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Global Advertising Healthy Or Unhealthy
By Miha Alam
I look back 56 years from now and find a 17 year old girl admiring the remnants of British culture. She gazes at her surroundings and inhales the smell of victory. The city of Kanpur is flooded with the Indian flags. The National Anthem (which was constantly playing on the Ceylon radio) is echoing on the streets to which the patriotic souls are humming to. The fireworks added to the bustling environment. It was the first time she saw India as one.
The fact that she still had to continue her courses in English didn't bother her. India had won independence from the British which was all that mattered. She, along with friends, continued to walk home. On the way, they stopped at a coffee shop and bought Kancha, a fizzy lemonade drink and had their own little celebration. She was allowed to drink beverages like coke only on special occasions. When she returned home, she found a long row of gastronomical Indian delights such as Chaat, Kebaab, Biryani, all home delivered and ready to be consumed. The servants were frantically collecting water by pushing a hand pump. In the evening, she wore a Shalwar which was stitched by her mother. She slipped her feet into embroidered handmade flip-flops and slipped her hands into a coat (one of the few things which India adopted from the British). She applied homemade Kohl on the eye lid and admired the henna design on her palms. When everyone was ready, they all gathered in the big, extravagant living room and played musical instruments, sung songs, and recited poetry. The boys went outside and flew kites, played badminton while the women sat down to stitch and do embroidery. Nothing was out of the ordinary; it was just that all was done with more enthusiasm. Later in the evening, everyone headed out to their favorite and the most trusted shop. These particular shops were often the shops which their ancestors patronized. The shops appealed to them since each often portrayed an image of an educated individual who spoke fluent English and was traditional.
As a young girl, she wasn’t greatly influenced by brands and didn’t pay much attention as to how she dressed. Her only aim in life was to become well educated. Each day, she would avoid distractions; take small but significant steps to get closer to her goal. She leads a very simple life; calm and peaceful. Her life is full of vibrant colors and she treasures each moment.
That 17 year old girl, now 73, gazes at her granddaughter. I don't see any resemblance between the 17 year old girl (that I was) in 1947 and my granddaughter. My granddaughter is a walking advertisement. She wears brands from head to toe. Nothing on her body reflects her true personality. Of course she is not to be fully blamed, she is a third culture kid and thus she is bound to be influenced by other cultures and brands. She is an easy target since she is a teenager. She is influenced by brands because she wants to look pretty. She wants to look older and portray herself as an independent woman. She thinks a lot about the way she dresses which was not the case in my times. She is a classic example of a victim of materialism. In our times, we learned to control our infinite wants. She usually buys everything which she develops a lust for. Brands have become her status symbol. Jeans and t-shirts have become her national dress. Her cultural background is completely lost.
In my times, English was a third language. Students were forced to pursue their studies in English by the British. Many people wanted to project the fact that they knew the language very well since speaking fluent English often meant that one is highly educated. There were limited amount of English books available and that too in very elite shops or libraries. Nowadays, English has become the main language, almost a mother tongue for most of the youth due to exposure. Most of the subjects are taught in English in India. As a consequence, there are more option in terms of books and authors.
Global Advertising has had significant influence on the English language. English language has adopted words from other cultures such as Pilaf, a Persian word for a rice dish. The word qualifies for English as well as Persian and therefore has become a universal word. In this way, the word has tied two cultures together and thus attracts more people. Advertizing companies, producers and directors are making films using different cultures to attract international audiences. For example in the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, the concept was taken from India but it was a Hollywood film. Thus, the movie depicted both American and Indian cultures and as a result, attracted more viewers. Back in my days, English was considered a foreign language. Now, it isn't considered foreign anymore since so many people understand and use it in their day to day life. Thanks to computers and internet which I find all my grand children obsessed with, the English language has become globalized. In order to cater to these international citizens, the advertising industry has become global.
Now, my granddaughter meets my gaze and approaches me and sits on my lap. After a long pause, she whispers “Grandma, no matter what I wear or what I look like, I will still be me, your granddaughter.” As much as I wanted to believe her, I cannot deny the fact that she isn’t presenting her true self. I hope and pray that my dear darling won’t lose her identity and her uniqueness in this never ending list of brands.