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The Rise of Chinpreme: From inside joke to schoolwide movement

A+senior+proudly+sports+Chinpreme+attire%2C+unique+to+the+movement.+Chinpreme%3A+it+is+not+a+cult.
A senior proudly sports Chinpreme attire, unique to the movement. Chinpreme: it is not a cult.

A senior proudly sports Chinpreme attire, unique to the movement. Chinpreme: it is not a cult.

A senior proudly sports Chinpreme attire, unique to the movement. Chinpreme: it is not a cult.

Armaan Rashid and Amanda Su

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Chinpreme is not a cult.

At the heart of “Chinpreme” — the name a portmanteau of the popular clothing brand Supreme and senior Chinmay Pulapa’s own name — are Pulapa’s friends, who started the loose movement as, mostly, a joke.

“It’s just a hype thing,” senior Nimish Madhure said. “Chinmay’s always been a meme.”

As far back as the 2015-16 school year, Pulapa was given various laudatory names. It started when, that year, Pulapa once referred to himself as a “temple celebrity,” since his father maintains a high position in the Livermore Shiva-Vishnu Temple.

At the same time, Pulapa was also enrolled in the Basketball P.E. elective and notably outperformed many of the taller students, despite his “shortness” (Pulapa’s words). For his exceptional athletic prowess — not to mention his unexpected streak of “beating up” older and larger students like Dougherty alumni Shaurya Dubey —  his “godly” reputation developed, and since then, he has been often referred to as “Chingod.”

And,  after seeing a Church of Scientology at the 2017 state competition for the Future Business Leaders of America, which Pulapa and his friends all partook in, senior Pranav Iyer began referring to an entire religion revolving around “Chingod” — the Church of “Chintology.” Iyer and fellow senior Shubham Joshi still maintain the Church of Chintology, staging “mass prayers” in the quad and various classes throughout the day.

“Being popes [of the Church], it is our duty to coordinate mass prayers and weed out Chinfidels that don’t really believe in the gospel of Chinmay,” Joshi said.

Chinfidels, according to Joshi and Iyer, are people who don’t recognize the Church of Chintology and “disrespect [their] savior,” said Joshi.

When asked about how seriously they take their “religion,” Iyer responded, “So seriously that we wouldn’t let Vinny [a supposed Chinfidel] participate in this interview.”

Most affiliated with Chinpreme as it exists today, however, largely disavow all Church-related proceedings, including Pulapa himself. The worship of Chinmay in its current iteration, Chinpreme, came to be after Chinmay’s friends wanted to “make it a thing,” in the words of senior Sankalp Panigraha.

“They wanted merchandise, and Supreme’s cool,” Panigraha said.

From then on, Chinpreme as a brand began to coalesce. It started with the now-notorious Chinpreme stickers, which caused a minor conflict with DV administration as students kept sticking them on lockers. Rumors began spreading that the administration thought that “Chinpreme” had something to do with drug use — but these rumors are completely unfounded, as both Vice Principal Demetrius Ball and Chinpreme followers confirmed.

Administration posted notices on lockers with Chinpreme adhesives on them, asking that they be removed because custodians would have difficulty removing the stickers themselves at the end of the school year. But that was the only issue.

Following the release of the Chinpreme stickers, Pulapa soon began to expand Chinpreme’s presence on campus, beyond it just being a brand.

“ Chinmay made it serious. Before it was just a joke — Chinmay said that, ‘if we’re gonna do this, then we’ll make something out of it,’” Panigraha said.

After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Pulapa sought a way to donate to various charities to assist in hurricane relief efforts, deciding to release Chinpreme T-shirts to fundraise. The T-shirts, featuring the Chinpreme logo overlaying a black and white photo of Pulapa’s face and were designed by senior Samay Sugarimath. (His signature appears on the very first batch of shirts.)

After selling 75 shirts, their net profits for charity amounted to around $150, since they raised a total of $750 and the shirts themselves cost $600. The proceeds from t-shirt and stickers sales have been donated to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

For the future, Pulapa plans to release more merchandise, dropping them in waves for different seasons. Other products include a hoodie and potentially a fidget spinner. All proceeds are yet to be donated to different charities.

By the time the first wave of shirts were released, Chinpreme’s goals, as a movement, expanded beyond merely releasing merchandise and started to encompass other ways of increasing the notoriety of Pulapa. These efforts, though, were largely led by Pulapa’s friends, not Pulapa himself.

Many of Pulapa’s friends allegedly campaigned for him to win Senior Favorite, against the Senior Superlative guidelines. Some Chinpreme followers speculate that he was unfairly disqualified because of the campaigning; those rumors are unconfirmed. The results for Senior superlatives will be officially revealed when the yearbook comes out at the end of the school year.

“We’re just going to use the vote as it is,” said Mr. Jeffrey Silverman, yearbook adviser, addressing the rumors.

Pulapa’s friends and followers soon redirected their efforts to helping him win homecoming king. Their gambit was successful, and it was announced at the homecoming game on Sept. 29 that Pulapa was Homecoming King.

“ At the football game, when they announced he was king, and what he was doing, right then and there people were asking me, ‘where can I get a shirt,’” Panigraha said.

Since that rise in popularity, rumors have swirled around the Chinpreme movement as being somehow “anti-Leadership,” but the truth is more nuanced than that.

“It’s just a group of guys trying to enjoy their senior year, just starting senior hype and stuff,” said Madhure. “ You know how two years ago it was [DV ‘16] Thomas Nelson, last year it was [DV ‘17] Ravi Jotwani, this year we want someone not associated with that group. Someone from like, the nerdy group, you know what I mean?”

Madhure refers to one of the more complex motives underpinning Chinpreme as a movement: a desire for recognition, especially for the male students of South Asian descent who largely comprise Chinpreme.

“It’s [not] against Leadership, it’s against popularity, which is associated with Leadership,” said Panigraha. “But really, it’s more about the rise of the brown boys, in a sense. It’s more like recognition. We want to be recognized as a group that exists within Dougherty.”

But members of Chinpreme are quick to note that not all members share this view.

“ It’s a joke with a message, but it’s not meant to be taken 100 percent seriously,” clarified senior Raj Dasani. “There’s some people who care about that stuff, and then there’s a lot of people that THINK we all care, which is not true.”

Dasani’s statement speaks to the fractured, loose nature of Chinpreme itself.

“It’s a secular, leaderless political movement,” said Panigraha, somewhat humorously. But that “leaderless” quality informs much of how the movement operates, according to many followers.

Indeed, regarding speculation about whether or not Chinpreme is a cult, Pulapa stated, “Honestly, I don’t really know what a cult is … But I don’t define it as a cult. I say it’s a movement.”

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The Rise of Chinpreme: From inside joke to schoolwide movement