Mail or Male?

This is a new commercial of Indian Railways doing the rounds in cyber space. Produced by Nirvana Films and directed by Prakash Verma of the ZooZoo fame. It is a slickly produced commercial and makes use of the classic song 'Rail Gaadi' rendered by Ashok Kumar in the film Ashirwad. Here is the commercial:


Most people I know have liked and enjoyed this video. I did not. Why? The tag line for the video is 'Desh Ka Mail' - with a play on the word 'mail'. Mail could denote the train or, in Hindi, it also means 'meeting' or 'similarity', thereby indicating that Indian Railways actually brings different people together.

The image of a train, to me, is a metaphor. Of different people traveling to one destination. Of meeting as strangers and parting as friends. Of a single thread that connects diverse lives. Except that the human train in this video is devoid of women and children. They have been reduced to spectators.

I am a Railway child. My father was a senior bureaucrat with Ministry of Railways. I grew up in a railway colony. Our social life was structured around the railway club and other railway families. And life in the railways is all about appreciating diversity. In the colony where I lived, our immediate neighbours to the right were Kannadigas, to the left were Hyderabadi Muslims, and in front lived an Oriya family. We moved every 5th or 6th year to a new place, a new city, a new State. My sister and I loved every move, learned new languages and imbibed new cultures.

Having unconsciously learned lessons about inclusion, I cannot stomach this video. The Indian Railways transports 20 million passengers daily. At least half these passengers must be women and children. And yet, like in so many other domains, they have been excluded here too. One comment in youtube questioned "veryyy cool ad .. although i wonder y only males were included as a part of the रेल गाङी ?! :(". The reply to this comment is shocking in its insensitivity "The Ladies compartment is getting ready, gone for a makeover... "

Damn this testosterone driven train for being the metaphor of Indian society!

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9 Responses to Mail or Male?

  1. RGB says:

    True, Desh ka 'male' ban gaya!
    And look what we have for inspiration:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6l00jCPZVA0; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV2AvXPF2ME

  2. radha says:

    I liked the ad, but missed the fact that there were no women/girs there! That is not right!
    For many of us, it is Ashok Kumar song that got our attention.

  3. Good one, enjoyed the Video

  4. Deepa says:

    @ Radha: I don't blame you for missing the missing women and children! We have become so used to being excluded that we don't realise when it happens. For eg. Most people, while writing an official letter to someone in authority, would automatically write 'Dear Sir'. A few people have started writing 'Madam/Sir' but the majority still say 'Sir'. It is an unconscious assumption/conditioning. It may seem small and insignificant. But a lot of insignificants roll into one giant 'Insignificant' - the insignificance of female presence in public domain. And I try to do whatever little I can to change that perception.

  5. That explains the 'state of the nation'... doesn't it?!!

    P.S. btw... when Sabeer Bhatia was trying to sell his idea (hotmail.com)... his company was called "HoTMaiL". People sniggered at him and called him "HotMale" behind his back...

  6. Deepa says:

    Roshmi: Why behind the back?! Being a 'HotMale' is a desirable state of affairs no? (no pun intended!!).

  7. Well yes, normally it is taken as a 'huge compliment' ;)

    But in Sabeer Bhatia's case... it was meant to be derogatory...


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  8. Deepa,Well said.Leave alone this rail gadi and the ad.The sordid fact is 52% of indian population with tremendous power in their ballots still lacks the political power due to them.The reservation in legislatures is yet to come about, the laws that were made by a patriarchal society in good old days are stil there loaded against women,the girls who do better upto class 12 suddenly disappear in institutions of higher learning and also occupy a slender percentage in positions of power disproportionate to the their actual strength.They are still treated as chattel in rural sides,beasts of burden and bear the brunt of keeping the hearth warm.The noise by a few feminine organisations is lost in the din by males.In many cases women are the enemies of women.There is a long way for women to get real power and take it from me, men are not going to give it on a platter.The power should be wrested by the strength of their ballots.It is sad that women are not uniting under common gender but stand divided by political leanings influenced by their husbands. Do write to me
    kpartha12@gmail.com

  9. Deepa says:

    KParthasarthi: Indeed political empowerment of women is important. People have different reactions to the need for affirmative action. I support it. What the hell have the politicians done in parliament for 63 years WITHOUT reservation that they are opposing women's reservation NOW?!

    Secondary status of women, cuts across socio economic lines. The degrees may vary. In poor households, perhaps girls do not have access to primary education. In more affluent families, perhaps girls are expected to choose a certain type of education. Or maybe drop out of the paid workforce to shoulder child care responsibilities.

    The discrimination has gone on for CENTURIES. Definitely it will take time to reach our destination. Hope and optimism should drive us.