THE WAY IT WAS: The naval invasion —Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan

When a journalist asked how Uganda could be attacked by sea when it was a land-locked country, the president replied with an impassive smile, “There, you see, the English are so stupid”

An attractive mother on telephone to daughter: “Kaisi ho (How are you)?”

Daughter with a packet of Sooper cookies in her hand replies, “Super!”

Mother again asks, “Parhai kaisi hai (How are the studies)?”

Daughter reassures her, “Super, mother, super!”

Mother enquires again, “Khana (food)”? Daughter fondly glancing at the packet of Sooper cookies answers with a mouthful, “Wo to hae hee super (That is super without doubt)”.

After this conversation there is a brief pause, during which a healthy brown egg is broken on the edge of a bowl of milk and the contents down loaded in it. Finally freshly baked cookies, reclining in a row, are presented. The viewer is assured that they are full of a rich aroma of fresh eggs and butter.

Soon the conversation resumes. The camera focuses on the mother again who casually informs the daughter, “You know, we have fixed your engagement.”

The fair, fattened daughter without any thought to what has been said replies with a cookie in her mouth, “Super!” An instant later when she awakens to what has been purposefully dropped in for her benefit, it is too late to protest. Job done, the mother proceeds to put the telephone receiver back on the rack, a look of deep satisfaction on her face, while the viewers can hear the daughter’s wailing, “Hello! Hello” on the other side. Her fate is sealed in a light-hearted manner as if she were no more than one of the cookies from Sooper packet.

The manufacturers should be ashamed of advertising their product in a manner that suggests young unmarried girls are like cookies. The citizens should stop buying Sooper biscuits until the manufacturers withdraw this television advertisement. They may replace it with one that does not demean girls — wilfully, inadvertently, in ignorance or through bad taste. It is both illegal and undesirable to marry off anyone without his or her consent. Is it not?

There is another television advertisement about a multi-storeyed commercial building situated at the entrance to the Defence Housing Authority. (Is DHA just a housing scheme or an authority for the defence of Lahore?) Fortunately, the ad was only of half hour duration and not two and a half hours the portly Behria Town boss with bushy eyebrows takes to explain to the viewers the benefits of acquiring property in his scheme. Soon, I believe, there is going to be an even bigger housing authority that will need half the day to highlight the facilities they will provide for their clients. If President Musharaf needs just two hours to reprimand the whole nation in his special endearing manner, why can’t these real estate developers explain themselves in fewer words? As things stand we can seek an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest television advertisements in Asia. The prize for the longest duration advertisement in the world would of course go to the US for its CNN transmissions.

This sopping mall that I was talking about has demonstrated unusual foresight in anticipating the arrival of F-16s to Pakistan. In its several-storeys-high entrance Lobby hangs a plane that claims its imperial descent from US Navy. Is it not somewhat odd? Why should US Navy fly one of their planes to Lahore? I hope US is not planning a naval invasion of the Punjab. This reminds me of the late Edi Amin, the ruthless dictator of Uganda, who once in a press conference claimed intelligence that the British were planning invasion of his country by land, air and sea. When a journalist questioned him as to how Uganda could be attacked by sea when it was a land-locked country, the president replied with an impassive smile, “There, you see, the English are so stupid.”

We shall all feel greatly relaxed when the high-pitched, ear-splitting Nescafe advertisement has been silenced. I hope we never see that unruly blaring fat man with bearded chin ever again. Unexpectedly screaming, violent wake up calls to make unaware souls drink coffee are totally uncalled for. I am irritated the most when the fat fellow — with all the respect for his person — wantonly appears screaming while dangling from the ceiling. I believe he was held up by the part of the body that hurt most. I hope he has not been permanently incapacitated.

The Pepsi ads are usually creatively well thought and pleasantly engaging. I agree that Dil is always asking for more. Why not? In one of the ads Reema descends from a hoarding fixed up a skyscraper to dazzle a handsome young lad having a Pepsi — “Uski zulfain khuleen to laga yun mujhay”. The vision lasts as long as Pepsi in the bottle. The romantic drift of the fruity jingle is dramatically arrested and counterpoised with reality. My son Tariq informs me that the jingle is based on Strings’ Dhanni album, Chaaye, chasye, chaaye.

But the recently released Pepsi ad — I first saw it when Sehwag and Dravid were thrashing our bowling in the first one-day cricket match with India — is a poor parody of a typical clip common to innumerable American films. They say naqal kay liyay bhee aqal chahiyay. The Americans may regard the Chinese, as their enemies but China happens to be our friend and ally. It would have been appropriate, if this Pepsi ad was to be released in Pakistan, for the villainous looking old woman with Chinese features who surprises Reema in the very act of unloading a device intended to set off a weapon of mass destruction from a secret facility, to be replaced by someone with a racially neutral face. Pepsi Pakistan should have the courtesy to do this or alternatively withdraw the ad in view of our sensitivities.

Prof Ijaz Ul Hassan is a painter, author and political activist.