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'Is this even legal?': Why is Narendra Modi in a Reliance Jio ad, ask Twitter users

On the face of it, the ad would seem to violate The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950, social media users say.

On Friday, readers of the national dailies The Times of India and the Hindustan Times woke up to a full-page jacket advertisement with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, dressed in a blue jacket, staring at them from under the words “Jio: Digital Life”.

The advertisement for Reliance Jio, the second coming of Reliance Industries in telecom, carried the words “Dedicated to India and 1.2 billion Indians” in bold type, followed by a short message:

“In the journey of time, there come a few life changing moments. Our honourable Prime Minister’s inspiring vision of a Digital India is one such movement. Jio is dedicated to realising our Prime Minister’s Digital India vision for 1.2 billion Indians. Jio Digital Life will give the power of data to each Indian, to fulfill every dream and collectively take India to the global digital leadership…”

The tribute-in-an-ad came a day after Mukesh Ambani, chairperson of Reliance Industries, launched Reliance Jio in Mumbai with Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan by his side. There too Ambani, the richest man in India, had voiced a short dedication to Modi.

“Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for Digital India is a life changing moment,” he said. “Jio is a dedication to that Digital India dream of the Prime Minister, his vision for the 1.2 billion people of India.”

Headed by Ambani’s daughter Isha and son Akash, both 24 years old, Reliance Jio’s 4G services are touted to disrupt the telecom industry. It is offering data services at as low as Rs 50 per GB, reportedly the lowest data charge anywhere in the world, free voice calls along with free roaming in India. According to Ambani, customers can show up with the unique biometric-based Aadhaar card at a Jio store and get a SIM card within 15 minutes.

A long time coming, Jio was expected to launch a media blitzkrieg. But an ad with the prime minister’s image? Social media was not amused. In fact, it wondered if the usage of the image was even legal.

According to The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950, "...No person shall, except in such cases and under such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government use... for the purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession... any name or emblem specified in the Schedule or, any colourable imitation thereof without the previous permission of the Central Government or of such officer of Government as may be authorised in this behalf by the Central Government."

Of course, Reliance may well have received written permission from the government to use Modi's picture, which would make it okay to do. Previous matters in which this Act have come up have also suggested some nuance in interpreting the law, as with Montblanc's use of Mahatma Gandhi to sell pens a few years ago, resulting in a controversy.

The only caveat to the law is: "The name of pictorial representation of Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj or the Prime Minister of India, except the pictorial use thereof on calendars where only the names of the manufacturers and printers of the calendars are given and the calendars are dot (sic) used for advertising goods."

It should be noted that the advertisement came on a day when central trade unions have called for a nationwide strike to protest against "anti-labour policies" of the Modi government.

Twitterverse used the opportunity to respond with jokes.

Meanwhile, the front page looks even more incongruous because on Friday night, Modi – who rarely gives one-on-one meetings – is set to appear in an interview given to Network18, a media company that happens to be owned primarily by Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Limited.

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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.