The other day, I was driving down to work from home when something struck me. No, it wasn’t a Skoda with black tinted windows and a ‘gujar boy’ sticker. That’s a story for another day. What struck me was something I saw, or rather, didn’t see.
Let me explain. Every morning my drive time companion is Mayawati. I’ve grown accustomed to her cherubic, chubby face looking down at me from above. In fact, in the 5 kilometer stretch to the Golf Club from my home in Noida, I had once counted, no fewer than twenty eight billboards celebrating UP’s first lady.
Of course I’m not counting the fact that I have to make a left at MahaMaya flyover, wait for the signal at MahaMaya Balika Inter Kalej, and get stuck in traffic next to the newly inaugurated multi billion rupee Dalit Prerna Sthal and Green Garden, where the pride of place is a thirty foot statue of well…Mayawati.
And now it’s all gone! The posters I mean, not the flyover and the college. Vanished. I stopped the car for a second to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I could see trees and houses again. My eyes weren’t being assaulted by slogans of emancipation and justice. I wasn’t being reminded every twelve yards how someone from lower echelons of the BSP was so grateful to have her as the Dear Leader. I had this distinct Toto-we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore feeling.
And it’s not just behen Mayawati, this cut out culture has just gone rampant everywhere India. Public spaces are being taken over by advertisements of political agendas. Whoever is in power has arrogated the right to advertise, all in the name of Sarkar. And as Indians we are suckers for it. We love the big personality. We prefer politicians to policies, cricketers over cricket, actors over acting. When are we going to wake up? Why is it we need people to be larger and more ubiquitous than life?
Signage has taken over our once beautiful countryside as well. Every tea stall and Dhaba along our national highways has been taken over by Vodafone; the ones that haven’t been taken over by Airtel that is. Every wall has been converted into an ad for a big cement company or some homeopathic doctor claiming remedies for all sex problems.
Unfortunately, advertising of this kind follows the law of the Amazon rainforest. If you have a big annoying billboard, then mine has to be bigger and more annoying than yours to steal the hapless motorist’s attention. And this law gave rise to the world’s tallest trees, so you can imagine what it will eventually do to our public spaces if unchecked.
Anyway, the temporary respite from political advertising has been brought about by the Election Commission. Thank the dear Lord for that. But I’m sure when the dust settles down on UP’s political sweepstakes, the posters will be back. And if not her, some other angelic Amul baby will beam down on me during my drive to work.
Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorow/2881971366/]