I spent a few days in India this month, and couldn’t help but be struck by an advertisement for a soft drink that played endlessly on television. Two convertibles pull up alongside each other on what looks like a pristine expressway. Perky members of the opposite sex exchange amorous glances and flirtations ensue. Bottles of the soft drink are cracked open, and predictable mirth ensues. Life is good with sweet lemony soda water.
For the uninitiated who think this is just another soda ad, it may be difficult to gauge how entirely ludicrous this scene is. Roads in urban metros in India are pummeled by a crush of traffic and the cacophony of horns almost at all times. The New York times reported this month that India has surpassed China in air pollution and that about 1.1 million people die prematurely in the country every year from the pollution. Anyone foolish enough to ride in a convertible would be served well by a gas mask. Public mating rituals common to Western cultures are found only in a sliver of society much narrower than the mass market for a soft drink. “Eve Teasing,” a euphemism for public sexual aggression targeted against women, is a major concern.
So where did reality and depiction of reality part ways? Are these, dare we whisper, Alternative Facts?