ARCHAIC MESSAGES IN A NEW TUBE
AASHA MEHREEN AMIN
It is a great irony that while advancement in technology is considered to be a strong indicator of progress it does not always keep company with progressive thinking. In fact, it is with the help of this very modern technical know how that humans have managed to project and perpetuate ideas from the darkest of ages. Think of the countless number of websites that are being used to drum up all the hatred possible against people of a different faith, ideology or culture. Bigotry, fanaticism, misogyny and perversion are at an all-time high thanks to the easy access technology has given to individuals to reach unfathomable numbers of people in the shortest amount of time.
An even more accessible medium – television – is probably the most influential. Sadly, along with hours of 'infotainment', television brings with it a package of distorted notions of reality. Using this amazing technological invention to perpetuate medieval ideas, is perhaps the most disappointing trend in today's TV.
Flicking through the numerous 'unwatchable' channels that our cable people have given us, one may come across certain channels devoted to advertising all kinds of strange and unnecessary products over and over again. The presumption is that consumers are basically morons and will buy just about anything if they are told to as many times as possible. Unfortunately the presumption is true. This is why an Indian channel that we can watch right here in good old Dhaka, dares to advertise things like 'evil eye amulets' and fortune-bringing charms. Please note that only people who are in India can buy these items, Bangladeshis will still have to rely on the street con artistes for their demands for supernatural products.
The evil eye amulets come in the form of pendants, bracelets, even key chains, the beads have a curious, hypnotic, circular pattern which is quite common in countries like Turkey where it has become more of a fashion statement. According to ancient beliefs these amulets could ward off the evil eye (Bangladeshis call it nojor laga) – the bad vibes of envy and jealousy from people. The object of the bad 'nazar' will get sick especially in the case of pretty children and women; wealth will dwindle or be lost if someone sees it with the evil eye.
The particular channel in question keeps showing a clip of a baby wearing an evil eye bead pendant and a woman looking slightly possessed, sending rays of jealousy towards the baby. The rays are being absorbed by the magic pendant leaving the bonny baby unscathed. The evil eye warders also are guaranteed to ward off things like bad luck in business or work ensuring continuous good health and prosperity. On another Indian channel, replicas of a gold-plated temple are sold that promise to bring unbelievable fortune and happiness if kept in the house.
Thus the evil eye amulets may significantly cut down your paediatric costs. Plus, if you want to keep your Mercedes and add a few more to the collection, just get a key ring with the evil eye protecting bead and casually wave it about potentially envious friends and neighbours. Very modern thinking this is.
Another advertisement on an Indian Bengali channel tries to sell a whole range of herbal products to make children fair-skinned. We have already been bombarded with messages that suggest young women and even men must be quite a few shades lighter in skin tone in order to be the brilliant interviewee, the irresistible diva or the dazzling leading man instead of the obscure, dark stunt double. It's all about confidence which is only attainable when one is fair so the products are invaluable for fulfilling any dream.
Now, this ridiculous, archaic and racist message is being given to little children. In the advertisement in question, a beautician explains to all the 'chotto bondhura' (little friends) that they must (oboshshoy oboshshoy) massage several different types of herbal potions right after they come back from school to ensure they will have “dhob dhobe shada” (white as snow) skin. She adds that she knows how difficult it is being dark-skinned, that children develop complexes; the solution – her products! The beautician even has a child volunteer whose face is slathered in yellow paste which is vigorously massaged into the face, finally revealing such “fresh” skin. One must really question the woman's sanity. After all, when was it remarkable for the young to have ‘young looking’ skin?
Thus while the medium of spreading the message may have advanced by leaps and bounds, the content, in many cases, is still stuck in time.
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