A model has copped major backlash for slamming a spiritual Indian city in a viral video.
Aparna Singh, who is based in the US, was visiting Varanasi, regarded as the spiritual capital of India, for a business trip.
She was in the city to meet the manufacturer behind her jewellery brand Indian Goddess Boutique and while she was there, she recorded a TikTok titled, ‘Scariest city I ever visited: Varanasi, India’.
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The clip was labelled “disrespectful” from furious TikTok users with Aparna, who is of Indian heritage, forced to apologise, saying it was never her intention to come across as rude.
In the clip she said: “The scariest city I have been to is Varanasi, India – Ganges River which is really polluted full of sewage,” she began while showing footage.
“You see people are bathing in it. On the way to the hotel you see dead bodies being burned, and look at the hotel – how creepy does it look?
“You got to walk up 40 stairs and even inside was just kinda like, bold and scary,” she continued.
“The door was creepy and the electric fences so monkeys don’t get in – and to go in and out of the hotel you have to go in this shady alley.
“You see people sleeping in the middle of the street and even dogs – yeah you guys this place is really creepy.”
Almost 10,000 people commented on the video calling out the business owner for slamming the holy city.
“Maybe travel with an open mind?” one person wrote.
“Next time do your research beforehand and be open to new experiences without so much judgment,” another person wrote, to which Aparna responded: “I did my research, it was worse than I imagined and I was scared.”
One woman said she travelled to India solo, including visiting Varanasi during Holi festival.
“It is the most magical place to be because of cultural and historical heritage. I recommend everyone to visit it because you’ll never experience such atmosphere anywhere else,” she wrote.
“This shows the power of perception; what is beauty can be so subjective. Sorry you were scared but find the beauty even if it’s rough,” said another.
TikTok user Laav Patel responded to Aparna’s clip saying the “spooky music was so unnecessary” adding that he was “so sorry” she had a bad experience.
“[But] I want to address some of your points,” he said.
Laav said the city is mentioned in the oldest Hindu scriptures and has a geometrical design based on your chakra system “to help you awaken the Kundalini” (a form of divine feminine energy).
“The reason why the Hindus bathe on the River Ganges is because it’s considered their holy sacred water and it is actually said that it removes all their papam – loosely translated as a sin.”
According to Laav, the reason you see so many funeral pyres in Varanasi is because it is the only city where Hindus can get cremated 24 hours a day.
“Adding to that a lot of people come to die in this city, the reason being in the Hindu scriptures it is said that anyone that dies in this city are broken from the reincarnation cycle.”
He said as for those who “sleep on the streets” due to the millions of Indians coming into the city, it “drives in a lot of poor people from different states to beg”.
The one thing he did agree with Aparna on was how badly polluted the river is.
“A lot of political parties in the past have promised to get it cleaned up but we haven’t seen much change.”
After Aparna’s clip blew up, she shared another clip apologising for coming across as “disrespectful”.
“Like I said I would like to apologise because I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. I was simply just saying my experience,” Aparna explained.
“Maybe it was the tone, the music. I have been travelling everywhere and I have been posting about Jaipur, I’ve been posting about Mumbai. Y’all don’t care about the good videos I post but as soon as I say the bad experience I had, it just blown up – TikTok, that’s how y’all are.”
She said she meant “no harm or disrespect” and that some people just turned “nothing into something”.
“India is a beautiful country. I don’t like the comments, ‘I would never go to India.’
“It is a beautiful country but this specific area, it just wasn’t my vibe. I get the people who go there for a spiritual journey; it is a sacred city with a lot of history. I get it, but it just wasn’t my vibe.”
She also thanked a follower who commented that “at least your [sic] giving business to that poor area that’s good job [sic]”.
“Thank you for that comment because as an Indian I wanted to give back to my country to be able to provide a good wage and ethical work environment. That’s the goal, thank you for seeing it.”
Aparna’s manufacturer for her accessories label, Indian Goddess Boutique, is located in Varanasi.
She was inspired to start the brand following a trip to the country in 2017 after not having visited for 10 years.
At the same time she was pursuing a modelling and acting career and would give her jewellery to celebrities she met.
However, in 2018, Aparna was involved in a car accident that left her with a fractured neck, ankles and knees.
She explained that while she was on bed rest for two months, she binged on all episodes of Shark Tank and after being able to walk several months later, the first thing she did was take a spiritual journey to India.
“I focused more than ever on my business, including putting out a swimwear line incorporating Indian textiles.”
Aparna featured in Forbes India and it was during the pandemic that her TikTok went viral with orders for her nose rings skyrocketing.
During her recent trip to Varanasi she met with her manufacturer to learn how jewellery for her brand is made “and further perfect my products”.
Aparna was born and raised in Georgia, US, with her family hailing from Lucknow, India.