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'Counsel is better than cell': Meet the team behind Mumbai Police's Twitter witticisms

In barely three weeks, @MumbaiPolice has been drawing attention for its chuckle-worthy public service tweets.

Less than a month after the Mumbai Police made its debut on Twitter, its @MumbaiPolice account is drawing eyeballs for some rather quirky wordplay in its daily tweets. In a stream of public service messages posted over the past two weeks, the Twitter handle has been attempting to tackle issues such as road safety, drug use and cyber crime by using light-hearted humour in its copywriting.

On Monday, for instance, @MumbaiPolice marked its Traffic Safety Awareness Week with this tweet:

Other tweets have punned and twisted words in the same vein, and were retweeted several times by @MumbaiPolice’s 19,000 followers.

Brains behind the tweets

The Mumbai Police tweets – using the same brand of humour found on the road safety signboards across Ladakh – could be seen as extremely funny or even almost cheesy. But behind the scenes, there are at least six people who take credit for the creative copywriting. The team includes four professionals from private digital media agency Trivone, a former crime journalist and Commissioner of Police Ahmad Javed himself.

“It took a while to convince the Mumbai police to join social media, but in a city like Mumbai, Twitter can be a very effective way to communicate with people,” said Sunchika Pandey, the former journalist who now volunteers some of her time to oversee the Trivone team that formally handles the city police’s Twitter account. During her stint as a crime reporter from 2005 to 2011, Pandey developed a strong rapport with senior police officials who now trust her to ensure that the Twitter account is sensitive and politically correct.

But a lot of the humour on the @MumbaiPolice comes from police chief Javed himself, who leads the team and approves of all the creativity and content that is published on the page.

“The police is often seen as rough and tough, but Mumbai city has a sense of humour, and the CP was always open to adding humour to the tweets,” said Pandey.

Planning for the witty tweets and other Mumbai Police social media campaigns began at least six months ago, and every few weeks, Pandey, the Trivone team, Javed and other senior police officials – joint-CP Deven Bharti and deputy CP Dhananjay Kulkarni – hold meetings to brainstorm for ideas and discuss strategies.

“Although we brainstorm together, Javed sir himself thinks of some very funny lines for tweets,” said Pandey. “He is also very particular about grammar.”

Chief wordster

Police chief Ahmad Javed’s interest in wordplay is evident from the tweets on his own official Twitter page:

“Most Twitter users have a very young age profile,” said Deven Bharti, the city’s joint commissioner of police for law and order. “The main purpose behind using such humour is to capture the attention of the youth.”

But the CP’s favourite tweet, says Pandey, is a more serious one addressed to men on women’s safety:

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.