Mumbai: 'Indian children are not taught about fighting, but the word 'business''
OVER the phone, Hard Kaur switches from London-accented English to Punjabi Hindi. Despite her frankness that could make a lot of the hoity-toities cringe she answers everything intelligently. There's never a dull moment, so to speak.
The rapper (and India's first female rapper) moved to the UK in 1991 from Punjab. She's had first-hand experience with living the 'Indian' way overseas and how that juxtaposes with actually living in India. She says the Indian community there has "double standards" and that if dancing and singing are accepted professions here, it's not so much there.
At first she dealt with inane questions that Indians deal with almost anywhere outside of the country, "They thought that people here are so old-fashioned. They'll ask questions like, 'Do you poo in the ground?' Of course you don't poo in the ground!" she told them off.
A great example of little India vs real India is the rude boy culture that took the Indian community in England by storm. The term, originating in Jamaica, was used for juvenile delinquents and then evolved itself in the 2000s to represent the culture taken on by large groups of South Asians in the UK.
To explain in stereotypical terms: they used to wear big chains, use the phrase 'innit' extensively, thrived on the word 'desi', lived a swanky lifestyle and listened to Hip-Hop gangster rap or Bhangra or Juggy D. At least that is how the outsider sees it. "I like the Rude Boy culture," says Hard Kaur.
"Earlier, in South Hall, if an Indian lady was walking on the road, her purse used to be stolen by a black and Indian boys used to stand and stare. As Indians, a child is not taught about fighting, but is taught the word 'business'. Then when they actually began to take a stand, gangs began to form. That's how the whole Rude Boy culture started. If they (Rude Boys) control everything, it is the only way against racism."
She was grateful for the safety it provided the Indians there at the time. But she does see through parts of its machismo faÃ§ade: "Hip-hop is about telling stories, but this world is now about money. Everybody wants to become rich, they want a short route... half of it is fake anyway." When asked if the Rude Boys who safeguard their Indian culture there would have some sort of a culture shock when they came to real India, she answers, "They don't stay here very long 'so much pollution' they say. Thank God I was born here."
As for Kaur, after taunts of racism and living a hard school life, she decided to slip out of her docile skin (yes, there was a point when the term applied to her) and do what she wanted to, irrespective of creed and gender "I stopped thinking that I was an Indian and I'm a girl because that's limiting yourself. I always go first as a human being."
So in 1995, she started going for rap battles, gaining an audience and the respect. Russia, Israel, France, Copenhagen... she saw them all.
"I did not have to struggle a lot here as Glassy was already a hit. I asked Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy if I could meet them (they had already heard of Hard Kaur by then) met Sriram, director of Johnny Gaddar and scored the song Move Your Body."
With a string of Bollywood hits in her kitty, a new album coming out after her debut Supawoman, the rapper who grew up watching Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi is now taking part in Jhalak Dikhla Ja's third installment, says, simply and with confidence, "I know I'm making a difference."