The queen of daytime visited India in January and created a two-part special about her trip for her cable network, OWN. While the program, which aired on "Oprah's Next Chapter," debuted in the U.S. in April, the special premiered in India last week.
Critics in India called Oprah's special "ignorant" and said it reinforced stereotypical representations of the country.
A significant portion of the criticism lodged at Oprah had to do with her remark that people in India "still" eating with their hands. According to ABC News, "Indians are mainly offended by [Oprah's] tone, as many of them regard eating with their hands an established tradition that they are not ashamed of."
During the special, Oprah sat down for a traditional meal with an upper-middle-class family in Mumbai. As she listened to the hostess talk about the food being served, Oprah asked, "I heard some Indian people eat with their hands still, but you don't?"
The host family said that "all Indians" eat with their hands and encouraged Oprah to do so as well.
"I would love to but I don't know how you do it," she said. Oprah watched the family tear off a piece of bread using one hand begin eating. She did the same and said the food was "delish."
In response to the scene, and the two-part special, CNN-IBN blogger Rituparna Chatterjee wrote an open letter to Oprah. She wrote:
Oprah, your comment about eating with the hand is really not that big a deal to us; we are used to gross Western ignorance regarding our ancient country. But as a responsible public figure about to air a show that will be beamed across the world, you should have done your homework. Using our hands to eat is a well established tradition and a fact none of us are ashamed of. Our economic distinction has nothing to do with it. A millionaire here eats the same way a pauper does. You have been to Asian nations. You should know that.
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