RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS

Goddess Durga has starred in Bengali ads for years – so why is Jawed Habib in hot water now?

During Durga Puja, the goddess’ image is evoked to sell everything from restaurant menus to plywood.

A newspaper advertisement featuring the Hindu goddess Durga at a Jawed Habib salon, in which she appears to be preparing for the impending Durga Puja festivities in Bengal, has landed hair stylist Jawed Habib in trouble. Habib, owner of the Jawed Habib multi-city salon chain, has been accused of hurting religious sentiments and mocking Hindu deities.

The outrage appears to be somewhat misplaced because Habib’s intended audience – Bengalis and more specifically Kolkatans, who are preparing for Durga Puja – is far from offended. The people who called out the advertisement on social media appear mainly to be from outside Bengal. Shortly after the advertisement appeared on Twitter, a complaint was lodged against Habib in Hyderabad, and a Jawed Habib salon was vandalised in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh.

In Kolkata, as people prepare for madness on the streets with a Durga Puja pandal in every lane and confusing traffic diversions, the biggest controversy in recent times has been caused by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee referring to government servants as dogs.

An advertisement for Sylvan Plywood.
An advertisement for Sylvan Plywood.

Personal gods

In a recent article Catch News, Ashis Nandy writes about how India once had a robust tradition of Isht Devtas or personal gods. These were not distant and formal deities but ones who were batting for the devotee, caring for his special concerns, doing little things for him. This is the sort of relationship that Bengalis have always shared with Durga – in Bengal, Durga is more than a goddess, she is the daughter of the house. She is Uma, the reincarnation of Sati, married to Lord Shiva. Every year, when she returns to her paternal abode with her children for a period of five days, the feeling in the air is rather like when a beloved aunt or a married elder sister comes home for a visit.

Bengali children grow up with stories of Durga slaying Mahishasur, the demon who took the form of a buffalo. Durga’s children are treated more like distant cousins than distant gods – each has a distinct character. Ganesh is the plump, obedient, occasionally mischievous, child who is bullied by others. Kartik is always nattily dressed, and perhaps a little vain. Lakshmi is the naughty one and Saraswati the studious, serious one. If one were to think of gods as family, it would logically follow that one could sometimes josh with them, the way Bengalis are known to do.

Out of context

Times Group’s Bengali publication, Ei Samay, recently quoted artist Gautam Benegal, who grew up in Kolkata, on the controversy surrounding Habib’s advertisement. Benegal said that it would be difficult for anyone who wasn’t Bengali or wasn’t brought up in Bengal, to see the advertisement in its correct context – Bengalis who have read Parashuram (the pen name of author Rajsekhar Basu) and Sukumar Ray, understand humour and satire, and are therefore able to take such cartoons in the right spirit.

Bengal has a long tradition of creating satire and advertisements using Hindu deities. The Anandabazar Patrika Group’s Bengali television channel releases an animated short film called Mahishasur Pala or The Mahishasura Affair every year on the occasion of Durga Puja. The animated skit, which is scripted and voiced by some of Bengal’s best-known comics, contains sarcastic references to current affairs and politics and even hilarious situations such as Durga and Mahishasura temporarily pausing mid-battle so that they can answer their mobile phones.

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It is common to see restaurant billboards advertising their Puja special menus with each of Durga’s ten hands holding a different dish. Since this is Bengal, most of the dishes are meat and fish.

An advertisement for Air Costa airlines.
An advertisement for Air Costa airlines.

In a surprising coincidence, eight years ago, on September 27, 2009, ABP’s Sunday English supplement Graphiti had published a cartoon that featured Saraswati saying: “We can’t get our hair styled at Habib’s, we have to wear it long and loose for four days.”

So what has everyone so riled up about Habib’s advertisement in 2017?

Tradition of satire

Bengali culture has seen much worse when it comes to mocking the gods. The popular song Menoka Mathae De Lo Ghomta urges Menoka, Uma’s mother, to cover her head in shame because her daughter has chosen Shiva for a husband – and the ash-smeared, chillum-smoking Shiva, known to hang out in cremation ghats, is no ideal son-in-law.

Another folk song, Kalankini Radha, refers to Krishna using the word that was infamously used by Union Minister of State, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, in her election campaign. Veteran actor Kamal Mitra, as Reverend Krishnamohan Bandopadhyay in a scene from the film Vidyasagar (1950), takes Hinduism apart – Bandopadhyay questions the caste system and untouchability, accuses Hindus of persecuting freethinkers and even says that it is no sin to eat beef.

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In the celebrated 1977 comedy film Jamalaye Jibanta Manush, the famous Bengali comedian Bhanu Bandopadhyay literally raises hell when he is taken to heaven by mistake, that too while he is still alive. Bandopadhyay starts a revolution in heaven, to fix what he says are outdated rules and norms that Hindu Gods such as Yama, the God of Death, are following. A mention must also be made of Bengal’s famous “Kabi Gaan” tradition, which has many examples of the Gods being mocked and even abused.

Template response

In the week following Habib’s advertisement, everyone who claimed to have been offended or hurt had only one thing to say – “Would [Habib] have dared do this with Prophet Mohammed?” This uncanny similarity raises the suspicion that this may actually be a template response from the online troll armies organised to create communal disharmony, of which there have been multiple examples on social media.

In the film Hirak Rajar Deshey, a political satire craftily disguised as a children’s film, director Satyajit Ray shows a machine used for “mogoj dholai” or brainwashing. Workers, farmers and intellectuals who disagree with the autocratic king are shoved into a chamber and come out reciting rhyming couplets in praise of the king. If the attack on Jawed Habib is not a coordinated hate campaign, then it is a sign that a multitude of such campaigns in the past have had their effect. The people, it seems, have already drunk the Kool-Aid.

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Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

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Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.