March 07, 2009

Posters on our walls

Wanted: Men/women tailors. Contact shop on this road.

The advert is simple and direct, printed on copy paper, A4 size.

It is well positioned too - in the centre of a Sintex water tank the Chennai Corporation set up bang in the middle of a street which runs into a colony of dhobis.

Today, the dhobis are a dozen in number but there must be a fair number of people who must be looking for employment and change in their jobs in this area.

Looking at such simple, localised promotions has become a habit.

It has stood me well for, these posters and handbills influenced the design and strategy of our own community newspapers and media.

Much of local, outdoor advertising has been dictated by the technology available at the neighbourhood printing presses.

Why, these presses even dictate the nature and form of personal communication like wedding invitations and obituaries.

The obituary posters are fascinating - it’s a different story as to why a fair number of those who said goodbye are in their 20s and 30s.

The posters are in black, invariably have illustrations of two eyes with tears running down and a wick lamp at the bottom.

Often, a few lines about the person run under the photograph.

It was one such Obit poster that led me on to the family of a man who owned a tenth of the neighbourhood where I reside - his was a fascinating life story.

Much like P. James, the magician who has dominated all the city walls with his tar scrawls, small, info-laden posters that promise cure for PILES never seem to leave the doors of TNEB junction boxes.

Off and on posters of local ‘docs’ who claim to cure sexual problems find their space.

Then came the flood of posters which advertised a variety of accommodation - for single girls and married women, for North Indian men and small families. That was the era of the IT madness.

Of late though, playschools and caterers, TV stores and call taxi services and even beautycare salons make do with single colour posters.

It is recession time, I am told.

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