It’s rare that writing about advertising and marketing, involves a visit to the slums. The same could be said about the practitioners of this business – both clients and agencies.
Still, whenever this writer dared to venture out to slum pockets, right in the middle of Mumbai, he has often come out surprised.
Here are five anecdotes, from the last couple of years, that are eye-openers :
* There was a time when going through the narrow bylanes of slums included avoiding the stray dogs who slept in the corridors. Now it’s not unusual to spot Labradors, German Shepherds and a Doberman sharing a siesta with the home-grown mongrel.
* It was one of those regular roadside discussions. Usually, it’s mostly about local politics, sometimes national news. But on this particular occasion, I froze in my steps. The discussion was about the weather in Chicago, when it had touched -8 degrees, a couple of years back.
A Muslim girl from the slums hit one of her younger siblings on the head for his foolishness. But the word used was not “yeda” a Mumbai slang for the unintelligent or “bewakoof”. Instead she chose to say, “duffer”.
A gang of boys are playing with a stick and a ball. It looks like the poor man’s version of cricket. But a shout from one of the kid’s tells you that they know their game better than you. The kid just shouted, “home run”, a term from baseball, just in case.
T-shirt graffiti often grabs one attention. But this one was worn by a young slum dweller. And he very well knew the meaning of the offensive slang that was written large on his apparel. Still he chose to wear it to throw some attitude to those around him.
If the language in the slums around us is changing, are brands keeping pace with the way they communicate to these masses. Or does one T-shirt size, still fit all?
(The writer is the managing editor at Campaign India. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)