Beyonce Guilty of Cultural Appropriation?

For those who haven’t seen Coldplay’s new video, “Hymn For the Weekend” featuring the one and only Beyonce, go watch it here.

The video was first brought to my attention through a post I saw on Facebook about Beyonce being accused of Cultural Appropriation. Obviously I was intrigued, and I decided to watch the video myself and judge whether or not I, as a person of Indian origin, would consider the video offensive.

Growing up in America, I have always felt that there was a lack of a positive portrayal of India or Indian people on TV and in the music industry. Looking at Raj from The Big Bang Theory, yeah, I mean, he’s funny I guess, but he isn’t exactly what one would call a role model or a positive figure for Indian kids growing up in America. The only show that I actually really enjoyed (and many non Indian kids also enjoyed) was a show called outsourced that came out when I was in middle school. It was really funny, and the white guy ends up falling in love with the Indian girl, which made me feel a lot less insecure about the color of my skin. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after one year.

I think Coldplay’s video was actually pretty nice. Compared to Iggy Azalea’s “Bounce“, which showed a very Bollywood-esque narrow view of India, I think the inclusion of children playing Holi was really fun and a great way to show off an Indian festival that many people probably don’t know much about. The peacocks, the throwing of the magic petals, and the overall mysticism was a bit over done, but its not like it was anything negative so I don’t have too much a problem with it.

However, there were two aspects of the video that I did have a bit of a problem with.

First,  when I saw on a comment that Sonam Kapoor would make an appearance in the video, I was so happy! She is so beautiful and definitely represents India in a positive light. Then I realized that she was in the video for literally three seconds. Come on Coldplay! If you are going to get one of the most famous actresses in India to cameo in your video, giving her only three seconds seems a bit insulting. That would be if I got Beyonce to cameo in a video that I made about America, but I only gave her three seconds. They wasted a really good opportunity!

Second, I’m not super mad about this one, but I feel like it was again, a wasted opportunity. I was reading through the comments on the video, and many people were saying that they didn’t think Beyonce was relevant in the video, or she looked horrible. In no way would I ever say that the Queen B looked horrible, but I wish they put her in more realistic Indian clothes. Those clothes that she was wearing were quite fabulous indeed, but more “Indian inspired…ish” than actual Indian clothes. I just felt if she was going to go ahead and be in a video that is all about India, she could have worn a sari or her hair in a braid with a tikka. She would have looked beautiful, and it would have been a lot less confusing.

All in all, I think that a lot of Indian people actually really liked the video. Obviously I wish that Coldplay used their opportunity to showcase Indian culture a little better, but reading the comments on the video, many non Indian people were saying how interesting and beautiful India and Indian culture is, and that is definitely a success.

 

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Being Indian in Japan

Hello everyone, its been a while since I put out any blogs. As you may know, I’m currently studying abroad in Japan as an exchange student, and today, I’d thought I’d share what it is like to be an Indian person in Japan.

First of all, I love Japanese food, but man, do I miss my mom’s food. I mean, there are actually quite a few Indian restaurants around here, and I actually made friend’s with one of the uncle’s who runs a place in my area, but North Indian food just isn’t the same. I love naan and curry and all that jazz, but as a girl who is highly lactose intolerant, naan slathered with butter and creamy curry kind of destroys my stomach. Man, what I would do for a dosa right now!

Also, continuing on the topic of food, if you are a vegetarian, or like me, you don’t eat red meat, things may be a bit tough in Japan, especially if you can’t read Japanese. If someone out there is a vegetarian or has some sort of dietary restrictions when it comes to meat, here are some useful characters that might help some of you out:

牛(gyuu) – cow, beef                                                          鶏(tori) – chicken                                                                                                                         魚(sakana) – fish                                                                                                                         豚(buta) – pig, pork                                                                                                                   肉(niku) – meat                                                                                                                             卵(tamago) – egg

And for those of you who are lactose intolerant like me:

乳(nyuu) – milk                                                                                牛乳(gyuu nyuu)- cow’s milk (specifically)                                                                             豆乳(tou nyuu) – soy milk (very useful and delicious!)

From experience, I know just how hard it is to be in a different country when you have dietary restrictions. People have various allergies here, but lactose intolerance is rather rare. Regionally speaking, people of Indian origin are very likely to have lactose intolerance, like me, because it is in our genes.

Just remember, if your vegetarian, vegan, or whatever, people may not understand what it is that you can and can’t eat, so my advice would be to stay calm and patiently explain it to others. After I told people that I don’t eat pork or beef, many people, even those close to me, have a hard time understanding that yes, I don’t eat hamburgers, but no, it isn’t a shame because I honestly don’t really want to.

Another part about being in Japan is that not many people can tell what race I am. Most people can guess that I’m Indian, or at least believe them when I say so, but I often get things like “so…your dad is Indian, but what is your mom?”. Maybe I just don’t look classically Indian, but I do certainly feel more exotic here. I always get stares from people in the train or just while I’m walking around, and I can here them saying things like “I wonder where she is from” or “she looks quite unusual” or something like that. It is a bit uncomfortable, but I’ve definitely gotten more used to it.

Finally, being an Indian in Nagoya (in Tokyo you probably won’t feel like this as much) makes me a bit lonely. I’ve met people from Indonesia, Thailand, Sweden, France – all around the world, but there aren’t many Indian people here. The Indians who do live in my area are all older men and women mostly from Tamil Nadu, but because a majority are Christian/affiliated with the Catholic church, I have no one to share my faith with. Also, since none of them (by them I mean the 7 Indian people that I have met) are my age, so there is a sense of loneliness in a way.

Although there have been quite a few uncomfortable moments, one thing that is important to consider is because there aren’t many Indian people here, it provides a chance for one to share Indian culture with other people. Japanese people are very interesting in hearing about other cultures, so whether you are Indian, Chinese, American, or whatever, just come to Japan with an open mind and a willingness to teach and you will have a great time.