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Saturday, October 16, 2010

(Published as 'Earl T. and the Boxes of Bliss' in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, dated September 19, 2010)

“See, this is how you spot a happily married North Indian man!”

My friend was, and still is, a rather-too-effervescent television product that is notorious for throwing people into uncomfortable situations.

The happily married North Indian man, whom I had just sent a stinker to, was staring at his mail-trail- bête noire and her bubbly friend with a hunted look.

Dabba,” she explained, unnecessarily, pointing at his hot pack, “every man from this part of the country will have to carry a shiny metal tiffin box to show that his wife cares for him.”

“No,” the happily married North Indian man finally managed to cut in, “it’s Tupperware, yaar.”

With the alacrity of a professional model, he fished out the various components that stood testimony to his nuptial bliss, “one for roti, one for chole, one for sprouts, and one for achaar.”

Now beaming, he waved a hand at the spread and offered, “you ladies can try.”

I could hear the ridiculously husky voiceover:

Tupperware – bringing you marital joy and corporate peace

Nine months and two thousand kilometres later, I was to see fresh evidence of the influence of Tupperware. This time, it was four happily married South Indian men at the neighbouring table, who seemed quite thrilled at finding that our table had a similar array of lunch dabbas.

“Tupperware,” one of them said, proudly, as he passed us, “it’s wonderful how well it’s penetrated the world market. We Indians are great!”

“Does that guy think Tupperware is an Indian brand?” I asked, thinking it might be rather presumptuous to laud our countrymen for buying the brand.

“Of course it is an Indian brand. Isn’t it?” one of my lunch buddies frowned.

My snide remark having hinged on a single episode of Sex and the City in which Carrie Bradshaw mentioned Tupperware, I decided to safeguard my indisputability by raising my eyebrows and saying, “duh!!!”

Now that two people had endorsed the brand as Indian, I thought it might well have been a Parsi who decided, sometime in the sixties, that he would start a company to carry lunch for billions of working professionals the world over.

Contemplating that nearly all our visionaries turn out to be Parsi, I ran an online search that assured me it wasn’t an Ehsan Tupper, but an Earl, that started the chain.

This pat on the back from Wikipedia had even a hardcore anti-feminist like me startled, though:

Tupperware created a means for the housewife to maintain her obligations in the domestic sphere of the household while creating an independence from the home in a sociable atmosphere.

But the import of that was made clear only when a friend took to asking me if I wanted to buy any more Tupperware.

“Dude, there are four working people at home. There’s enough Tupperware to start a store,” I said, finally.

“Well, Mom’s started one,” he said despondently, “she’s an agent. Wants to work from home. And I’m forced to volunteer as the head of advertising.”

Tupperware – the leader in claustromarketing strategy.

“It’s not so bad,” he added, after a moment’s reflection, “my dad’s got it worse. She doesn’t see why he can’t take meals in Tupperware when they have their management retreats at his workplace. She says ‘can’t you spot a golden marketing opportunity!’ I think he’s ghost-bought some himself to keep her happy.”

Tupperware – it’s cheaper than alimony!


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