome child.

Naturally, there was a desperate need for resource outsourcing. In came, Nurul Hasan. All I remember of Hasan was that he was a man with a conspicuously crooked nose in a frail frame with the most gentle reassuring voice of solicitude.

He would buy me big multi-colored marbles and candyfloss from his own meagre income. But there was a catch: I was not to tell my parents that he snuffed on tobacco.

Hasan was part of our home infrastructure, he was our go-to-Man Friday. He would excitedly help me light phuljharis (sparklers) during Diwali and get us delectable homemade vermicelli s

oaked in sweetened thick milk during Eid. I thought of Hasan on the day the Tanishq advertisement became India’s latest casualty to vicious, obstreperous social media trolls.

The Tanishq ad is a short story on living happily together despite our variegated religious faith. It is titled Ekatvam, meaning oneness.

In real life, the dreaded danger to a happy marital existence is the proverbial red bull, the mother-in-law. It’s not just the daughters-in-law who have anxiety panic attacks when encountering the female version of Darth Vader, even men get paroxysms of the heebie-jeebies, a la Rebecca.

Thus, it is often said that behind every successful man stands a surprised mother-in-law.

Mothers-in-law are notoriously suspicious of the man’s noble intentions and his real net worth. For daughters-in-law, I am sure they are even a more treacherous turf given the fact that the till-then devoted son who loved Ma’s kheer or caramel custard as the case might be, now dances to his wife’s penchant for Swiggy home-deliveries.

Either way, the Tanishq advertisement smashed this mutually antagonistic relationship on its head. The fact that it was also an inter-faith marriage gave it a luminescent sentimentality.

Muslims are usually stereotyped as insufferably orthodox following regressive customs and therefore the TV commercial was refreshing.

In a country torn apart because of religious toxicity liberally motivated by an inexorable political machine the Tanishq jewellery ad was like a soothing palliative.

A time to take a deep pause and gently, gingerly introspect on why we had deserted elementary human decency of late.

But no! For Titan, the harmonious ad would end up being a poisoned chalice. Instead of celebrating togetherness, social media drowned the ad in an avalanche of Himalayan hate. The irascibility of the tempestuous tornado was shocking.

Promptly, Titan (a stockmarket darling and a golden necklace in the great Tata business empire valued at over $175 billion in market capitalisation ) withdrew the advertisement, ostensibly for employee protection.

But one cannot dismiss the fearful surrender of a corporate brand before venomous hate-mongers as a casual event. It is an ominous manifestation of Bharatiya Janata Party’s New India; intolerant, dangerously polarizing, and stridently anti-Muslim.

Just think , if you were one among 200 million Muslims living in India today, how would you feel about this deluge of nauseating anathema?

In this New India, minorities are not being punished for religious apostasy, sectarian distrust or practising bigotry. They are being told that they are so obnoxious that even their goodness, hospitality and warmth is unwarranted, unwanted, and unnecessary.

Everything these days is caffeinated with communalism. New India appears tenebrous, pushing a once happy society closer to the edge.

A friend backed the savagery of the rogues: “Why is the girl not a Muslim”? The normalisation of hate is India’s perturbing reality. Allegedly, a manager of a Tanishq showroom had to issue a public apology for the brand’s blasphemous misadventure.

Honestly, it left me speechless, and this was further evidence of our prevalent misogyny and gender stratification; can a young girl have a choice of her own husband?

When Love Jihad began its cyclopean acceleration in India’s political discourse in 2014, we made the myopic error of deeming it to be a short-term aberration or a mere propaganda campaign of the extremist fringe.

As the pan-India response to the Tanishq ad overwhelmed both sense and sensibility, sending an unambiguous message of its intended divisiveness, in retrospect we erred.

When love between consenting inter-faith adults is seen cynically as an orchestrated program to seduce innocent women for the purpose of religious conversion and reproduction alone, a society stands diminished.

Tanishq might lose some sales. But India lost its sheen.

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