Tag Archives: humor

The Facebook Group That Your Kids Love To Be Part Of

If you haven’t heard of Subtle Curry Traits by now, either a) your kids aren’t on Facebook or b) they don’t want you to be on it. If your answer is the latter, please click next and ignore this article – I’ll be in big trouble otherwise.

Subtle Curry Traits (SCT), a Facebook meme group founded in October of 2018, serves as a platform for youth from the Indian diaspora worldwide to share humorous content. The page, which receives over one thousand submissions a day, strives to bring people together on topics such as identity, heritage, and family. The group’s official mission is to “Be the voice for the unspoken to eliminating cultural boundaries that distance us from our potential.”

Noel Aruliah, an Australian student and founder of the page, recounts its genesis. “One day I was in my room looking through other popular meme pages, and I realized there was a gap in the market for South Asian content.” He started a Facebook group, intended for his close friends, and saw its membership skyrocket to over 10,000 people in just a few days. Aruliah was shocked. “I had second to no experience with content creation. I just like to crack some jokes.” Today, over 365,000 people worldwide enjoy the online community he has created.

 

The page is a virtual platform to reconcile the challenges of being a part of two cultures. The South Asian diasporic identity spans several countries and continents, but the undercurrent experience is the same. Aruliah says, “Humor is good because there are a lot of things that subcontinental descendants relate to- we are the same, we have similar sorts of struggles.” Subtle Curry Traits often illustrates the good, the bad, and the quirky of South Asian heritage. From reconciling the expectations of the older generation to handling the way the Western world perceives us, South Asians have a unique struggle. Forming community around this experience is a way to show that no one is truly alone.

**************

Comedy, however, is not without its own slew of challenges. For a page dedicated to an ethnic identity, it becomes difficult to toe the line against “problematic” humor.

Example of meme that was removed

While the moderators have an internal compass that dictates what can and cannot be posted, it is not always easy to predict how people will perceive the content. Aruliah says that they “aim to post wholesome content,” and “try to steer clear of offensive memes. As much as possible, we try to keep it a family-friendly environment to broaden our reach.” However, subliminal racist, colorist, and caste-ist jokes often find their way onto the platform. While the admins are committed to taking such posts off the page, this points to a larger question about the role of internalized prejudice in our culture, which starts within India and is carried over into the diaspora. 

While Subtle Curry Traits exemplifies the good and the bad within the diasporic community, it serves as a technological bridge for the new generation. Ironically, it fills the very role that it often makes fun of. Prime comedic targets of the page are first-generation parents, whose sense of humor and congregation are often laughable to their children. Maybe Subtle Curry Traits is nothing but a glorified WhatsApp group of its own, complete with a worldwide network.

Subtle Curry Traits has developed its own subculture uniquely identifiable by its members. As humorous content evolves within the page, it has become more specific to itself. Memes often build off of each other, and the content’s format develops in a way that only existing members would understand. In other words, the group has become a massive inside joke. This has allowed for people within the site to feel a stronger sense of community with each other. While this subculture has an online presence, it has moved offscreen as well. In Melbourne, the moderators of Subtle Curry Traits organized an in-person meet up, which was very well received. The group continues to build spaces for its members and the diasporic community as a whole.

`Noel Aruliah is thrilled by how far the page has come. “One of the most rewarding experiences was when Hassan Minhaj wanted to host an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session through the page. That’s when I knew that we had made it big.” Aruliah has also been surprised by how many offshoot pages have stemmed from his original creation. Subtle Curry Dating is a page tailored towards helping young desis find romantic partners, while pages like Subtle Tamil Traits and Subtle Telugu Traits have built even more specific communities. The demand for such offshoots shows how SCT has paved the way.

Content from Subtle Tamil Traits

As for the future of Subtle Curry Traits, Noel believes there is a lot of potential. The group has made a commitment to help remove the stigma surrounding mental illness within our culture. They have partnered with renowned acapella group Penn Masala to produce a video “focused on mental wellness in the South Asian community.” Aruliah would like to keep engaging in such content creation and build a stronger, more supportive group. He sees more in-person meetups and maybe a merchandise line in the near future for SCT.

“Subtle Curry Traits is going to be for the people.” 

Swathi Ramprasad is a rising junior at Duke University studying Public Policy and Computer Science. She hopes to continue to learn through the lens of her Indian-American heritage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____

 

 

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

A slim envelope arrived in the mail. It didn’t look like junk mail and its heft was light.  I turned it over a couple of times and slit it open. Inside, on a single sheet of ruled paper was a crisply-penciled note from my grandniece.  “Dear Mukund Thatha,” it read. “Thank you for coming to my show. I enjoyed dozing off during class with Ms. Quipster. Taarini”

When was the last time you received a personal letter in the mail?

Taarini was referring to Sounds of Laughter 2019, an annual show by The Music School in Sunnyvale featuring more than a hundred of its students ranging in age from kindergarteners to high schoolers.

A buzz filled the Spartan Theater as people entered, greeted friends, found seats of their choice and settled in. The diverse crowd was representative of the Bay Area, with a good mix of young and old. Proud parents and grandparents, many armed with cameras, video recorders and smartphones were ready to capture the young ones in action.  Many parents were accompanied by their children – some looking somewhat bored, uninspired perhaps by the prospect of having to watch their siblings perform; a few others were armed with books. Friends of the family looked happy in their role as morale boosters. A few among the audience just had to check out that latest WhatsApp message, respond to a work email or check on the Warriors score in a key playoff game.  

The lights dimmed promptly at seven and the audience settled in.  Rustling and movement could be heard behind the stage curtain. A spotlight turned on to illuminate a corner of the stage. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” asked a disembodied young voice. Two young artistes stepped into the spotlight and trotted onto the stage in full chicken regalia, fluffing their feathers.

Thus started an endearing, fun-filled and joyous evening of songs, dance and skits interspersed with more chicken and Knock-Knock jokes than I’d heard in the last ten years combined. It was inspiring to see and hear these high-energy performers – young and younger – giving their best, teaming in coordination and harmony and entertaining the audience while having great fun themselves.

The song and dance numbers included well-known hits such as Monster Mash, and That’s Amore.  A dramatic rendition of Carole King’s musical version of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue left a strong impression.

There was once a boy named Pierre
Who only would say, “I don’t care!”
Read his story, my friend, for you’ll find
At the end that a suitable
Moral lies there

One day his mother said
When Pierre climbed out of bed
“Good morning, darling boy, you are my only joy”
Pierre said, “I don’t care!

***********

In a skit titled School Daze, the aforementioned Ms. Quipster tried gamely to deal with students who one-upped her with their attitudes and replies to her questions. The Song That Goes Like This was followed by Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow, previously rendered by the Beach Boys and other bands.  In my opinion the true essence of the evening was captured by the finale Happiness:

Happiness is two kinds of ice cream
Finding your skate key, telling the time
Happiness is learning to whistle
Tying your shoe for the very first time
Happiness is playing the drum in your own school band
And happiness is walking hand in hand

Happiness is five different crayons
Knowing a secret, climbing a tree
Happiness is finding a nickel
Catching a firefly, setting him free
Happiness is being alone every now and then
And happiness is coming home again

Happiness is morning and evening
Daytime and nighttime, too
For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That’s loved by you

Happiness is having a sister
Sharing a sandwich
Getting along
Happiness is singing together when day is through
And happiness is those who sing with you

Happiness is morning and evening
Daytime and nighttime, too
For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That’s loved by you

So, why did the chicken cross the road?

To remind us of all the important little things in life.  To assure us that it’s okay to act silly and have fun. To remind us to be happy with what we have. To feel justifiably proud of the generation that will be our future. To demonstrate what a group of people, young or old, can accomplish when they give of themselves and work together. To reinforce the adage that when you help others you help yourself. To bless us with an enjoyable, fun-filled evening.  And having done all that, to get to the other side!

No, Taarini, it is I who should thank you!

Mukund Acharya spent 40 years on three continents as a professor, scientist, manager and technologist in aerospace. He currently promotes healthy aging and wellness, advocates for patients and their families, and is exploring the use of short stories, photopoetry and blogs to spread the message on the importance of living substantive, impactful, fulfilling and contented lives while giving back to the community.

Happiness lyrics © Johnny Bienstock Music LLC, Songwriters: Bill Anderson