The Great Indian Whitewash

The new citizen outreach program from the MCGM states, and I quote:

“Help! MCGM to keep Mumbai Clean!”

One would hope the copywriter involved had enough wit to foist this ironic gem upon us, but unfortunately this is not likely to be the case. Methinks (and said experience as a failed copywriter bears this out) that the bus shelter in question was left in the hands of a non-anglo art director to fabricate, while the copywriter headed home late to his warm bed and snoring partner, and Gheuntak Godbole got crazy with the exclamation marks, with hilarious effect. Am waiting to see if the selfsame individual is handed translation duties – a Hindi version rendered thus is extra precious:

“Bachao! MCGM Mumbai ki safai kar dene wala hai!”

To wit: the hindi speaking (north-indian, pan spitting, motherland defiling, etc) population to which the translated ad pictured above is addressed possibly does not understand the words “clean up”, so what good is the transliteration? If this was a genuine effort, shouldn’t they have gone with “safaa kar do!” or something?

On a more prosaic note – what’s with the hyphenated particle used in “clean(dash)up mumbai”? Shouldn’t it read as a simple adverb, an exhortation to “clean up”, rather than the mindless and effortless compound adjective which serves as a pseudo brand name (“Give us your best Close-up smile, you’re now in Clean-up Mumbai!”) for another insincere ‘India Shining’-like experiment?

(Talking about Close-up, I must make a minor digression on the importance of the seemingly insignificant hyphenated modifier. Hindustan Unilever recently spent a packet relaunching ‘Close-up’ as ‘Close Up’ (or ‘CloseUp’). The rebranding might have had a legal impetus, since Levers have divested their toothpaste brands (outside india), but it is remarkable that the new global owners deemed the fresh grammatical avatar as distinct enough to allow it to go to market. Would love to see a “close-up vs close up” brand war.)

Back to the war against garbage. Apart from a fresh and interesting colour palette which, it must be said has been executed effectively over all communications, including the product (trash trucks, cans, etc), this effort really does seem like another empty tale from the old chakachak/whitewash ministry of public placation that has poured millions of rupees down the sewer drain for their cover-up operations.

Why not use the money instead to run ads educating people about the benefits and simplicity of waste separation, the dangers of projectile trashing, the risks of letting our cows, dogs and sundry animal neighbours eat garbage that spews out from poorly latched trash compactors, or get Priety Zinta to come clean about the fact that she would never date a spitter, even. Really, at this late hour in our struggle for hygienic survival we need to up the ante and cajole, embarrass, and threaten our population into mindfulness. Better still, tax them increasingly, collectively and publicly for the growing burden of the clean-up effort. See how that hits them in the scrotum of self-interest.



  1. amitabh

    I must say, you are the cleverest, wittiest person I know! What a literary tour de force! What words! What grammar!!
    What am I doing commenting on my own post!?

  2. mcbuddha

    I’ve always wondered about the dubious merits of rebranding identifiable products myself – Can you imagine if they relaunched Thums-Up as Thumbs Up…that sounds really quite proctological for a cola, doesnt it?

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