Watching TV in a Pakistani household has certain distinctive memories associated with it: Family oriented dramas dealing with the usual saas-bahu (daughter-in-law and mother-in-law) issues, morning shows where women dress up and chat about trivial issues, and the infamous news broadcasts where the same piece of news is repeated 10 times a day in the blaring voices of our reporters. These are all staples in the recipe that form content on any Pakistani TV channel.
However, one thing that has remained unchanged on TV is our advertisements.
1. Cooking oil: Every woman’s knight in shining armor
These commercials are probably the epitome of how ridiculously glamorous cooking is made to seem. While Dalda cooking oil has the magic capabilities of keeping an entire family wide-awake during Suhoor, Mezan has an entire family prancing around the kitchen while cooking – I guess they missed the part where the desi mom shoos her kids out of her territory. If that isn’t enough, there’s also Canola that manages to save a fainting bride with its “Omega 3” powers.
I mean really?! The poor girl was probably fed up with the heavy jewelry and excessive smiling.
2. TEA!! The drug that runs in EVERY Desi’s veins
From emotional mother-daughter moments in Brooke Bond Supreme chai ads to those ultra-extravagant dances promoting Tarang tea milk. Our tea brands have left no stone unturned in showcasing the ultimate savior of all Desi’s – CHAI! Alright, alright, before you kill me for my sarcasm towards tea, I’ll admit that it does hold a special place in every Pakistani’s heart. But there are other ways of portraying it, instead of sappy or overly fancy commercials.
(P.S. I won’t lie – our hearts do dance like that when we have tea.)
3. Choosing the right washing powder: A bahu’s rite of passage
Move over, gol rotis! The ultimate key to having a happy married life is to have the perfect washing powder!
It was common (and painful) to watch girls prove themselves as good daughters-in-law by their ability to produce spotless clothes in all those ’10 ruppay ka Bonus’ advertisements. Now you’ve got an ad showing a waitress being chosen as a daughter-in-law based on her advice of using Brite. Given the usual Pakistani criteria – a girl who is tall, thin and fair, preferably a doctor/engineer willing to be a house-oops, I meant trophy-wife – which accompanies the hunt for a daughter-in-law, I’ll wait until that actually happens.
4. Fairness cream: Because where would we be without fair skin?!
Every desi girl can admit to using the legendary Fair n Lovely beauty cream at-least once during their teen years. I mean c’mon, those commercials promised us the ultimate symbol of beauty (or rather, the Desi-community-declared-symbol-of-beauty) – fairness – in 10 days.
Now if these claims were actually true, I’d be using this after each of my annual vacations instead of our desi totka (remedy) of rubbing lemons on your skin before a shower (which – believe me – does work i.e. in returning your original complexion but not whitewashing you.)
5. Toilet cleaner: A dose of magic in the bathroom
In a society that is still highly patriarchal, these ads are probably the only time you’ll see a male concerned about the kind of toilet cleaner used in the bathrooms. Enter Fahad Mustafa with his life-changing advice on using Harpic to have a gleaming WC. Now if only life were that simple, we wouldn’t be telling our kaam waalis (domestic helps) to scrub the bathrooms well every other time they came in.
As the years have passed, there has been a shift (may I add, for the better) in the kind of subject matter being shown on TV, with an increase in shows highlighting issues such as corruption, extremism, gang wars, as well as documentaries that draw attention to touristic areas, which more than often do not get their fair share of publicity.
But one thing that we can always count on for familiarity is our advertisements.