It’s no wonder that the leaflets and pamphlets are referred to as ‘flyers’ - the moment you open the newspaper in the morning, these glossy sheets of paper go flying all over the place, particular if you are sitting under fan! And the number of flyers you receive in the daily newspaper is inversely proportionate to the number of days left for year: the fewer days left for Eid, the more the number of leaflets. That’s the new law of diminishing returns (to the market!)
You wake up in the morning of a Ramadan day, perhaps yearning for your morning cuppa and toast biscuits to accompany your regular read of the newspaper, but then you curb your thoughts away from food because you are fasting. Right at the moment a colourful sheet of paper slips on to your lap as you unfold the newspaper. You pick it up curiously only to be assailed by tantalising pictures of samoosas, potato chops, kebabs, halim, tehari, biriyani, pizzas, burgers, dahi bara, jelabis and a host of other delicious delicacies. Your stomach growls in protest and you all but salivate. You were not hungry all this time and you may not even be a foodie, but these delectable dishes beckon you like an alluring seductress!
You hastily put the flyer to one side only to be accosted by another - this time of funky fake jewellery which, the advertisement proclaims, are a ‘must-have’ this Eid. You hurriedly slip that under your cushion before your daughters see it - after all, all that glitters may not be gold, but the prices are hardly any less.
The multitude of advertisements that accost you every day in the form of flyers and handbills slipped into your daily newspaper, indicate the extent to which consumerism has gripped us with its vice-like grasp.
But it’s fun too, to go through these ads. There are surprises waiting for you in those rectangles filled with information, promotions, shiny girls and boys in shinier outfits, discounts, ‘free’ offers, credit and debit card ‘magic’ -- baits to break your bank account.
There’s still over half a month left for Eid, yet a single day’s newspaper carries near around 20 flyers of all shapes, sizes and colour. A look through these leaflets can make interesting socioeconomic study, albeit in a lighter vein.
There’s a picture of a boy with his head of fire. Is this an advertisement for a hospital specialising in burns and trauma? No, it’s Adam’s Premium Salon offering men a 20% Eid discount for young men to have the latest ‘fire-technique’ haircut, facials, massages and more.
You can get discounts if you buy fancy furniture at Athena, a classy store with outlets all over town. The big beige sheet of paper says, “Eid Fiesta... 20% cashback on every purchase till the end of Ramadan.” Wasn’t Ramadan supposed to be about frugality and self-control? Well, Eid is about festivity so the merchandising moguls choose to look at the Eid spirit when it comes to their advertising. After all, they are certainly not going to tell you to do without that extra chaise longue in the spirit of Ramadan or to avoid splurging on elaborate iftars and over-the-board sehris.
And the variety of women’s clothes on display in these leaflets would put the Paris Fashion Week to shame. There are flowing saris in silk, cotton, chiffon, georgette, in all sorts of names ranging from the traditional jamdanis and Indian kotas to the sequin and stone encrusted ones named after those melodramatic Hindi TV serials. There are lehengas, long gowns, shalwar kameezes, western wear, shoes, bags, belts, scarves... the list goes on.
Then there are the restaurant flyers with elaborate iftar and sehri menus along with their buy-one-get-one-free offers. Pizza Inn offers unlimited pizza and drinks for Tk 899 (NOT Tk 900). The Mirage has slipped a little booklet into the newspaper, advertising a choice of Dhakaiya, Indian, Arabian, Thai, Continental or Afghani cuisine for their iftar and dinner buffet at Tk 1999 (NOT Tk 2000) per head. They have a little poetic message too - ‘May the crescent-shaped moon brighten your path towards enlightenment and may Allah bless you with peace and grace.’ Read between the lines - ‘and a bulging wallet too!’
Police Plaza Concord Shopping Mall’s brochure tempts you with a raffle draw - their prizes including a Nano car (is that even counted as a car?), a motor cycle, a 40” LED TV, a fridge, a deep freeze, a 32” LED TV, a washing machine, a microwave oven, a 52-piece dinner set, a small dinner set, a rice cooker, a curry cooker and a blender. You can spend all you want in Police Plaza, but it’s all up to Lady Luck. A person buying a pair of socks may be the one to clinch the car, and someone spending over a million taka may not even get the blender!
And some commercial concerns even use pragmatic religious matters on their leaflets. Pankouri Kuakata Housing has a large sheet of paper, printed on both sides, all about the nitty-gritty of zakat, including a calculator for you to determine how much zakat you have to pay this year.
So if your daily paper feels much heavier with each passing morning, you will know Eid is near! It’s time for you to burn your hair and buy that brass bedstead. Who knows? You might get a facial free or an extra pillow to go with that bed!
Ayesha Kabir is a journalist and she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org