Four things in the New Coldplay Song That do Show Real India but We are in Denial
This whole weekend, my social media timeline has been flooded with friends pissed at new Coldplay video ‘Hymn For The Weekend’. It is called out as a cliched depiction of Indian culture. It is being criticized for misusing Indian culture. Makes me think, what is Indian Culture? Well! That’s a topic worth writing a book on. But this debate undoubtedly made me watch the video and I didn’t find anything offensive to ‘my’ culture.
Think about it, if someone made a music video in Paris, would they not throw in a generous amount of Paris cafe’s, Eiffel tower, accordion playing musicians on street, mime artists? Now imagine Parisians up in arms saying, you always think Paris is always about the Bridges, and Eiffel Tower and the cafes! Doesn’t that sound funny to you?
So here are four things in the song that are completely and factually correct and I think we are just losing our sh*t because social media is more about saying ‘Nein’ than applauding nowadays. ( just my view)
Sadhus: Think saffron coloured robes, priests, temples. Anybody who has never been to a temple, or seen a yogi or even photographs of Kumbh Mela can say this is a wrong depiction. About that levitating guy. You know! The joke is on us. With all the God men, our beliefs which border on superstitions, this is how India is. One in ten families has a Guruji. And I’m not saying it is wrong. But we believe in individual people who are a link between God and us but hate when someone shows it back to us. We love to pick our cameras and shoot these amazing shots in Kumbh, in Varanasi and Instagram the Sh*t out of them. But beware if an international artist shows flowing robes of these yogis/ priests/ sadhus.
Holi: This is Ace. We behave as if the only way we celebrate Holi is on a friends terrace with a unique cocktail made by a hired bartender. I thought the scenes showed about Holi, and kids are dancing part hip hop, part freestyle is exactly how India is shaping up. At least unlike real Indian culture, people are not getting drunk teasing women which is how Holi has become. Unless by real Indian culture, you’d prefer someone to show that; I think Coldplay has made an effort to respect and show how Holi should be in India. ( Btw, three men, riding without a helmet is the also an honest depiction of how we are).
Little Kid dressed like Lord Shiv: Anyone who has lived in a small town should have ( and must have seen) pre-Diwali processions of people/ kids dressed as gods. Krishna on Janmashtami ( birthday of Lord Krishna ). Shiv, Ram, Hanuman (assorted Gods) on various occasions including fancy dress. This is who we are. We love our Gods. We aspire to be like them. I can’t comment more on this.
Less Affluent India: This is the hard truth. According to the World Bank, India is one of the poorest countries in the world. Some of the main issues responsible for widespread poverty in India are poor health services, child malnutrition and inadequate education and training. Almost half of India’s population drops out of school by the age of 13 and only one in 10 people receive some form of job training. This is how it was reported in 2014. As on today, average hourly wage is $1.6 when we can debate on minimum wage about USA. I am very proud of our progress. But somethings are a stark reality. So if someone shows traffic, streets and less than glam young India, you know what, that's what it is.
So this video does not show craft beer drinking start-up crowd ( forgive my sarcasm) or long running highways or multiplexes. What it shows is also the real India. Unless we do our bit to change it.
I liked that the artist made an effort to show women and men both seeing a movie. It did not show repressed India, which is so much easier to depict. It showed children running around in streets, both boys and girls. I don’t care if the cliche of India is henna hands or OTT jewellery. We don’t mind it to sell tourism. Oh! And btw, when a photographer as awesome as Steve McCurry shot India on similar lines, we didn’t get offended too much? Perhaps because we have better access to YouTube in Pop Culture but takes us a while to Google Steve McCurry.
So take a break. Have that beer or coffee. If it troubles you so much to see India like this, team up with food tech and make sure that all that food getting wasted goes to people who need it.
I rest my case.
Here is another look at India captured we so applaud. Steve McCurry is one of my favourite photographers. And I don't question artists on how they see stories. All photographers copyright of Steve McCurry.