Friday, August 04, 2006

B is for BULA-DI

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
If you live in West Bengal and have "embarrassing" questions about sex and sexually transmitted diseases, who better to ask then a matronly, aunty type called Bula-di? All over the city and in the matrimony pages of the newspapers these days, you'll see this little saree-clad rag doll with the big eyes, who seems to wear an always-ready-to-listen expression on her face. And this saavy neighborhood advice dealer seems to speak three languages (English, Bengali and Hindi) and have her own mobile number too: 1097.

In fact, the Bula-di campaign is proving to be a very successful HIV/AIDS awareness program here in West Bengal where every neighborhood often actually has a well-informed big-sister or aunty who can apolitically "smooth out problems" and who always has practical advice handy for the asking. Ambassador Bula-di is easily accepted in her role here in West Bengal. In more macho, northern areas, however, it is suspected that men may not want to take advice on their sexual behaviour from such a gal. Media experts will have to think up something just as creative there.

A typical sign board down town might show her matter-of-factly having this discussion with a young man:
"But Bula di, won't using a condom mean I suspect my partner of infidelity?"
Pat comes Bula's reply,
"Not at all. It's the sign of a healthy relationship."

Recently when the campaign suggested that a new son-in-law should be put to the HIV test, Bula-di had to make one important gender correction. After many complaints came in suggesting that the campaign showed a blatant gender bias, billboards transformed their message: "Looks, education, and character do not alone make for an ideal groom or bride..not until both undergo and HIV test."

Apparently the next phase of this campaign is to get Bula-di into new spheres where she can make an impact: truck stops, pharmacies, and liquor shops

Note: “di” is a Bengali suffix (short form of “didi”) which means elder sister.