MUMBAI: An emotional advertisement for Google's search engine has become a hit in India and Pakistan by surprisingly invoking a searing and traumatic period in the shared history of the South Asian archrivals.

Officially debuting on television Friday, the commercial already has been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube.

"Reunion" portrays two childhood friends, now elderly men, who haven't seen each other since they were separated by the 1947 partition that created India and Pakistan from the old British empire in South Asia. Partition sparked a mass exodus as millions of Muslims and Hindus fled across the new borders amid religious violence.

In the ad, one of the men reminisces to his granddaughter about his happy childhood in Lahore and how he used to steal sweets from a shop with his best friend, who the ad implies is Muslim. His granddaughter uses the search engine to track down the childhood friend in the Pakistani city. Then, with the help of the Pakistani man's grandson (and naturally, Google), she arranges a journey to New Delhi for a surprise reunion.

The ad struck a cultural chord with Indians and Pakistanis.

"If it doesn't move you, you've got a heart of stone," wrote Beena Sarwar, a Pakistani journalist and part of the Aman ki Asha (Hope for Peace) initiative that promotes peace between Pakistan and India, on her blog.

It might seem a risky strategy to co-opt partition for a feel-good search engine advertisement. The period is one of the roots of the bitter animosity between Pakistan and India that has led to three wars, a nuclear arms race and deadly fighting in the disputed Kashmir region. Shortly after the partition, an estimated 1 million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were killed in rioting, and 12 million were uprooted from their homes.

Yet Abhijit Avasthi, head of the Ogilvy India team that developed the ad, said the fact that partition evokes strong feelings among Indians and Pakistanis is one of the reasons the idea was chosen.

"Yes, this is a sensitive topic, a part of history with bitter memories" he said. "But that was the whole point, which is to tell people that those memories are in the past, that there is a way to revive your connection with your lost ones."

The spot also tapped into ordinary people's weariness with the hostilities.

"I don't see much hostility at the people's level," said Sanjay Mehta, a 48-year-old New Delhi-based businessman whose family is from what is now Pakistan.

But he added that travelling between the countries is not as easy as the ad portrays. "I want to visit Pakistan but it's not easy to get a visa."

Last year, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to make it easier for business travellers, senior citizens, divided families and religious pilgrims to get visas. However, improving ties have been set back by sporadic clashes in Kashmir.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (27)

Agha Ata
November 16, 2013 8:28 pm

Write more of such stories. You know why? There are still some people who had first hand experience of life in 1947 and before. But this is a dying generation. Besides very few people were old enough at that time to observe what was happening around, or what was life like. (I was 14 year old then). The story that Google told has similar stories in thousands, if not in millions.

Sohraab
November 17, 2013 9:25 am

One of the Finest Ads I have ever seen. Great going GOOGLE!

UZAIR AHMAD KHAN
November 17, 2013 2:43 pm

My mother viewed this ad on FB , and after watching it she became senti and started remembering the time of partition when she migrated from India to Pakistan.

SHAFIQUE RAHIB KHAN
November 17, 2013 3:10 pm

It's not so easy for a Pakistani to get Indian visa as shown in this advertisement.

iqbal
November 17, 2013 10:43 pm

I watched the ad...my tears came out as the story is so touching. I wish both sides realize the human factor and stop the aggression. India and Pakistan can and should be living as good neighbors.

sherie
November 17, 2013 10:45 pm

the ad is respectful and thats key. i hope for a day when the relations between the southasian nations are such as that of the european union. we may take a little longer to get to that level of respect and trust, but we will, inshallah.

Sudhir Sundrani
November 17, 2013 11:00 pm

Awesome ad. I wish some sense prevail and India Pakistan keep aside this enmity and become friends so that we walk toward a path of progress leading to well being of everyone :)

Mrs. Khan
November 17, 2013 11:18 pm

I'm an Indian. My father got separated from his brother and sister and could never meet them. His is a real story and more touching. Could Ms. Beena Sarwar or any Pakistani journalist help us to find our lost relatives in Pakistan?

Rana
November 18, 2013 1:38 am

Although I am all for peace between India and Pakistan I cannot help thinking that our ex- colonial white masters are still dominating us today.

Back in 1947 they made us fight now in 2013 they make us emotional and at the same time make lots of money for their website.

It makes me wonder if any of us south asians have our own brain and a free will or not?

Vijay K
November 18, 2013 2:36 am

I live in the USA and all my best friends are Pakistanis. Religion doesn't separate us, we celebrate each others festivals. Ive heard this several times: abroad, we are always best friends. I know it is politically incorrect to say so, but I'm not sure what partition was all about. What a mighty nation we would have been if we hadn't squandered our precious wealth on arms and wars !! Only the West gained by it, both of us lost.

Mohammad Farooq
November 18, 2013 3:46 am

How sweet.

nash mirpuri
November 18, 2013 4:24 am

after 63 + years i can not forget every night i think of those horrible days i start crying i was 6 years old born in mirpur j&k and remember every minute detail about that horrible experience
can some body in that place in pakistan contact me to share my grief my email in usa gupta4@hotmail.com

Rajat
November 18, 2013 7:22 am

Such a beautiful ad. My nana and nani, who came to India from Sind and Lahore respectively, were separated for 5 years. Nani was wearing white clothes as she was considered a widow. But she kept searching her husband's name in the refugee lists that would come in the paper. After 5 years she found her husband's name. She went to that refuge and that's how they reunited.

Similar food, similar clothing style, similar religions and cultures. The problem is we also have similar politicians - corrupt and power hungry. An no one wants to let go of Kashmir or their ego. I hope and pray that ek din aisa din aayega, jab Indians aur Pakistani saath baith ke biryaani khaayein... party karein... and just have a good time, without bringing up Kashmir or religion. I hope that people in both countries are able to rise up and above their differences and coexist peacefully. I am sure of one thing, people on both sides are fed up of the fighting and the bloodshed. If these politicians improve the economy of the disputed regions, if the youth of these regions get jobs, then no body on either side of the border will enroll in terrorist organisations. Hope that day comes soon... Amen!

tholan
November 18, 2013 9:44 am

it needs an AD to stoke memories of un divided india. what a shame on both of us , since india and pakistan shares the fruits of one of the greatest civilization on earth .

Amit
November 18, 2013 11:35 am

Huh !!....This ad may incite emotions in common men but it will not change any thing in hearts of people responsible for granting passports an visas.....even Google can't break that wall. My uncle desperately wants to visit his birthplace in Pakistan. Kotli Amir Singh, Distt Hafizabad, Punjab but...........

Shivkumar
November 18, 2013 11:50 am

Let the hate merchants in both the countries take a back seat and allow ordinary citizens of both the countries to bond and develop better understanding amongst themselves. Once mutual trust and respect is established it will be much easier for the two countries to solve even the most intractable problems facing them.

Syed
November 18, 2013 2:12 pm

I literally had tears in my eyes when I watched this google ad .... I love you whoever made this ad.... Love from Pakistan...

Akram
November 18, 2013 2:41 pm

I can never find what I want on google, wish it was always that easy.

AbbasToronto
November 18, 2013 6:02 pm

Bollywood fancy, pure and simple. Selling empty dreams.

Just try to get a visa to visit India or Pakistan.

AFAQ
November 19, 2013 7:47 am

If Google will solve the Visa and travel restriction it was so easy in this emotional add

BeingHuman
November 19, 2013 11:23 am

This is surely going to make people think what they have been missing all these years...There was a time when love preceded over everything...that time will come back soon...I wish we are friends and partners in each others welfare and prosperity....Amin...

Ravi Dallas TX
November 19, 2013 2:39 pm

World class ad. Kudos to the ad agency.Past few years, quality of Indian ads have gone up quite a bit, gone are the "Shaktimaan" ads :).

To produce such an ad you need to have proper process for bringing out creative thoughts - end product usually is result of various iterations of base idea.

Tech companies encourage a lot on the creative work, last time I visited India ,I had been to Yahoo India and couldnt stop laughing to see restrooms labelled "Go-pee" for men and "Go-pee-ka" for women. (Like Gopi and Gopika) . Thought it was pretty creative.

Ravi Dallas TX
November 19, 2013 2:47 pm

Good to see the ad got so many eyeballs. This will encourage others to promote similar themes which is always good for both countries.

Keshav Sharma
November 19, 2013 2:58 pm

I have not watched this ad, but i remember listening to the similar stories on The Urdu service of All India Radio in late 60s - early 70s. I remember some stories which were so touching, somebody in Indian side of Panjab remembering his school days and friends in Lahore, and two weeks later a very emotional reply from his friends from Lahore ! But as some people have commented, it is not so easy to get visa.

cameo
November 19, 2013 4:44 pm

@Rajat: Eating Biryani with my Indian friends, i do it all the time.

Zimbo_Indian
November 19, 2013 7:11 pm

The ad is nothing but completely closing ones eyes to the ground reality. When the two friends meet they will probably realise that there is nothing in common between them. One represents an aspiring nation and the other a degenerate, failed state, desperately trying to justify its existence on the basis a religious identity. Mushy feelings are good for ads but that is about all.

Sumit
November 19, 2013 7:54 pm

Awesome ad....touching one...

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