“Color Outside the Lines” explores identities, Indian, American, how they intersect, how they separate; dicusses culture, bridging the old and the new. It encourages paving new paths, having conversations, moving forward with knowledge of what came before you. Important thoughts for an ever changing world it’s so easy to get lost in.

Collaborative effort between Isabella Cuan and Shiv Nadkarni. Words and modeling by Shiv Nadkarni.

|1| meditate. being a person of color with big confusing goals in the U.S. starts with first thinking about who you are; what do you stand for? what mark do you want to leave and how will it be perceived because it’s coming from you? the first step is introspective. our generation is obsessed with this idea of being “self-made,” taking pride in eschewing anything different, off, possibly problematic. but who is really self-made? isn’t there value in conversation? magic and change come from valuing our histories, our traditions, taking what we can from them and moving forward. sure, you created yourself from scratch. but who gave you the ingredients?

|2| hide and release. tradition or culture can at times be problematic. doing an independent study in Kathak this past year, I learned that Brahmin women in the 1970s recast the dance form through a Hindu lens and ascribed religious connotations to pieces in order to distance it from its origins in court dance performed by concubines. and so here, ignorance about the dance’s history is not bliss. for me, it means going back on my 15 years of training and re-thinking every dance, all while questioning what’s “authentic.” i’ve come to believe authenticity is ironically subjective. there’s an importance in being aware of a form’s history and having it inform the present and future. i’m definitely striving to do this every day. sometimes it means hiding one side of a form to allow the release of another more inclusive one.

|3| against the grain. indians love grains. everyone knows enriched flours make some good rotis, rice flours are great for fried onion snacks, and wheat flours are for crispy fried shrimp. our grains tell the stories of the places we come from. so why do we leave them, hide them, and assimilate into a new grain? we follow the “grain” of a new place often without question to be accepted. there’s nothing wrong with this, with adapting and learning. but in doing so, it’s important to sometimes question it. go against it. because blind following just makes a place less diverse and more.. boring. i mean does anyone just want to eat white bread forever?

|4| curry (n.). a dish cooked in an Indian-style sauce of strong spices and turmeric, typically served with rice. so how is it that this one dish became aligned with an entire culture? it’s easy to make generalizations and not take the time to get to know people. but it’s so much more satisfying to be culturally competent. try to be open to new experiences and different perspectives even if you don’t agree with them or just want to brush them off. it’s easy to make judgments but harder to have conversations without reservations. don’t get me wrong, curry’s delicious, but usually there’s more to it.

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|5| blues. i grew up on rhythm and blues. Ne-Yo, Mario, and Destiny’s Child along with my brother’s favorite, Boyz II Men. they taught me to SING with real emotion. blue is also the color of Lord Shiva’s aura, whose presence I invoke in the opening piece of many of my Kathak performances. when the sky is blue, everything is at peace while when we are blue, there is a storm coming, of tears, of emotions.. often of conflict. it’s the complexity of colors like blue that make them so beautiful. we have to remember to let blue be all of these things and not any one without the others, because then it’s just.. dull. one-sided. identity is the same. 

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