A series of short ads by Google India showing how their search engine can facilitate the bridging of hearts and help re-connect people separated by distance and man-made barriers has gone viral across India and Pakistan.
Released on 13 November, 2013, the Google Search: Reunion ad from Google India, is seen to be emotional and engaging. There is a playlist of five ads in this series, including ‘Fennel’, ‘Cricket’, ‘Anarkali’, and ‘Sugar-free’, but the most widely circulated one is ‘Reunion', which has already garnered over 1,523,788 views.
The three-and-a-half-minute ‘Reunion’ ad is about friendship, fond childhood memories, separation and reconnecting to a tender past. In the ad, available on YouTube with English sub-titles, an Indian Punjabi is shown telling his granddaughter Suman about his fond childhood memories in Lahore, Pakistan.
He mentions his childhood friend Yousuf and the sweet shop his friend's father owned in old Lahore, and how he and his friend were separated by the partition of 1947. Suman then searches on Google the whereabouts of her grandfather's childhood friend and contacts him. Finally, the two friends re-unite.
The Reunion ad touches upon the sensitive issue of partition and how it separated friends and families. In 1947, prior to their departure from India, the British rulers partitioned India into the Dominion of Pakistan (later Islamic Republic of Pakistan and People's Republic of Bangladesh) and the Union of India (later Republic of India), primarily along religious lines, to stem the growing tensions between the Hindu and Muslim communities.
The partition however, left both the nations devastated. People were forced to migrate across borders in massive numbers and rioting and acts of violence left deep scars on people's psyche. Up to now, the wounds left by partition have not healed and the relationship between the two countries is often strained, marred by wars, border disputes, military stand-offs and a continuing conflict over Kashmir.
The partition tore apart friends and families, many of whom have not been able to find each other and/or reconnect. Though the two countries have made attempts to improve their relationship, even today the relationship is fragile and it is very difficult for Indian and Pakistani nationals to travel across the border due to stringent visa procedures.
Given this backdrop, it is interesting to see how the ads touched an emotional chord, with bloggers across the two countries reacting positively to the heartwarming ads.
Beena Sarwar, a journalist, blogger, human rights activist and lead campaigner for Aman ki Aasha, a campaign for peace between India and Pakistan, tied the ad into the ‘Milne Do’ campaign against visa restrictions between India and Pakistan:
"If it doesn’t move you, you’ve got a heart of stone. And if oh, it was that easy. For Pakistanis and Indians to get visas to visit each other’s country is just short of impossible… If the Reunion ad moved you, go to the Milne Do (Let people meet) petition link and sign (and share) the campaign against India Pakistan visa restrictions. Every voice counts."
Blogger Mehreen Kasana wrote on her blog:
"Many families in Pakistan don’t have family in India including mine, but at the same time there are many who have loved ones across the border. This is probably the most beautiful video I’ve seen on the subject…Got a little teary, not gonna lie."
Umar Alam from Pakistan, commented on the YouTube video of the ad:
"Such an Awesome effort by Google. Love and respect from Pakistan"
There are interesting tweets from both India and Pakistan discussing how the ad had an impact on viewers, leaving them touched and emotional.
Pakistani author and publisher, Musharraf A. Faroqi tweeted:
— Musharraf A. Farooqi (@microMAF) November 14, 2013
Anthony Permal, known as Tony Khan among twiterrati in Pakistan, tweeted:
I just watched the Google #India ad for the 4th time and I'm STILL being moved to tears. :')
— Anthony Permal (@anthonypermal) November 13, 2013
Blogger Muna Khan tweeted about how the ad made her father nostalgic and eager to connect with his old friends:
I showed the Reunion video to my dad who wants me to google the names of his school friends in India so he can have his own reunion. Uh oh
— Muna Khan (@muna_khan) November 14, 2013
Journalist and photographer Sukanto Mukherjee (@Humerus) from Kolkata, India linked to the actual sweet shop featured in the ad:
— SM (@TheHumerus) November 13, 2013
Indian journalist, Tripti Lahiri tweeted:
Many a Delhi Punjabi refugee will sigh, perhaps even shed a tear over Google Search's Partition/Reunion ad http://t.co/VRIzdNy8HW
— Tripti Lahiri (@triptilahiri) November 14, 2013
Twilightfairy (@twilightfairy), a professional photographer based in India, commented:
So many partition afflicted souls need healing! Google India's ad – Reunion – http://t.co/hKPYcE6x6o
— twilightfairy (@twilightfairy) November 13, 2013
Roopa Gulati (@roopagulati), chef-blogger from India agreed. According to her:
Emotive Google ad…Will have resonance with so many from my Dad's generation who went thru 1947 Indo-Pak partition http://t.co/cbQwOJGN6F
— Roopa Gulati (@roopagulati) November 14, 2013
Some people were more critical of the ad. For example, Shivani Mohan, a corporate communication professional from India, tweeted:
I liked the Google reunion ad but it is best to take these things with a big pinch of salt!
— Shivani Mohan (@Chevane) November 15, 2013
Some netizens also pointed out that the idea and storyline for the Google ad was “stolen” or “completely inspired” from a Pakistani short film called “RESPECT”, a short film about friendship and the power of communication in the context of Pakistan and India produced by Pak Sar Zameen Productions in August 2012.
Taha Kirmani (@TahaKirmani1), who directed the film, responded:
— Taha Kirmani (@TahaKirmani1) November 14, 2013