Mahatma Gandhi is an all-purpose sales guy. Mont Blanc pens know that and decided to have an imprint of his image on their limited edition fountain pen in 18-carat solid gold. This story was reported two months ago and has resurfaced because a PIL has been filed in India against the retailers.
I would not want it for the simple reason that it is cheesy and I can’t afford it. But the arguments against it are rather amusing.
$23,000, they say, is the lifetime income of the poor in India.
Rich Indians buy Swarovski crystals and Gucci bags. They do not calculate how much the poor are worth.
One of those spokesperson types said, “This pen is really funny. Gandhi would say it should be tossed in the trash or, better, sold off to pay for water and power for the poor. Gandhi would have been ashamed.”
Nope. Gandhi lived with industrialists and he knew they manufactured expensive goods. And we also knew that people commemorate heroes after they are dead. He did not ask the rich when he was alive to give up anything for the poor.
His great-grandson, who got a neat cut, it is said, had a different take: “I consider the Mont blanc pen their acknowledgment of the greatness of Gandhi. They are doing it the only way they know how. His writing implement was his greatest tool.”
I thought non-violence and swadeshi (self-reliance and abjurance of foreign goods) was. He delivered lectures and spoke a lot. He did write but that is hardly any justification for this pricey little thing. And it is limited edition, accessible to very few.
This business of an India on the move is getting on my nerves. We were always a materialistic society; some sold products, some services and some spirituality. Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line (about $1.25 a day). They don’t care about Mont Blanc or any pen because most are illiterate. And they pretty much do not care about Gandhi.
We want to purr about some big cats making it big, then fine. Let them flash that pen around too.
It is aesthetically quite unappealing and would require great gumption to expose bad taste. It won’t transform them into Gandhi clones. Or Gandhi abusers. Or people who like quoting Gandhi because it sounds like such an awesome thing to do.
So, here is one: “Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed.”
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Now, we come to the other great marketing delight. Lindsay Lohan is in India to make a documentary on human trafficking. She tweeted: “Over 40 children saved so far... Within one day's work... This is what life is about... Doing THIS is a life worth living!!!”
Sure. I am sure it will keep her clean for a while. But did she have to sound like she is at some game keeping track of the goals scored? Is it all in a day’s work? Do we blame Twitter, the medium, for making everything seem so simplistic and easy? And why Lindsay? What was the BBC thinking? Role model?
Oh, and here’s a quote from her repertoire, too: “How can you not like Britney Spears?”