‘War on Love’: Anti-Tanishq Hate Tells Us What We Need to Do ASAP

Given the socio-political climate we live in, a question we must ask ourselves is this: Am I a ‘lover’ or a ‘hater’?

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I am not going to tell you my love story today. It is beautiful on most mornings and complicated by some afternoons. Sometimes it is oppressive, often it is exhilarating. I’m not going to tell you about our amazing children either. They belong to their generation; they are wise and secretive and loving and tolerant and what else can a parent hope for, really.

I’ll tell you a little bit about my parents-in-law, though. Ammi was kindly and so protective of us, that in my heart she felt like a grandmother to me. She was full of energy and brimming over with love in the years that I knew her.

When she got to know me a little, she was pleased her son had found someone who revelled in his eccentricities and participated in his un-planned capers. ‘Beg plans’, we call them in the family. They are always big, often vague and emanate from the imagination of a determined man called Beg. Afzal Beg.

Of love and communal harmony: a vignette from the author’s home.
Of love and communal harmony: a vignette from the author’s home.
(Photo: Natasha Badhwar / Altered by The Quint)

“I thought your presence in his life would force him to calm down but you are his equal when it comes to adventures,” Ammi said to me one day in our home in the village, where we had arrived to be with her after a cross-country escapade with little children. She wasn’t complaining, she was happy for us.

Papa, My Father-In-Law, Leads Both Holi & Muharram Rituals

My father-in-law is the most precious person I have inherited from my husband. In his nineties now, Papa’s life is the story of this country. A young adult in 1947, a teacher in his working years, Mirza Ashfaq Beg has always been a community leader – a man of the people in rural east Uttar Pradesh. He sits under an elderly mursali tree every evening surrounded by other people from the village. They exchange local news, talk politics, plan events and discuss disputes.

This is the same space where the annual Holi bonfire is lit and the Muharram procession starts every year. Papa is an integral part of organising both.

Despite constraints brought on with the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, Papa attends every wedding and death ceremony he is invited for and delivers speeches on Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti.

“What is more amazing is that people still listen to him,” his son remarked on 2 October this year, when a cousin sent us a video of Papa speaking to an audience about Gandhian values.

Of love and communal harmony: a vignette from the author’s home.
Of love and communal harmony: a vignette from the author’s home.
(Photo: Natasha Badhwar / Altered by The Quint)
When the online brouhaha started over the Tanishq ad that depicts a baby shower ceremony in an inter-faith marriage, I didn’t even bother to go online and watch the ad.

‘What? They Are Being Juvenile About Hindu-Muslim Families Again?’

A friend – she is Muslim and married to a Hindu man – sent me a message with a link to a news report. The headline was enough for me to know that we were about to witness another online outrage cycle trying to deny the reality that Hindus and Muslims are capable of and deserve to have rich, intimate, meaningful relationships with each other.

“What are you watching Mamma, and why is it on loop?” asked my daughter when I finally began to watch the Tanishq ad that had triggered the troll attack on Twitter. “It sounds weird.”

The ad itself is so short and so full of detail that I was tempted to examine it closely for what all it includes and what I was missing in it. This is one reason why I avoid popular film and video products.

As an insider of the media industry, I have too many opinions. I begin to think of budgets and sets, I deconstruct lighting and shots, costumes, make-up and scripts. I’m never sure whether I am being honestly critical or just feeling left out from the glamour of the high stakes commercial work that I have chosen to stay away from as a professional.

Of love and communal harmony: a vignette from the author’s home.
Of love and communal harmony: a vignette from the author’s home.
(Photo: Natasha Badhwar / Altered by The Quint)

By now two daughters joined me to watch the video on my laptop. News had broken that the ad had been withdrawn by Tata group, but of course it remains available to watch on multiple platforms including YouTube. I mentioned the context of the controversy to my daughters.

“What? They are being juvenile about Hindu-Muslim families again,” said the 14-year-old. “I have nothing but guns in my heart for them.” She made a gesture with her hand where she touched her heart and then pretended to fire from her fingers.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“I don’t have a real gun, so I am using an imaginary gun,” she said.

Pushback Against Tanishq Ad Isn’t Happening In A Vacuum: Revisiting Hathras, SSR Suicide, Arrests Of Activists

With my children, I try to downplay the extent of the hate we are surrounded by in 2020. It may seem like a futile exercise to others, but as a parent I refuse to succumb to despair. I must find the tools to underline that love is real and powerful.

The hate they witness is a temporary bout of madness. We can and we must resist it.

For myself, it is important to know what we are up against. There is no doubt that we are living in the age of regression.

Of love and communal harmony: a vignette from the author’s home.
Of love and communal harmony: a vignette from the author’s home.
(Photo: Natasha Badhwar / Altered by The Quint)
Technically we are in 2020, but our consciousness, moral compass and collective humanity has regressed by centuries. Our phone screens may be lit all the time, but we live in the Dark Ages.

The pushback against the Tanishq ad isn’t happening in a vacuum.

  • The conversion of the tragedy of Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide into a news television-led witch-hunt of Rhea Chakraborty is part of the same wave of hate, whipped up by political parties and fanned by media companies that are using it as a shortcut to gain more power and control.
  • The victimisation of the family of the young Dalit woman in Hathras who gave a dying declaration that upper-caste men had gangraped her, is part of the same socio-political regression.
  • The wrongful arrests of anti-CAA protestors and student leaders, the framing of fantastical terror charges against teachers, lawyers and human rights workers are also happening with the same confidence that people like you and me can be easily polarised along the fault lines of caste, religion, gender and class.

Disintegration of ‘Normalcy’: We Can’t Afford To Lose Any More Time, For Our Parents & Our Children

We are watching the disintegration of what we used to recognise as normalcy at such a high speed that we struggle to process the daily dose of fresh injustices and madness. It is hard not to be sucked into whirlpool of outrage. We feel exhausted and none the wiser. Sometimes we are quick to choose sides, sometimes we are paralysed by apathy and confusion.

For the sake of our parents who worked to build a better India and our children who have seen no evidence of it so far, we cannot afford to lose any more time.

The stories we live are real – they are complex and layered and true. We will not allow the din of lies to convince us otherwise.

Of love and communal harmony: a vignette from the author’s home.
Of love and communal harmony: a vignette from the author’s home.
(Photo: Natasha Badhwar / Altered by The Quint)
One question that we all need to ask ourselves is this: Am I a lover or a hater?

Am I going to participate in this blinding race towards chaos or am I going to be the light that illuminates the darkness? A war has been declared on love itself and this is the battle we must be prepared to fight. To live is to cross barriers – let no one convince us otherwise.

(Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker and author of “My Daughters’ Mum” and “Immortal For A Moment.” She tweets @natashabadhwar. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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