FRONT PAGE / POSTS
Mahatma Gandhi, an icon of high living?
by Aiyana Gunjan| New Delhi, India
Thursday, 14 July 2011
tags: asia, consumer culture, culture, emergence, fuzzy sets, semiotics, socioeconomics, uncategorized
“Mahatma Gandhi was a major political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement. The design pays tribute to his life and achievements. The top of the cap and cone are inspired by the spindle which Gandhi used to spin cotton – one of the symbols of Indian independence. The colour white is a reference to truth and peace, while the Mandarin garnet represents the orange colour that is part of the Indian flag. The nib shows an image of Mahatma Gandhi, walking with a stick. In addition, the limitation of the Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition 3000 is symbolic for the masses of people who followed him during his fight for independence.” Mont Blanc website
Dear Bapuji [Bapu means father in Hindi, and Bapuji is a respectful, affectionate term for Gandhi in India],
I would lie if I said that the first sight of this Mont Blanc ink pen did not catch my fancy. On the surface it seemed very nice and befitting…Mont Blanc, the iconic brand of writing instruments, paying tribute to your life and achievements. But that was just my first reaction. When I read further about this ‘Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition 3000’ something did not seem right – either to my Indian heart or to my branding mind.
Mont Blanc and Mahatma Gandhi coming together?
Bapuji, you are no Amitabh Bachchan endorsing any and every product. Bapuji, you are my Bapu, the father of my nation. Maybe I am sounding like an emotional, patriotic Indian. Let me put on my branding hat and objectively view the case of Brand Mont Blanc and Brand Mahatma Gandhi coming together. After all, there’s got to be a sync between the two brand identities to create meaningful synergies.
Yes, I do see a basic match at the functional level. Bapu, you wrote profusely and demonstrated the power of the pen to the world. It seems appropriate for the top international brand of writing instruments to pay you a tribute.
But what about the brand fit at the core values and vision level? Is there a match between Brand Mont Blanc and Brand Mahatma Gandhi at the philosophical and cultural level?
Gandhiji, to get to the core essence of your life philosophy, I poured over your words verbatim in Mohan-Mala [an anthology of Gandhi’s thoughts and writings]. You wrote:
“The dream I want to realize is not the spoliation of the property of private owners, but to restrict its enjoyment so as to avoid all pauperism, consequent discontent and the hideously ugly contrast that exists today between the lives and surroundings of the rich and poor.” Mohan-Mala, 1929
Doesn’t the very concept of a limited edition for only 3000 exclusive owners defy your dream? If I am buying an ink pen for a whopping price of Rs 1,161,145, where am I restricting its enjoyment? Am I not sharpening the contrast even between the super-rich and the poor?
I appreciate the fact that the product design for the Monc Blanc Limited Edition took inspiration from the spindle. But does Mont Blanc really know what the spinning wheel and khadi mean to the people of India?
“I claim for the Charkha [spinning wheel], the honor of being able to solve the problem of economic distress in a most natural, simple, inexpensive and businesslike manner. The Charkha, therefore is not only not useless…but is a useful and indispensable article for every home. It is the symbol of the nation’s prosperity and, therefore, freedom. It is a symbol not of commercial war but of commercial peace.” Mohan Mala, 1921
How can the charkha be an inspiration for Mont Blanc whose DNA goes against entering every home. Bapu, is this not a superficial use of such a deep and profound symbol?
I ask, what does a luxury item catering to only 3000 individuals have anything to do with your values of equality, simplicity, minimalism and economic freedom? Bapu, you penned these words in 1921:
“Economics that hurt the moral well-being of an individual or a nation are immoral and therefore sinful.Thus, the economics that permit one country to prey upon another are immoral. It is sinful to buy and use articles made by sweated labour.” Mohan Mala, Oct 1921
I respect Mont Blanc’s intent to pay tribute to your life and achievement. But it hurts me to see you being used as a ‘celebrity’ endorsing the epitome of opulence. You are my India. You are the universal spirit of peace, harmony and non-violence in each of us. How can the soul of my country be used as a symbol for pure economic gain?
I ask, where is the match between the ideal of simple living-high thinking and the ultimate expression of high living?
© Aiyana Gunjan 2011