There are certain things which are accepted globally; then again, there are certain things which are not. The Koreans for example, have this incredible capacity to devour insects with gusto, all with a pinch of salt (literally); something which every tourist who ever decides to set foot in that place takes care to take pictures of, and meticulously makes sure to share it with other people, who are programmed to promptly forward them to everyone else they know. I wonder sometimes, at times when I have absolutely nothing to do, if the average Korean knows what the world is up to behind his back. I, personally, would get genuinely annoyed if I woke up someday to find out that the food I eat has become an internet sensation, and not in a good way; subject to be  photographed, captioned and commented on by seventy different people, all of them generously using words to the effect of ‘disgusting’ or ‘gross’. I would get even more annoyed, if I woke up on many other days after that to find that there were people who still hadn’t gotten over it, and the food I eat was still very much an internet sensation, and still not in a nice way. I’m sure the Koreans have their reasons, it might even be logical, if you cared to ask them before taking a picture (It is highly understandable though, and very tough not to take a picture, whatever sense their logic makes; you can’t help it). The rest of the world may run after those insects with a pair of slippers in hand, the Koreans are just more sporting and evolved to actually choose to pick them up and eat them on a daily basis. Scorpions, for example, are supposed to taste like potato wafers; you don’t have to take the effort of growing potatoes, peeling them, frying and doing whatever else you do to make it end up like those crispy wafers we shell out money for. You can just scoop up one scorpion from that shady part on the beach, add some salt, and crunch away, very conveniently and without any hassle. Grasshoppers are also recommended, if you fancy a different flavour or more legs. That is, if you can refrain from making a face and taking pictures in the first place.

It will be unfair to the Koreans if I keep the spotlight on their food habits any longer, when I too am a part of a culture, certain practices of which can get downright weird for the global community as a whole. Let me mention the typical Indian wedding dance for instance; the real deal, not the kind they project in movies and NRI parties. For the people not acquainted with it much, it can get brutally intimidating. Indians are known to be the humble, docile kinds; nervous when you meet them out of their group, always trying to ‘blend in’ with their surroundings on formal occasions with  a big smile plastered on their face as a response to almost any question you throw at them. They probably save it all up for the dance floor. There, they’re lions. They move vigorously, push the innocent bystander to the centre of the circle(no one can choose to stand in the corner and not dance; that does not make any sense to them), dance to popular Bollywood songs (the steps to which you are just supposed to know, no questions asked), throw in a couple of peace/gang signs to the amalgam of whatever they’re trying to do (the younger ones have heavily latched on to this), and stare at each other with an open mouth, raised eyebrows and the kind of expression which I’m imagining a cattle orgasm looks like. Give them a drink or two and you may get to witness security getting involved too. But, this being just one of those cultural things, shouldn’t be mistaken for hostility. This is them being happy and having a good time.

Despite all this insect and dance related cultural gap which still exists in the world today, there are some things which the entire world seems to agree about. And most of it does not make that much sense.I’ve seen people, for example, laughing their asses off, when American sitcoms make fun of the Canadian accent and Canadians in general. When asked why they found it obligatory to clutch their stomachs and snigger while watching it, they’ll confirm that they found the accent ‘very funny’ too. This, coming from people whose entire race was ridiculed and stereotyped for having a funny accent; their portrayal in mainstream media reduced to actors brave enough to don brown paint and let their voice pitch waver from one extreme to the other in a sing song voice. (think of Appu from ‘The Simpsons’ and the restaurant guy from Seinfeld).Like American sitcoms, The English Premier League stirs up similar sentiments too. When Liverpool got knocked out of the champions league a couple of years back, someone I know got so affected by it, that he had to go to the nearby pub and get drunk, that too alone. I’ve also indulged, I must confess, in bullying a fellow college student who happened to support the Chelsea football club over Manchester United, for a reason which I still can’t make up. This person had just started ‘supporting’ Chelsea at that time, and was quick to switch ‘loyalties’ to some other club, which he swears by now and frequently indulges in fist-fights to protect it’s ‘honour’.

This brings us, inevitably, to a cultural phenomenon like Justin Beiber. Disliking someone’s music is one thing, but using it to gain social acceptance and using it as a topic of conversation is another. The entire world, save some hysterical Japanese fans, has agreed to make fun of whatever Justin Beiber does. (Why Japanese fans are always so hysterical, is something one can never get, and deserves a different post to give it proper justice) If you want to make a name for yourself and get famous over the internet, you should, without any doubt, start off by making fun of Justin Beiber. It makes the slightest difference though, if you have actually heard any of his songs. The little kid who lives two floors below my house was made fun of and got ostracised from his group of friends, when he mentioned one Bieber song he had seen on TV. You get the feeling that we gave more concession and were more tolerant and relaxed in ostracising other friends when we were that age; one of my best friends had utilised this relaxation to proclaim himself to be a Britney Spears fan till he was 15, and he still manages to get all the invites to the pubs and parties we get to go to. I am, in no way, trying to go against the world and defend Beiber’s music; I just come from a place where I’m used to disregarding music and musicians after one song. Right now, I’m surrounded by people who’re gaga over a song called ‘jalebi bai’, which unfortunately is not a one off thing, since they had been die- hard fans of a song named ‘Do you wanna be my chammak challo?’ too (The exact meaning of chammak challo is not known to exist) . The thing is, you just learn to shrug, change the song and move on. My point, if you’re willing to humour me further, is that the Beiber kid deserves a break. From my every day vantage point, I see people trip over much more senseless, meaningless and musically challenged songs; and I also see these people managing to camouflage their ‘taste’ and making themselves socially and globally acceptable by the simple act of making fun of Justice Beaver, of whom, if carefully and meticulously probed for a long time, they haven’t even heard a song of.  It might be true that his songs make you quail; it might also be true that trying to woo someone by severely repeating the word ‘baby’ throughout one whole song might be a very annoying way to go about it, but it is very rare to get something which the entire world agrees upon (save a minority of people (which includes hysterical Japanese fans)) ; for in a world where even World peace is a relative term, we need people to make fun of, even if we don’t know why.

Dhananjai Sinha
PGP 20