BENGALURU : Noel Aruliah is a busy 20-year-old, dividing his time between pursuing his degree in finance and actuarial studies and working in a bank. But he also finds time to moderate content on a popular meme page on Facebook: Subtle Curry Traits. The page shares content, or memes, on things that are unique to Indians, be it the eccentric things parents say (‘Today you left the family WhatsApp group, tomorrow you will leave your parents’), Bollywood moments (‘Can’t believe I’m four semesters in and I still haven’t bent down to pick up a girl’s books and our hands touch and we fall in love instantly’) or phrases that only an Indian uses (What’s your good name vs What’s your name).
Formed in 2018, the group today has 3,39,696 members, numbers which neither Aruliah, who is the founder of the group, nor the other eight moderators envisioned when they began the venture. “We gained our inspiration from another group called Subtle Asian Traits. But while their memes were great, they mainly catered to the Chinese or Koreans. There wasn’t much on things common to Indians,” explains Aruliah. Thus, Subtle Curry Traits was born, which initially comprised just a group of few friends.
As the content went viral, the number of members went up from 10,000 in three days to 1,00,000 in a few weeks. But why do the founders, who hail from Australia, refer to Indians as ‘curry’? “Australians refer to Indians and Sri Lankans as curry because of the food we eat. It’s just a fun nickname,” explains Aruliah.
Subtle Curry Traits continues to be a closed group on Facebook, which means that unlike an open page, one needs to be added to the group to view its content. The idea, says Aruliah, was to retain exclusivity and maintain the group like a tight-knit community. “It’s like a secret community for Indians all over the world,” he adds. The group has been catering to all Indians, the diaspora included, with members joining from Canada, USA, South Africa, Germany, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Netherlands, to name a few.
Growing up as a Sri Lankan in Australia was strange for Aruliah, who identifies with both the places, without belonging purely to one. But the group, he says, has helped such first-generation Indians who are abroad connect with each other more. “Jaden Smith once tweeted: When I Die.
You Will Realise. Someone then made a meme on this and called him a ‘low-key Indian mum’. There were so many people who found this funny and I knew that it wasn’t just me who had heard this from his mom. It’s great to see so many others who have a similar childhood like us or relate to similar things all our parents do,” says Aruliah.
While the moderators receive close to 500 memes daily, only 50 are uploaded. Each approved post undergoes a quality check for relatability, humour and novelty, in order to keep the stream of content as fresh as possible. On an average, the memes receive 3,000 to 5,000 likes, with the exception of Bollywood memes. “The memes around Priyanka Chopra’s wedding did great. We saw 20,000 likes on some of those memes. Even the memes on Shah Rukh Khan see a similar traction, which just goes to show that no matter where you are, Indians enjoy Bollywood,” says Aruliah.