Tanishq ad: Call me a troll if you must--but only if you could answer my issues

14th October 2020

14th October 2020

I have no problem in accepting that Tanishq had meant communal amity all along. That its ad-video, now pulled down, was meant for everyone. For us. I also understand why media as one is sorry that the ad had to be withdrawn because of the uproar in social media. I won’t indulge in whataboutery—and I could do it convincingly—but so early in the piece it would detract from the larger issues I have problems with.

I have two daughters, both marriageable, with a mind of their own and the choices they could make. So, they could choose their life-partners freely. I won’t be putting on glasses to see the faith first and boy later. My opinion won’t matter too for the Constitution guarantees them choices. I am happy if they are happy. Period.

But imagine—the girl in the ad is my daughter married into a Muslim family. And I am part of the “god-bharai” (baby-shower) ceremony at my in-laws place. I would be aghast to see that unsure expression of my princess, looking at her mother-in-law, grateful that her faith has been accepted.

It would convey a couple of very grave messages for me: One, that my daughter is unsure in her new surroundings. That what should’ve been a matter of course for her in her new family was actually a surprise. Didn’t she expect her in-laws to be doing what they did? And if it still is a grey area, how those few months or years must have been for my child when she has had to curb her natural instincts vis-à-vis her new people?

The second one of course is of gender-equality. I gave my daughters best of education, an environment where they could “shut” me up if I am flippant about women.  Once I was cheated and uttered “I-feel-raped” and the looks my daughters gave me I won’t forget to my last breath. Now, present in this ceremony, watching her speak to her mother-in-law, I would get the distinct impression that she is still not equal in the family. That she is still not the woman of the house. I would be gutted.

Now, if I was to express my anguish on Social Media, or let’s say 100s of other fathers were to feel the same, would you call me a “troll”? Isn’t your abuse an infringement on my fundamental right of expression? Now suppose you were to fault me for the message it would convey to the Muslim minority, that my emotions for my child would actually alienate Muslims and thus India, allow me to pose a counter with a few examples.

In Bangalore recently we had riots. A Muslim mob had not taken kindly to a post on the Prophet of Islam. As riots stretched into days, we had video of Muslims forming a chain to protect a temple. Let’s not say it was fake. Let’s say it was genuine. If I was a Muslim, I would delve on those good Samaritans rather than initiate a debate on my community’s fundamentalism. I would praise the protectors and not ponder against whom this “human-chain” was needed in the first place.

In our own Delhi, a temple is vandalized in Hauz Qazi. Idols of Hindu gods are broken. We soon enough have a photoshoot of local Muslims serving food to the Hindus during a prayer meet. It was later shown to be a sham. Let’s say it was genuine: As a Muslim should you only remember the piety of your own people and not question the men who are shown urinating on idols of Hindu gods?

There are countless instances when Hindu girls marry into Muslims and later recount a tale of oppression and denial of freedom. Let’s not call it “Love-Jihad.” Let’s also not forget a few Hindu girls who have married into Muslims and are blissful now. But there still is a sizeable number for Muslims to revisit their rigidity. Are Muslims being helped or prevented from taking a deeper look into their failings by such mushy narratives? Was “triple talaq” an invention of BJP? What do you think your daughter should feel when her brazen--and not sheepish—husband tell her he is getting another wife, duly sanctified by the tenets he follows?

Do you think ads like Tanishq are soft on our senses and long on what might befall our daughters? Why, even this ad shows an unsure daughter, grateful for the ceremony which she wasn’t expecting in the first place in her new Muslim family. If you too feel so, take the tag of “troll” as a badge on your chest.

I do.

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