Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Incredible India advertisements

or the idea that the problem for tourists in India is Indians.

I have below two videos from the Incredible India series featuring Aamir Khan:

There was also a recent ad that shows tourists disgusted at a kid peeing in the road, and other such "bad behavior" deemed by the tourism ministry.

First of all, almost every Incredible India ad I have seen features white people only - either young white women or young white men. I saw one ad with a Japanese person. I can understand that Bollywood stars won't feature in anything without white people, but this is not a song and dance feature after all.
The Incredible India campaign is commissioned by the tourism ministry. Someone up there in the ministry is approving these; so we have to wonder about the attitudes expressed in these ads. I AM taking them seriously as attitudes in the ministry and among our elite.

Attitudes in the ad
1. Tourists are white people, period; "internal" tourism, which counts for majority of tourists do not count. The Japanese, Korean and other eastern people don't generally count (even though they form a good percent of tourism targets anywhere in the world).
Africans! Don't even dare to show Aamir Khan with an African person. Darkies don't count.
2. The ads seem to mainly teach behavior - in front of white tourists. You better not have your kid pee in the road because white people may be watching. Thus, the ads seem to be (incredibly) suggest that individual people and their behavior may be a problem - more than (for example) the absence of clean public toilets.
By making such a suggestion, the ads present another way for Indians to judge other Indians. We behave a certain way because we are a developing country - a country still in the "Third World".
3. The ads always show white people "repulsed" by the bad behavior of Indians (such as throwing a banana peel from the bus). In that way, it assumes that they are judges of such behavior. On the contrary, I have personally seen Western tourists misbehaving in THAT SAME WAY. The reason is, of course, not difficult to find out - trash cans do not magically show up for them to drop trash in. Toilets don't magically show up for them alone. Given the Indian public systems's constraints, they behave the same way. They are in no position to judge.

Misguided Ads

More than anything, WHAT is the purpose of these ads? That is something I have a hard time figuring out - the ones that feature Aamir Khan and teach behavior - what exactly are they trying to do? They seem to take a sneering attitude at the guy spitting Paan, or the guy dropping a banana peel from a bus. But why is that a problem that the TOURISM ministry is concerned with? Are they going to provide decent public toilets throughout the country or trash cans in all public places? No. That is not their job. So why are they even preaching to people about this?
You could say the same thing about the eve teasing of the white women in the ad. What, is that exclusive to white women? Otherwise everything is fine with women in this country?

It seems suspiciously that the tourism ministry considers Indians in public places (behaving within the constraints and nature of our system) as a really bad nuisance.

But this fits in with my overall theme over the past couple of years - there is a tendency in India to blame people for systemic faults. These ads show that tendency.
Think about this for a minute - we all have heard of how Indians behave very well abroad, but not when they land in India. I have heard that from when I was young. The assumption is that the problem is with Indians. But in reality, the problem is with India, the system here - not with Indians. Like any other people around the world, Indians respond to incentives.
The proof of this, is that tourists or other people on business here from abroad (including white tourists) misbehave too! I have seen this personally in beach resorts. In fact they behave worse because they know that they are courted no matter what.
The ads show the thinking within the tourism ministry - and they are a pathetic lot.

1 comment:

Subbu said...

Tourism department has chosen the right candidate for these "Holier than thou" ads. Khan's movies and ads have increasingly become preachy and trite.