So this is the story. UOB had a Bollywood themed staff dinner. I can imagine that would have been quite fun and colourful. However, some of them went further than dressing up in Indian togs – they painted their faces black.

After the party last Friday, they posted the picture above on Facebook. A hullabaloo was raised in the press and online for them being offensive. The bank had to apologize and counsel their staff that was involved in this face-painting exercise.

I’m like, what’s the big deal?

OK, it’s true. I have no idea what these guys are like. But my first reaction was that they were dressing to theme and went one step further by painting their face. I am Indian and we Indians are generally darker than the Chinese. It is what it is.

So, as one Indian Singaporean, if the act was done in the spirit of fun and without any malicious intent, I’m ok with that.

I don’t condone racism as an act of prejudice or discrimination but I wouldn’t want to evolve into a society that can’t have fun. In fact, by being overly cautious, we may actually breed factionalism instead of integration and harmony.

I have a bunch of great friends from different races and we are able to have fun because we don’t take ourselves seriously and we inherently trust the intentions of each member of the group. If we had to err on the side of caution, the relationship will become a little stilted and perhaps at the extreme, we will stick with members of our own races in case we inadvertently offend another.

I can see why this act could have caused offense so I don’t speak on behalf of all Indians. But I want to make it clear that as an individual Indian, I would not take offense if I was at the UOB dinner provided it was done in good fun without any malice.

Let’s celebrate our differences, have fun and not take everything so seriously.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Across cultures, one thing that unites is Love. So let’s celebrate the love and cast aside differences.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Don’t wear a black face 😉

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