It started unlike the recent Airtel ads have started”
The camera first focused on the Airtel 4G girl as she produced an incandescent smile, brighter than the Ujala supreme safedi on white shirts.
" Yes this is me”, she assured me, as if I didn’t know that she was her. “You must try and test before opting for Airtel", she insisted, with an expression signifying that she is bothered about my poor mobile network.
"I have tried, tested, disliked, abhorred, got mentally stressed, pledged to never use Airtel and only after that stuck to Airtel", I said without a hiatus.
Happy to hear my estranged association with Airtel, she smiled leaned back and smiled again "So 3G or 4G?"
"Parle G", I said
"No no no", she corrected me, " your network? 3g or 4G?".
I pretended to manoeuvre something out of my pocket below the table, and when it came out it was Nokia 3310. Having listlessly kept the phone in between us, I said “Check for yourself".
She might have sensed that this is not going the way as the script demanded. In all her previous encounter with people, things were well planned and rehearsed. She had to convince already convinced people that even though they must be using Jio or Vodafone, all they had to say was Airtel is the best. She had to act as a medium of exchange between the alleged Airtel followers and the Airtel kafirs, say a few good words in the end to sum up the conversation. But this was different. Here, unfortunately she met an irritated government employee, who had just lost his 120 rupees in frequent call drops. 120 Rupees meant 120 rupees to him and the lady Airtel had to bear my grunt for the losses.
The camera roll was on and it was her turn to speak. Looking at my prehistoric key pad phone on the table she thought ‘hell, who uses Nokia these days’ and comported herself to say “Wow, you are still using Nokia these days”
“Yes”, I smiled, “I have a penchant for antiques”
“You sure? it supports internet connections?”, she was dismayed.
“The phone does but not the SIM”
“Which SIM “
“NO! wait… wait… wait…”, she stopped me in between and tried to steer the conversation away to a point from where she could finally get to prove the worthiness of the brand that sponsors her.
"What about UCLA?", as a hint she gleefully dropped the name of UCLA, the alleged what they call the-global-speed-tester. Like zillions of Hindustanis I had never heard of anything like this before the advent of recent Airtel advertisements.
"Why? what happened to UCLA?", I sounded double concerned.
"UCLA dear, the-global-speed-tester. You must say that, it is part of all our advertisement. We are here to make it a household name", she whispered as she hid her anger behind her smiles.
"Madam, ask me anything about Upla aur Upma and I am ready. While Upma is every household breakfast, Upla from cow dung is our indigenous household fuel. People like me still see the number of lines on top of my mobile screen to check whether the network is available or not", I confided.
“But that is so ancient way to check your speed”, the disgust on her face was clearly visible and all she did was smile.
“There is the other way too”
“What?”, she leaned forward on the table to listen to the ultimate truth ever spoken before her.
“ The speed of the buffering wheel on youtube, ting tang tiding!. Simple”, I smiled.
“Holy GSM”, She felled back on her chair aghast, “ God Save this Man, this phone plays youtube for you?” and covered her face disbelievingly.
“Madam this is Nokia taitteess dus, baap of all smart phones”, I had a boisterous laugh, the one bollywood villains had after having their sinister ploy unfold before their eyes.
Lady Airtel turned tired, she asked for a glass of water, drank it till the last drop, looked at me and asked “Why? Why you are doing this? When you can go home happily watching Jio TV after just few good words about my sponsors”
I stared at the empty glass then looked in her eyes and said, “Vengeance madam, vengeance”
I went on a discourse of my association with Airtel “It was because of you that I took Airtel. Few years back every hoarding and billboard, which now are flooded with Oppo and Vivo, had your innocent picture. You were up against all the mobile network service providers with your Airtel challenge. Like many Indians, I simply believed in you and switched to Airtel. After few months of usage I realized the blunder I had done by choosing the network meant initially for bourgeoisie families. Being a proletariat, subscribing to Airtel is like being a pauper boyfriend to an affluent girl. Both are difficult to maintain. Moreover, when in need both the network and the girlfriend are difficult to find. Utterly irritated, I looked out for only two things. Ask me what”
She was absorbed in my monologue and was also pleased to know how I remembered her first advertisement. For the first time the most assertive girl of Indian advertisement seemed to hear more from me. She asked, “What?”.
“Your network and you”, I spluttered in one go.
Expecting a similar reply, she was not taken aback. Instead she found an opportunity to end the directionless conversation. She turned towards the camera confidently, smiled pleasantly as she always does and said “tabhi to kehti hoon, sab kuch try karo fir sahi chuno!”. And off she went to baptize another Jio subscriber into airtel.
Thank you for reading