Hate shower Tanishq’s capitulation

A. J. Philip
19 Oct 2020

Only once in my life did I buy a piece of gold jewellery to give a surprise to my wife. It was a chain with a pendant. I had to be extra cautious. I did not want to repeat the bitter experience of buying a gift for her from the souvenir shop in Hollywood in Los Angeles.

I chose a cloth bag which had a picture of the cartoon character Betty on it. It cost me $30, a big sum. My wife found out that a similar bag was available for Rs 10-15 in the Karol Bagh Market in New Delhi. Once bitten twice shy, I went to the Tanishq showroom in Connaught Place. I bought a gold chain, more for its novel locking system than for its design, about which I knew little. If I see a woman wearing a gold chain or a necklace, I would see her more than her costume or jewellery.

The Tanishq staff were very courteous, as they told me that the price was the same whether I bought it from Kolkata or Mumbai or anywhere. The chain is now part of my wife’s collection, however humble it is. My friend Mohan Sivanand, who was the editor of the Reader’s Digest for more than a decade, says that Tanishq was set up by the Tatas with the profits they made from the magazine. It is immaterial whether the money came from selling salt or a magazine.

What matters is that Tanishq has credibility. In fact, all Tata products, save Nano, have traditionally enjoyed credibility. This is because the House of Tatas is known for following certain principles while carrying out its business. Small wonder that a Tata employee is proud of saying that he or she is a Tata employee.

True, the Nira Radia tapes, the revelations about the Tatas paying protection money in the Northeast and the cheating of the farmers while shifting their Nano car factory almost overnight from West Bengal to Gujarat, have dented to some extent their image as a trustworthy entity.

Jewellery business in India is one of the worst affected by Coronavirus. Who will buy jewellery when you sit at home with no party or marriage to attend? Its problems began with the ill-conceived and hastily-executed demonetisation.

Now that more and more establishments are opening up, including movie theatres, jewellers see a window of opportunity. That Diwali is fast approaching is yet another attraction for them.

Tanishq hit upon the idea of producing a short ad film to bring customers back to their showrooms. They chose Baby Shower as the theme of the film. Baby shower is not a new concept. Its roots can be traced back to the Vedic period.

Baby shower is organised to announce the impending arrival of a new member of the family. Friends and relatives are invited so that they can shower the baby with gifts. Sometimes, the ceremony is organised after the baby is born.

They are organised even in Europe and America. Egyptians also had a similar kind of ceremony. Christians in India use the occasion of child baptism as a baby shower. Tanishq’s film is beautifully and aesthetically produced.It shows a young, fully pregnant woman being ushered into a brightly lit, tastefully decorated hall by a middle-aged woman and allowed to sit on a sofa. She is received with the serving of a traditional glass of sherbet. Of course, there is gold jewellery all around. There are no dialogues other than between the woman in the family way and the other lady. She wonders why the ceremony was organised when it was not part of their custom. 
That is when the viewer gets the hint that she is a Hindu, married to a Muslim boy. The mother-in-law replies to her: “Is not keeping the daughter-in-law happy the tradition of one and all?”

The moral of the story is that the Muslim mother-in-law is going out of the way to make her Hindu daughter-in-law happy. She is the one who sacrifices. There is no trace of bitterness between the two ladies.What’s more, there is no hint that the soon-to-be mother has forsaken her religion. What the film highlights is that when love unites two persons and two cultures, all the walls of differences and separation will collapse. I thought it was a beautiful theme, beautifully presented, though the subtle aim was to sell Tanishq’s jewellery.

Alas, the cyber warriors of Hindutva saw the film as promoting Love Jihad. They unleashed a campaign against Tanishq forcing the company to withdraw the film from circulation. 

One good thing is that even after the withdrawal, the film can still be viewed. In fact, tens of thousands have viewed it, this writer being one of them. The propaganda about Love Jihad is the most illogical and ludicrous. It supposes that a Hindu woman is dying to fall for the first Muslim man to show interest in her. Are such women so dumb that they cannot think about the consequences of their action?

Why the Sangh Parivar warriors can’t stand the film is that it depicts a happily married woman. It negates their propaganda that a Hindu woman can never be happy in a Muslim household. It goes against the grain of human nature. Alas, their whole ideology is built on the foundation of hatred.

It is no surprise that Savarkar was the first to theorise in his little book on Hindutva that Hindus and Muslims could never co-exist happily. Decades later, Mohammed Ali Jinnah merely adopted Savarkar’s idea to demand and obtain Pakistan.

Of course, Jinnah fanned the Muslim fear that once the Hindus had a state of their own, they would not treat the Muslims as equal citizens. The likes of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are willy-nilly proving that Jinnah’s theory was not all that baseless. Look at how they destroyed the identity of the only Muslim-majority state in India!

While politics influences life in myriad ways, straitjacketing of any community is absolutely reprehensible. The mother-in-law in the Tanishq film is not an exception. 

Sameena Dalwai is a professor of law. In an article in the Indian Express, she described how her mother, a social activist from Maharashtra fell in love with a Muslim man. In doing so, they defied all the societal norms.Her mother remained a Hindu and her father remained a Muslim even as they brought up their daughter as an eclectic person. Today, she has an adopted son from Nagaland while her sibling is married to a Chinese. She herself is married to a Reddy from Telangana.

Writing this column has caused a break in my reading of the recently-published Devaki Jain’s autobiography entitled The Brass Notebook with a Foreword by Amartya Sen. She was born a South Indian Brahmin. When she decided to marry a Jain, her family virtually excommunicated her.

Her husband is no more but looking back, she is only happy that she married him and raised a family of their own. Nobody saw it as a case of Love Jihad. Persons of opposite sex have been getting attracted to each other since, to use a Biblical idiom, Adam and Eve were placed in the garden of Eden.

If anything really unites two human beings, it is love. No Hindu or Christian or Muslim marriage will survive if the bond of love disappears from the marriage. We had a Malayali Christian  friend in Patna who was married to a famous Hindu Bengali doctor.

Their son and his wife, who was from the Northeast, served India as ambassadors. The tallest BJP leader in Bihar is Sushil Kumar Modi, whose wife is a Syrian Christian from Kerala. A senior BJP leader whose daughter is married to a Muslim is Subramaniam Swamy.

Nobody described these marriages as Love Jihad or Love Conquest. In the tinsel world, I can mention innumerable cases of Muslim actors and Hindu actors living in successful inter-religious marriages. Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan are classic examples in this regard.

Sharmila Tagore remains the quintessential Bengali Hindu, although her husband was a Muslim with a royal lineage. True, some such marriages ended in divorce. For every inter-religious marriage that ended in divorce, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of “customary” marriages that ended in divorce.

It is utterly idiotic even to suggest that Muslims who constitute less than 15 per cent of the population can wage a love jihad against Hindus in a nation, where they constitute about 80 per cent of the population and also control all the levers of power.

Those who campaigned against the Tanishq film are the ones who find a danger in the diversity of the country. Actually, diversity should be seen as the greatest strength of the country. It is for this reason that leaders like Gandhi and Nehru eulogised the unity-in-diversity slogan. 

The beauty of a garden is that it has different plants that produce different types of flowers. There is a Rose Garden in Chandigarh. It is worth visiting because it has rose plants that produce rose flowers in different colours and sizes. There, too, diversity is what makes the garden attractive to the visitor.

Yet, in countless villages and slums in India, people see themselves as people, not as Hindus or Muslims. For them, Diwali or Eid or Christmas is an occasion to celebrate the essential goodness of man. Alas, an effort is being made to disrupt the harmony that exists among them. 

Take the case of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. She is more Indian than Indian. Yet, the Sangh Parivar leaders are never tired of calling her an Italian. She is a Hindu as she is married to a Hindu but in their perception she is still an Italian Catholic. They are the ones who cannot visualise a Hindu woman finding herself happy in her husband’s parental home.

Tatas are Parsis, not Hindus. It is one community that has been showing a negative growth rate. Why is it so? It is because of certain restrictions they follow. A Parsi woman loses her right to call herself a Parsi, if she marries a non-Parsi.

Studies in genetics have shown that any community which prohibits marriage outside of their limited clan promotes its own extinction. The Jews were large in number in Kerala but today there are not even a dozen of them. Their synagogues attract tourists, not worshippers.

It is no secret in America that children born of mixed marriage have better skin colour and are, therefore, more handsome and beautiful. In India, who can speak better about secularism than the likes of Sameena Dalwai, I quoted earlier? 

Inter-caste and inter-religious marriages would actually break caste-based and religion-based divisions. That is why they were promoted by social reformers and political thinkers. Recently, when a Dalit MLA in Tamil Nadu married an upper caste girl, her father threatened to commit suicide.

The Constitution allows adult men and women to marry anyone of their choice. No political party or their fake cyber warriors have any right to disrupt their marriages. Nor have they any right to disrupt the screening of a film that showcases a happy marriage. Tanishq did a great disservice to the nation by withdrawing the film.

Bullies need to be treated as bullies. They are the ones who chicken out when they are resisted. Tanishq would have won the hearts of tens of millions of people who believe in inclusiveness if they had not compromised and, instead, stood firm against those who think that baby shower is hate shower.

ajphilip@gmail.com

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