Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mont Blanc Mahatma !

If nothing else, I am glad about the one impact of the Mont Blanc's coming up with a limited edition Mahatma pen - a $23,000 pen for a man who probably did not spend even $23 per month on himself. It provoked thousands into reflecting upon the contradictions that we live with and helped us more sharply identify to ourselves what we can consider practical values.

This action of Mont Blanc brings to mind a few characteristics that permeate our culture today. Riding on someone's else's greatness/ popularity. A 'Brand' culture that somehow makes it alright for an ordinary product to take on disproportionate value. A culture that can sell anything!

What was the logic in creating such a product, I wonder. A first-world luxury product to symbolize a man wore a dhoti and traveled third-class? A 'phoren' product for a man who thought, believed and lived 'Swadeshi'? A price tag that might be the entire lifetime earnings and spending capacity of the country's lower middle class, leave alone the close-to-the-Mahatma's-heart poor!?

One wonders whether the designers of the pen even pondered over the values or lifestyle of Gandhi when they designed it. I am sure it is not easy for a designer to create an 'exclusive' product that can suitably synthesize the two extremes - a more-than-elite Mont Blanc and a live-simply, egalitarian Gandhi - to commemorate Gandhi symbolizing his actions and virtues (never mind the vices. We can keep those aside for the moment). Didn't the marketing department of Mont Blanc warn it of the risk of fooling around with such a 'symbol'?

It might have been far better if Mont Blanc had distributed 'ordinary' pens in hundreds of schools to millions of children in the name of Gandhi, catering symbolically to the education needs of the poor. They could have then glorified THIS act into a fancy pen with maybe a concert or two thrown in to raise a few millions that could be distributed to grassroots initiatives. This could have catered to the demands of the 'Brand' needs as well as catered to the desire of Mont Blanc to pay tribute to Gandhi without compromising his principles.

At the moment, Mont Blanc's Mahatma pen does nothing except risk being a laughing-stock at the least and an 'Indian' backlash at the worst.

And in the meanwhile we can wait for the next products - interwoven gold-and-silk dhotis? ivory dandas inlaid with gems? diamond studded, round-framed spectacles? Suggestions, anyone?


  1. Well, the Mahatma did not spend much on himself, granted but the State did indeed spend a lot to keep the Mahatma in poverty :)

  2. as compared to what the State spends to keep many others in comfort?