Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wedding Videos

One of the memorable things in  Assamese weddings were the wedding videos.
( Am sure they are there in every wedding but speaking from experience here)

The process started with a briefing to the person in charge at his "outlet".
He would pull out a well worn register and note down the date, venue, time.
And the name of the bride and the groom.

On the wedding day, the cameraman and his assistant would arrive at the designated hour.
Usually on a motorcycle or scooter with a bag that held the camera, the wires and whatever tools they required.
Greeted by a male member of the family, they would sit on the empty chairs lining the wedding hall which would soon be filled with guests. Sipping tea from plastic cups and maybe nibbling a sweetmeat, part of the wedding spread, the assistant would busy himself setting up the camera and the light.

The first shots would be "test shots".
A little girl, dressed up in her frilly dress with matching ribbons in her hair.
A harrowed elderly aunt running around but stopping for a quick smile as she spotted the lens aimed at her.
The young tent decorators stringing up the last of the marigold flowers, under the strict supervision of a cousin brother given that responsibility.

Then the cameraman would approach the room where the bride was nearly ready,  with her close friends and family. The assistant would switch on the bright light, the cameraman would direct the bride to look at a certain angle, smile, gesture to her friends to move closer, pan the room lined with shy camera conscious faces.

As the wedding activity reached a climax, the duo always had vantage position, focussing on the wedding couple and the ceremonies. The veiled bride ( the assistant would call out to an aunt or friend to lift the veil up a little to capture the shy, happy face on the camera), the father performing the ceremony, the groom's family, the sacred fire, the flowers, and of course the guests.

In the wee hours of the morning, after the wedding has finally come to an end, and the chairs that lined the hall were empty once again, the cameraman and assistant would pack up the equipment and make their way home.

Two days later, a family member, usually the brother or cousin who had taken on this responsibility, would come home waving two or three VHS cassettes ( nowadays they are DVDs). The bride, now in her new home, the groom and the entire family would drag chairs, stools around the television. And then the videos would play.

Those were the days when social media had not arrived.
When family albums were for the family.
When videos were just about movies and an occasional song and dance medley.

Being a part of the wedding video was therefore the first public camera appearance.
The video would start off with a super with the names of the bride and the groom.
Rashmi weds Rajiv.
With a cameo of the two together.
The track would start playing.
Mostly romantic numbers from Assamese singers like Jitul Sonowal, Zubeen Garg and many others.
Sometimes Bollywood made an appearance as well.
Dotted with some traditional wedding songs at key moments.

The tearjerker moments would be enhanced by Shehnai strains. Or a sad number about the girl, now a Lakshmi in her new home, bidding good bye to her mom.

The commentary around the room would be about how an aunt did not get enough camera time, or how pretty the bride looked, or the way the guests were relishing the sumptious spread.
Tears would spring up when the screen brought up a close up of the bride hugging her father and the rose bedecked car pulling out of the wedding venue.
A household help would reluctantly push her bamboo stool away to get up and make tea for everyone.

And then , after two and a half to three hours of edited footage, tea and biscuits, the video would end with another shot of the happy couple and a super, "Wish you a happy married life. From Rajul Barua Productions.G.S Road, Guwahati".

Relationships may at times be faded and jaded.
May even break up at times.
But the wedding videos are always a reminder that the weddings in India are also about families.
About vows.
About parents pulling out the last of their savings.
About being made to feel special about the fact that we are stepping into a new phase.

And makes us feel committed once again about love, relationships, weddings.... even if the one on the video no longer exists.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Life is when a vada jostles with a doughnut. And both win.

Change sometimes means more than just a physical and mental upgrade of lifestyle and mindset.
It is also an externalisation of what we want others to perceive us as, because of the change.

Why stay in Ajay Vilas  when you can stay in Ambrosia?
Sounds global. Feels local.
Or what we order  for our Sunday brunches for instance.
Eggs Benedict seem to be the latest favourite.

It is a good  thing to aspire to be global.
The walls have indeed come down and we can have all the experiences we had only once in a blue moon when the lucky few travelled overseas, at every Indian city.
Makes us more comfortable with ourselves as well.

But what truly sets us apart  is that we  continue to have some room for all those good things that nestle in our own home ground.
We flaunt our own attire with equal flair.
Medu vadas jostle for space at snack time with the sugar coated doughnuts.

We respect. We hope. We pray.
It's a life of balance.
Of what we have imported as lifestyle.
And what we have lived as a way of life.

It is a story of adaptation. Not adoption.

It is what keeps us rooted and winged.
So that we can fly.
And come back home every night.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Professional DROP OUTS

An HT article a few days back  stated that only 3 of the Top 50 companies in India had a women force of 30%.
Have come across many such stories which, when read at a glance, paints a perception of a glass ceiling for women, or an inequitable work place at times or factors that are not exactly women friendly.

But beneath all the data and the stories of  work place and work life balance, perhaps lies a deeper truth.

That there is a substantial number of professional women who have chosen to "drop out".

What prompts these Drop Outs?

When the partner starts earning in multiple digits and the pressure of the double income quotient eases off.
When children become a priority over everything else.
When , again, a comfortable financial status means one has the freedom to dabble in a passion like art, NGO work, writing etc, instead of the rigours of a profession.

Let's face it.
We are still brought up in a way that gears us to "get married".
Our education and exposure does drive us to careers but we are judged, still judged, by our marital status.Or lack of it.
We are still conditioned to the role of wife, mother, homemaker first and these responsibilities cannot be a compromise, even if we want our independence by working.
We still cook or supervise whats on the table for meals, check the kids uniforms and homework and stay up late on those school projects. Not just office powerpoints.

So if we are not under pressure to "earn", we do have a choice.
And can still be socially embraced and personally fulfilled.

While the economy does lose out on half the bright creative multitasking minds, we have happy families that laugh and live together.
It is a different happiness quotient, in a society that puts family over everything else.
Perhaps rightly so.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yo Basanti!

Welcome on board the young Indian girl from what we like to segment as "small town India".
Basanti. Kurti clad outside, nightie clad at home.
The sacrificial mindset. Always giving up that extra mithai for her sibling brother.
Not because she always wanted to. But because she was conditioned to.
Helping mother at home was important. She was the youngest amongst the womenfolk of aunts,married and unmarried, old grannies lying on cots in the sun, daughters in law stuffing masala in pickles. She was spirited. But clipped.

The clips are being discarded today.
Bit by bit.
She rides her scooty to college.
One of the lucky few to own one.
Goes to the "Parlour" not just for the usual threading and henna but for a regular trim.
yeah. She leaves her  waves unlocked.

Dines out with friends, even watches movies once in a while.
Her family demand less of her, so that she has more time for herself.

She is the emerging, new thinking young girl.

One we showcase in ads.
Wax eloquently about in articles.
Write about as our new target audience.

Ever wondered who has been equally participative in this change?

It is her parents.
Maybe her granny.
Or her aunt.
The elders of yesteryears.
Without whose blessings, life would have been one long curfew.

Dads who have realised that daughters are the new sons.
Moms who have vowed that their little girls will not lead the same closetted lives they had.
Brothers who drop her off to that audition. So that she gets to live her dream.

The generation of forty somethings who themselves led a life of Enforced Austerity and are now gradually unlocking their own minds.
Who want this generation to live the lives they compromised upon many a times.

It's time we said Yo! to that generation.
Who has made all the Yo Basantis come alive.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Magic of Mealtimes

Indian meals always remind me of the "thalis" we had at home.
The big dishes , usually stainless steel ones for regular use, would be dotted with a lemon wedge, chilly or pickle before the meal began.
There would be smaller bowls by each dish , for dal and curries and yoghurt.

The rice or chapati is accompanied with generous helpings of  the vegetable of the season, a bowl of dal and if non vegetarian, a mutton, chicken or fish curry. Papads , salads and chutnies sit proudly on the table.

This is what sets apart Indian meals and mealtimes from most of the West.
We eat together and the meal is designed to be shared and consumed together.
We reach out for the last piece of paneer or wipe the curry bowl clean with our roti.

This extends to eating out as well.
Dishes are ordered as common dishes for everyone.
There is a huddle and conversation and leafing back and forth of the well thumbed menus before the food is ordered alongwith with the rice and parathas.  The dishes are shared.

I  never remember ever having ordered a paratha and mutton curry all for myself. If the group decides on rice, I will go by that. Majority rules. And no complaints.

The size of the servings also reflect that. It is never meant for a single serve. If it is, it is deftly carved, sliced, dissected by the waiters themselves without being told.

Even if "continental" dishes are ordered, the roast, mash and veggies again sit on the centre of the table and are divided up by the family. So are the pastas and the salads.

The concept of "my own dish"  is quite alien and seen only amongst the elite and evolved, for want of a better term.

There is more to this than just food.
The sharing shows the strength of bonding in Indian families.
The respect for each other.
The giving up rather than giving in.
The values the little ones learn around the table.
Saying No  to the last helping just to ensure that everyone has had enough.

That's the magic of Indian mealtimes.
One I would never give up, just for "my own dish".

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Female Protagonist

Ipads and smartphones have invaded our lives.
Packaged  foods jostle for space in kitchen shelves.
Travel destinations means international.
We are global  in every which way.

BUT, our fetish for the boy child remains.
Not just behind closed doors and social circles.
Not only confined to fervent prayers and offerings in temples.
But in the elite marketing and communication industry as well.

Every script starts with - We see a cool young dude.......
All TVCs have  girls,  with roles just a little more than an extra or a prop.
Creating visual eye candy for the ad and the viewer.
All strategic briefs segment men.
Most pen pictures are about Rahul Sharma from Lucknow.

Yet we see a quantum leap in the way Indian girls are evolving.
The consumption patterns, buying behaviour, attitude to life.
Indian wives and mothers being key decision makers- from Kelloggs to Cars and Insurance.

Little girls can be as cute as little boys.
And not just in soap ads.
Little girls grow up into young women, with a career or great homemakers, a mind of their own and fairly independent.
Women who will be active brand endorsers of cars, mobile phones,  laptops, confectionery and not just doting mothers nourishing their family.

The Oreo TVC with the father- daughter, Birla SunLife Child Plan TVC with the daughter and father conversation on jobs nahin passion, Nokia's "Epic Drama Shoes"    are examples of the male bastion being nudged aside to make room for the new spenders and endorsers. But there room for more.

The Indian woman has come of age.
She is the new brand protagonist.
And not just a feature in an additional  ad or a multiple ad campaign.
It is time the industry recognised this.