My recent trip to India got me thinking about mainstreaming. It began with the hardcore, pendu Punjabi songs which have spread like an epidemic. I wonder how and when people in Delhi became so Punjabi that they started listening to songs that are hard to understand and don’t even sound good. I thought it was migration from UP and Bihar that was increasing, not Punjab. This expansion though is easily extendable to Punjabi-ism in general as well. Casual use of Sikh imagery, Punjabi words, food, and culture across public places, restaurants, radio shows, television and even films is visible everywhere. What troubles me about it is that it comes at the cost of losing nuance. In my view, by definition, mainstreaming and the associated scale (especially in India) cannot retain the richness of a thought, idea or culture.
The composition and context of my family always made us less Punjabi than what might be considered ordinarily Punjabi. As a result, certain stereotypes always bewildered me. Lately, that’s gotten worse because of this same mainstreaming. People’s knowledge of Punjabi culture is negligible and topped with half-understood isms. Reinforcement of stereotypes in such an environment is almost offensive. I prefer silk to sequins, wood carvings to gold paint, flat shoes to heels, vegetables to meat, less to more. But I love the dhol, Diljit Dosanjh and SUVs. You know where the stereotypes lie.
The upside to mainstreaming that I noticed was the one associated with Odisha’s Saura art. It seems to be everywhere! Canvas paintings available on Amazon, kids’ games and puzzles, home decor in local shops, life-size paint on public walls, you-name-it! I’d love to know who’s behind it. It is hard for these things to get noticed, accepted and executed at such a scale without an intervention. And while I hope other art forms get similar attention, I do wonder which nuances are getting lost in this process.