“Google brought nations together in 3 minutes and 32 seconds. The politicians of both countries couldn’t do this in 66 years,” a comment on Google’s facebook page. This got me thinking.
The positive impact of the media is more often than not, underrated. While most people focus their energy on scoping out the negative effects of the media – whether it is racism or sexism, Google’s recent ad, “The Reunion” is a step in the right direction toward improving India and Pakistan’s long soured relationship.
Google released the ad two weeks ago and has already garnered over 6 million views. The short ad tells the story of how two long lost friends, Baldev and Yusuf who were separated during partition, are re-united through the power of Google search. Baldev’s granddaughter, Suman intelligently makes connections from her dadu’s stories and utilizes Google to connect with Yusuf and his grandson in Pakistan. Together, the friend’s grandchildren organize for Yusuf’s visa so that he is able to surprise Baldev for his birthday. The last scene shows the emotional reunion of the two friends and instantly brings most viewers to tears.
Ogilvy and Mather, India [an international ad agency] was responsible for the creation of this masterpiece that received an overwhelming response in both India and Pakistan. This ad evoked emotional responses from all its viewers because of the importance that partition holds in South Asia. The Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, lingers on in the memory of South Asians, crowded with images of separation, violence, hostility and agony.
Several years on, the relationship between India and Pakistan is yet to see better days. Wars have been fought, bullets have been shot, negotiations have been attempted, but media’s power has not yet been harnessed. Millennials across the world spend most of their time using some sort of media, whether it is watching TV shows, tweeting or blogging. It has often been posited that the future of the relationship between the two states must therefore go beyond merely empty political gestures and feeble negotiations. Instead, a lot rests in the hands of us millennials.
Ogilvy and Mather did it right. They targeted the millennials – the generation that grew up hearing stories about partition from their grandparents and through often one-sided narratives in history textbooks. It is this generation that has formed strong bonds with Indian and Pakistani counterparts in universities across the world and they are the future of South Asia. Therefore by showing how the granddaughter (tech savy millennial) surprised her grandfather, OnM and Google were able to touch the hearts of both those who actually experienced partition and those who can proactively do something about it.
The difficulty in obtaining visas for both countries has proved challenging for several reasons. A land that was once joined can no longer be accessed with ease. Thus limiting cultural exchange and sustenance of friendships – both old and new. Recent improvements allow those over 65 a visa on-arrival, but lack of awareness about this option has resulted in its low usage.
Nawaz Sharif recently stressed the importance of improving India and Pakistan’s relationship at the opening of a literary and cultural conference in Lahore. “India and Pakistan are mirror images of each other and therefore we must have good ties. This is a necessity,” he said “We must aim to dismantle visa requirement between the two countries.”
Sharif’s choice to talk about such an important issue at a cultural conference again ties back to the importance of using media tools in world politics. Global beverage giant, Coca-Cola also released an ad early this year where they installed machines in India and Pakistan that enabled citizens of both countries to interact with each other through these machines. Thus, offering actual connections between the people. Therefore using media to create social change at a micro-level is a step in the right direction. These micro-changes will hopefully encourage broader political and social change – allowing India and Pakistan to finally work on mending the wounds of Partition.
While Google’s ad illustrated the emotions associated with the reunion of two long-lost friends, Coca-cola’s effort demonstrated the ability to form new friendships across borders.
What politics can’t achieve, the media can strive to.
Watch the video here and keep a tissue handy, tears are guaranteed. It is also interesting to take a look at the comments on the video.
- By Sunaina Basu, Senior at Tufts University & SAPAC E-Board Member