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advertising Guest Column: That Airtel Ad, and why it's a very bad idea

Guest Column: That Airtel Ad, and why it's a very bad idea

Author | Bodhisatwa Dasgupta | Monday, Aug 18,2014 8:05 AM

Guest Column: That Airtel Ad, and why it's a very bad idea

It’s a little after 6 in the morning on a Sunday. There’s a lukewarm mug of microwave-made coffee in front of me that I learned to make from the wifey. A cigarette resting carelessly on the ashtray out in the balcony, to which I’m going back every now and then. The sky has begun to turn orange.

Perfect cue to start writing.

I’ve been asked repeatedly over and over again to write about that new Airtel ad. And yet, everything I have to say has already been said hundred times over, more eloquently than I could have managed.

The likers have liked it, the haters have torn it apart. Some say it shows equality in the workplace, some are appalled at how the woman comes back home to cook for the husband.

Isn’t she as tired as the man? In this progressive 21st century, should a woman spend her hours slaving in the kitchen?

Meanwhile, Aggie is having a cold beer with a 7 foot giant with hair like Rapunzel.

Personally, I don’t care much if the woman cooked, or didn’t cook. Doesn’t make a difference to me or the plot. Although I am curious as to what the man said when his wife asked, “Tum dinner mein kya khaoge?”

I’m inclined to believe he said something to the effect of “Tumhara sarr.” Or maybe, “Bataun tereko?”

Leaving trying to decode unsaid dialogues aside for a minute, I think this is a terrible idea.
Not the ad. I like the ad.

But this entire thing of couples working in the same office. I’ve been there, so I know.

And at the risk of being politically incorrect (yet again), and at the risk of pissing off pretty much all of womankind, here’s why a couple-who-wants-to-stay-a-couple should never, ever work in the same office.
In no specific order of logic.

Firstly, you can’t flirt anymore. And before you jump at my throat saying “women can flirt too, you male chauvinist swine”, this goes for both, men and women. So forget about that harmless coffee with the new intern, the surprisingly long smoke break with what’s-his-name-with-a-terrific-smile-from-the-Bombay-office, or the team motivational lunch that comprises of you and a starry eyed damsel who takes a bath in Davidoff Cool Water.

The only person you are ever allowed to drink a glass of water with, smoke with, eat lunch with, go for a walk with, go home with, is your spouse.
And (I may be generalizing here, but) if you’re a man, know this. It takes a micro second for a woman to link two un-linkable things.

A break up is but imminent.

(She, crying to her friends): “He cheated on me.”
(Friends, in Greek tragedy styled chorus): “How can you tell? How can you tell?”
(She, looking into her Louis Vuitton bag for a tissue): “He wasn’t on his seat.”
(Greek Choir): Oh that’s bad, oh that’s bad. The scoundre-e-e-e-e-e-l.

But let’s say you have an open-minded spouse. (Do you also have a unicorn?) There’s that little problem about timing.

You’re going to the same office. Doesn’t make sense to take two cars, right? Carbon footprint and all that yada yada. So, you go together and come back together.

Which really means that once your work is done, you perch albatross-like on your partner’s shoulders. “Don’t let me hurry you,” you say.
And yet, the claws of the albatross dig deep into the neck.

If your wife/girlfriend has to work late, interesting conversations are on the cards. That usually begin with “You need to get your priorities right.”

(In sing-song voice) B-r-e-a-k u-p.

But let’s assume that you have an open-minded spouse who synchronizes his/her work with yours. You still have that problem about lunch.

Strictly for the men, this one. Well mostly, anyway.

Reliable studies show that most of the times, men discard their lunch boxes the minute they reach their office. So the neatly packed bhindi masala, or chole chawal, or paneer bhujji, or chana daal go to the office peon.

While the men go out and get some real food. Lunch over and the day done, they return home with their lunch boxes deliciously empty. “What a good boy you are”, they’re told and get rewarded.

Now consider if you will, the consequences of having your woman partner at work.
“Listen, I’m just stepping out for a bite.”
“With whom?”
“With my team, who else?”
“Any women?”
“Yeah, I think so. One or two.”
“Please, please don’t make a scene at work.”
“You already have lunch. I packed it for you. Eat that.”
“But I don’t like chole.”
“Oh, so my choles aren’t good enough for you anymore? The fact that I lovingly made it with my own two hands means nothing to you?”
“But you didn’t. We have a cook.”
“Fine. Fine. Can you please stop raising your voice? People are looking.”
“If you’ve already made up your mind about going, why did you bother to ask me?”
“I didn’t. I just told you.”

At this point, the woman starts chasing the man around office with a woofer, trying to aim for his head.
(Appointed speaker at guy’s team) Sir, you coming?
“No, you guys carry on. I’ve got chole today.”

Fine. Let’s say you have an open-minded spouse who synchronizes his/her work with yours and doesn’t force you to eat chole. (Congratulations, you’re one in a zulti zillion.)
You still have a problem. 

I call it ‘The Python Maneuver’.

Young couples in public space, by and large, feel compelled to stake claim to the property every five minutes or so. It’s primarily to keep competition away, although they’ll tell you “What? I love you. Can’t I just stroll over a hundred steps and give you a little kiss?”

Grip getting tighter. Can’t breathe.

Men are worse.
We’ll just go and plonk ourselves on our woman’s table. And speak in hushed whispers.

“Don’t you think your top is a little too deep?”
“Don’t be silly.”
“I’m serious. I can see everything.”
“That’s because of the angle. You’re sitting on my table. Nobody does that, apart from you.”

Coils around your neck. Getting claustrophobic.

You go back to your seat, sulking a little. And in a few minutes, her boss comes to say something to her. Leaning on the table, he carelessly sits on it. You run to your girlfriend and say the one word that’ll ensure you don’t talk to her in a long, long time.


I’m not saying it doesn’t happen – this couple working together thing. It does – I know a few myself. But should it?

In my opinion, this arrangement should be avoided like the plague. Do anything you can to make sure your spouse never works with you. Say the company isn’t hiring or something. Say there’s a rat menace. Make up fictitious stories about the person your spouse will be reporting into.

Because only in advertising will you get a spouse who gives you space, is your boss, doesn’t go all python-grip on you, drives home in her own car and cooks non-bhindi-type food.

Only in advertising.

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