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.

Tata Docomo
Tata Docomo
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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

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This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

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Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

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Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

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In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

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