Remember the time when skateboards became a thing in India? It was a shiny bit of American culture that we embraced, excited as ever. But as cool as every kid that owned a skateboard felt, at least they didn’t rename the damn thing char pahiye ki fisal patti to make it sound more interesting for our amusement.
So imagine our hilarious bewilderment when the Western world rebrands our dear ol’ ghee as the super food, ‘clarified butter’ or more recently, the classic maang teeka as a fancy ‘chandelier hair clip’ by British fashion store ASOS. I mean, seriously?
We kinda hoped it was as ridiculous as it would get when they put the desi and angrezi words for the same thing together, presumably for reasons of comprehension. Chai tea? Sure. Naan bread? All right. Bindi dot? Ugh, fine. But it hilariously went on!
The baingan ka bharta or the ‘smoked and spicy eggplant mash’, as the firangs call it, is being hailed around the world as a healthier alternative to mashed potatoes and used for dips and spreads. Dadi ma’s age-old remedy for all things wrong with the body, haldi doodh, has been called a whole variety of different things in the name of holistic healing, from ‘turmeric latte’ to the slightly cornier ‘golden milk’.
We don’t know exactly where it all started, but over the years, we Indians have inadvertently contributed significantly to the West’s ever-evolving world lifestyle. Sure, they’re doing it in the name of the new, the fancy and the exotic, but for us, it’s just the way things have always been.
Take the new age fixation with coconut oil, for instance. For years growing up, we shamelessly made fun of the kid that came to school dowsed in nariyal ka tel, and yet, our household bottle of Parachute oil has now become a miracle moisturiser, an all-natural healer of hair and a magic ingredient in exotic Asian cooking in the West.
Similarly, we’re happy to have given the world yoga, but everywhere you look, there’s a new-fangled western version of it now, be it ‘power’ yoga, ‘underwater’ yoga or (and this is my favourite) ‘anti-gravity’ yoga. Who would’ve conceived of such yogic adventures back when practically every uncle and aunty we knew from the colony, religiously attended yoga and pranayam sessions in the park! Not me!
The way that we Indians have been using leaves as plates during meals and water to clean ourselves up in the toilet for generations together, is only finally starting to catch on with the oh-so-advanced Western world. While to the new age firang they feel like healthy (not to mention exotic) alternatives to the ‘norm’, these concepts have already dictated the norms in most parts of backward ol’ Asia.
Hey, just to be clear, I’m in no way implying that we ought to claim exclusive rights to these desi gems and forbid the West from adopting, renaming and experimenting with them. In fact, if anything, it is rather amusing to wonder how they’d rebrand other things from our side of the world. Perhaps kaleere could be ‘golden wind-chime-style bracelets’ or gajra could become ‘long-ass jasmine hair spirals’ – but I’m open to better suggestions.
So wherever in the world you may be, and whether you’re drinking a ‘chai tea’, a ‘chai latte’ or a ‘chai blend of exoticness’… just for the record, we were doing it before it was cool.