Hitler is a lock, an ice-cream, and a packet of cigarettes – so what’s the deal?

Recently someone took a picture of an ice-cream cart selling Hitler ice-cream. The cart also had an image of Hitler on it. While this picture  and the fact that someone was wretched enough to brand their ice-cream Hitler, has made a lot of people squirm in their seats; I don’t understand how Indians can go about raising eyebrows, wondering how someone could do something so (gasp!) “tasteless.”

Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Dictator, the Designer of the Holocaust and the Devil - News from Hell.

The Devil Abdicates…

Here are three reasons that I can think of:

1. Most Indians use the term “Hitler” to refer to an authoritative and disciplinarian figure. So if an aunt stops little kids from going out in the sun and playing, behind her back, she’s branded Hitler Aunty. If dad doesn’t cough up the moolah that sonny boy needs for going on a date, daddy dearest is termed Hitler. When mom asks dad not to drink so much that his friends have to drag his flopping body into the house, the next morning, dad tells the kids that their mom is a Hitler. When a teacher is strict about Homework, she is a Hitler. The boss is always a Hitler. These are just a few examples. Actually, at some point in their lives everyone must’ve been called a Hitler. Why? Even some dogs are names Hitler.

Why?

Don’t ask me. Started happening long before I was born, and will continue to happen – despite the teeny-weeny tweets done by our politicians and paparazzi alike.

2. Tiny villages that don’t care about social media still dot the Indian Landscape. Most of the villagers there won’t even care what the English-spouting, social-media savvy, colonial past-toting jokers like us are saying about Hitler. For them – the ice-cream must be sweet and cold – doesn’t matter whether it goes by the name of Hitler or the Queen of England. What the British were doing to us cannot be termed as cuddling either – so why are we so chummy with them, then? You want to do the explaining? Learn the regional language first…or at least learn Hindi – it is officially the national language of India. Wondering how many of the English-speaking elite can handle that? Trust me, nobody knows what Hitler did and most don’t know anything about Holocaust. They aren’t being evil or heartless – they just don’t know. They just want to sell that damn ice-cream, so that the hawker and the manufacturer can both go home and feed their kids.

3. India isn’t packed full of Jewish people either and that makes it doubly difficult to explain the whole Holocaust tragedy to a lay-Indian. According to this Wikipedia link  India is home to 5000 Jewish people. 5000?!  In a population of 1.252 Billion, it’s actually quite difficult to bump into a Jewish person, let alone know their history. Do you think that because an ice-cream or a lock or a pack of cigarettes, or even a fashion store is called Hitler, Indians become Nazis or anti-semitic? Perhaps you also think that the Hindu Swastika is a symbol of the Nazis? You’ve got it upside down, my friend. Hitler stole the revered and respected symbol of good-luck from India and turned it into the much-hated symbol of the Nazis. That flushes Swastika’s glorious 3500 year old history down the drain. 

I do wonder at times whether our politicians really know the ground realities of India. When Shashi Tharoor says that naming the ice-cream Hitler was the height of tastelessness, he makes people wonder whether he really is an Indian who understands the nuances of Indian day-to-day life. Had he called it the height of ignorance, it would have made at least some sense. And when he doesn’t criticize the Hitler Didi show on the television, and doesn’t try to stop Hitler Hero from screening, one begins to wonder why.

Hitler shouldn’t be glorified – that’s right; but the critics must understand the context and the ignorance that in the first place made Hitler such an everyday word in India – and now that it has happened; don’t vilify those who did it in ignorance or in innocence. By doing this you mimic Hitler who killed the Jewish people because he “felt” they didn’t deserve to live.

If knowledge doesn’t bring along a willingness to understand the reasons and motives of others; if all that reading and learning cannot alleviate us above the need to make a mountain of an insignificant molehill; those who missed out on this education and decided that Hitler can be the name of their ice-cream are better. They do it in ignorance – we do it with full knowledge.

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2 comments on “Hitler is a lock, an ice-cream, and a packet of cigarettes – so what’s the deal?

  1. You make some very good points, Shafali. Ignorance, huh ? People who are conversing in their own homes and among friends or relatives may use the name Hitler to represent a particular characteristic they feel someone possesses. If they are using that term in the first place to show that someone has say, a bad temper, perhaps, they must know some background on the man himself to even evoke it at all. Why would they even call someone a Hitler Aunty if they thought that Hitler was a nice person and they were trying to describe how despicable Aunty is ? And whatever is said among friends and relatives or between kids is usually not going to be broadcast to the world. However, anyone who starts a business of any kind and has the money to print custom boxes or cartons or put a sign on their cafe or restaurant and has the nerve to name it Hitler something or other is bound to raise eyebrows and bring about protests from people around the world.

    There are actually people in this world who refuse to believe that the Holocaust ever happened. And if Indians are using the name to denote someone who is stern, unyielding or vicious, then they have some background on the man himself or they would never use the word to begin with. Business people cannot claim ignorance if they have the money to start the business in the first place. And to place his picture on a box of ice cream, they had to obtain the picture from somewhere. And that SOMEWHERE likely had a lot of information on the man himself and what he did.

    You probably will notice though, that no one will declare a fatwas on anyone using Hitler’s photo, nor will they try to shoot them, behead them, blow up their business or kidnap their family members. But they certainly will protest……and they should protest. We should never, ever forget what went on during that period of time in history, because we certainly do not want it to be repeated ever again. And those who protest seeing that image on a box, a carton, or a business will provide the people who used that image with a valuable history lesson. They will not be able to claim ignorance again.

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