LOCAL PROTEST

Why Mumbai's Muslim neighbourhoods aren't selling soft drinks during Eid

To protest against Israel's strikes on Gaza, some shop owners are boycotting products made by companies headquartered in the US, whom they see as a silent spectator.

As Muslims celebrated Eid after fasting during the month of Ramzan, one popular item was missing from several tables in Mumbai’s Mohammad Ali Road: aerated drinks.

For the past two weeks, hotels and eateries on this street, which is famous for its festive food during this month, have boycotted Israeli and American products to protest against Jerusalem's continuing missile strikes on the Gaza Strip. They have stopped serving products made by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Kraft, among others.

Tensions escalated between Israel and Palestine after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in June. On July 8, Israel launched air strikes, and Hamas, which is in control in Gaza, sent rockets across the border.

According to Palestinian health officials, more than 1,100 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians, have died since then. Fifty-three soldiers and three civilians from Israel have died.

“From Colaba to Byculla, nobody is selling Israeli products,” said Mohammad Saleem, a textile wholesaler, referring to a swathe of the city with a high concentration of Muslims. “How many people have died because of Israel? The least we can do is hurt their profits.”

Mohammad Ali Road is a magnet for food lovers during Ramzan. The street and its side roads become an open-air food hall in the evening as observers break their daily fast. Several eateries in the area carry posters saying, “The call for boycott has been given because we do not want to strengthen the hands of the killers of humanity.”

Two weeks ago, a group of unidentified people visited these shops, distributed the posters and asked the owners to stop serving Israeli and American products, shopkeepers said. Many popular soft drinks are manufactured by companies based in the US, which supports Israel, so the boycott is one way to protest, they said.

“Normally for Eid we make arrangements to get three fridges and at least two ice boxes,” said A Siddiqui, a manager at Hindustan Restaurant, one of the few eateries open on Eid. But this year he has wrapped even the one fridge he owns in cardboard packaging to hide the brand names.

The demand for aerated drinks has also dropped because much of the initiative for the boycott has come from the public, Siddiqui said.

Two customers, a young boy and a middle-aged man, did wander in asking for Thums Up, once an Indian brand that Coca-Cola now owns, and Mirinda. Both are on the list of drinks to be boycotted, so Siddiqui turned them away.

“It is not as if demand has disappeared,” Siddiqui said, smiling. “But compare this with last year and you will see the difference. It is not like other times when there was violence. The public now knows what is happening because of the media, social media. That is why people themselves took the initiative to boycott.”

Social media appears to be among the chief reasons people are joining the boycott. Many people on the street told Scroll.in that they were responding to the horrific images they had seen on Whatsapp.


One of several images circulated on Whatsapp groups.


Hindustan still has old stock, but Siddiqui does not plan to sell any of it until the boycott is over, which may happen in a matter of days or take weeks. But the absence of aerated drink sales has not hurt his business, he said.

Winners and losers
The boycott has, however, hurt distributors of cold drinks. The 100-year-old Hind Cold Drink House still has a vast stock of cold drinks and will not accept any new American or Israeli products for the time being, at least until it can sell off its old stock.

About 90% of its hotel customers have stopped ordering aerated drinks altogether and customers who walk in are asking for Indian drink brands, said Mohammad Fahad, one of the shop's proprietors. Over the past two weeks, the fortunes of Fresh Jeera, an Indian brand, and Oro, an English brand, have risen. Retailers of general stores are not participating in the ban and his business from them has not reduced.

Indian soda manufacturers are also seeing a temporary surge in business because of the boycott. One of them is Farhan Jummani, the owner of Kraze. The company manufactures its soda in Kurla, but runs a shop selling flavoured soda on a road off Mohammad Ali Road. Only three years old, his store has seen a boost in popularity over the past two weeks.

“People can’t have Pepsi and Coke, so they come here instead, for our jeera masala drink,” said Jummani. "So business has indeed been better."

There was a similar boycott around five years ago, he said. At that time, his shop sold Coke and Pepsi and did see a dip in business.

 
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.