What Women Want*

Ministhy Dileep | April 25,2013 05:15 pm IST

There is a simple story about an old merchant and his three children. The old man was nearing the end of his life and wanted to bequeath his business to one of his children.

The selected one had to have the sensitivity, the vision and the tact to run the same. Very difficult qualities to measure.


(And the old man was obviously unaware of Assessment Centers). So, typical of all old beavers, who have trounced many in their heydays, he posed a challenge. He gave hundred rupees to each of the three youngsters and asked them to fill a room with that amount.


The first one was wandering about, when a peasant went past on a bullock cart. It was loaded with hay. The fellow seized the opportunity gladly and bought hundred rupees worth of hay. Having filled the room allotted, with stack loads of hay, he retired smirking, sure of his victory.


The second one happened to see garbage being piled up to be burnt. The fellow ran to buy up all the garbage for Hundred Rupees. He was very sure that no one could fill a room to its brim like him.


The third one went to the corner Curiosity shop. Having bought a lamp, some ghee, incense sticks, clothes to make wicks, and a matchbox, this one retired to the room allotted.


The merchant of course thought Yama had come nearer when he was seized with a fit of asthma on opening the first room. He almost died prematurely due to the smell of rotten eggs emanating from the second. But the third room revived his spirits and won his business. For it was clean and bright, filled with fragrance and light. His daughter also gave him back fifty rupees, I would like to believe.


No wonder, it gets our collective goats, when we see simpering advertisements that belittle our feminine intelligence. There is this creepy, crawly ad about a dark, plain girl whose father wishes she were a boy. Now she gets all sniffy, sniffy and what does she do? Applies "Care and Bubbly", turns into a glorious swan in a dress that probably cost her poor father his gratuity and pension combined, (the P.F. went for the shoes and haircut) and lands the job of an Air Hostess. Voila, there she is, the cynosure of all the eyes, including that handsome pilot's, and ends up taking her parents to the Five Star hotel for a coffee.


So what is the message, given so very subtly, to us old fuddy duddies? If you want your father to be proud of you, apply Care and Bubbly. (Because, you stupid, plain dark girl, you are a vexing load on his frail shoulders) become Bubbly, and end up landing that fabulous job .Of wiping away what the rich Arab's Pekingese decided to spout out on that dream air trip to Singapore. And hey, girl, apply that cream once more - you look a trifle yellow.


Selling dreams, did you say? Oh, please, my cerebrum has collided with my cerebellum. And there is a collective echo reverberating down the street.


Another one, which outraged even my humble medulla oblongata, was the desert advertisement for a particular soap. There is lissome young thing, taunting a group of Rajasthani women who had obviously trudged a long way to collect water. She pokes fun at the poor, illiterate women and they in turn throw the water at her in obvious disgust. She is shown cavorting around in great thrill.


What was that piece of nonsense? Apparently the image of water being a sign of freshness or some such drivel. I remember someone asked the late Shri.Shunu Sen that question, in his Hindu Business Line Column on Marketing, and he logically defended the idea, albeit agreeing to the ethical concern.


Dear Advertiser, maybe you have that hallowed doctorate on 'What women want", from Harvard. But let me tell you, you don't know half of it. If that soap sold, and you think it was because of the recall value of that ad, you might be right. Maybe some of us bought it to smell it for traces of nastiness left over from that ad. Lordie, don't they have women in their visualizing teams?


Maybe some day, I will be the perfect housewife who cooks her tired husband, magic chappatis with that special atta. Magic, because he will buy me silk saris (My mother-in-law remarks acidly that her cupboard should by now be overflowing with silk saris) and ask me to pick places to go visiting. Even the moon.


Meanwhile, I am stuffing my brain into the washing machine, along with my kid's pickle spattered party dress, to get it white washed too. For I want my child to win the Ms. Kindergarten. And this pickled old brain is not allowing me to do my washing with hope.



* Blatantly plagiarized from the name of the Mel Gibson starrer, understandably directed by a woman! Gibson tries hard to get into the minds of his female clientele - even tries to wax his macho legs.


Ministhy S. is PG (PM&IR) from XLRI-Jamshedpur, and currently, an IAS officer working in the UP cadre. She has written five books - 'Unequal Equations', 'Learning with Tippy Tortoise: Tales for Kids', 'Happy Birthday: Poems for Kids' and a novel published by Dronequill Publishers, Bangalore....

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Guest on 04/26/11 at 10:49 pm

Bingo to this article..!(Not potato chips & ads et al)..Such are r among the rampant cohort of ads of late that make me puke ‘Ponds age miracle’ ha ahaha. U got it babe..beauty of life pristine and pure.(another bruce willis flick)! ‘Naughty, naughty Bubble’.. My lil twins got me with that... Imagine using kids in ads!!!So all Life is as Ads..& vice versa. Cognitive dissonance. Jai Ho consumerism. But there is always a different pack..Damn the Minotaurs . ‘Welcome to the party pal’- John McClane hahaha Tried Axe too, a long line after me...to to ask if it worked.hahahah:)))))

Guest on 06/10/11 at 01:37 pm

Very interesting read.