New Brown America
When I was a kid, the one thing I wanted more than anything else was a Cabbage Patch Kid.
But, in the late 80s/early 90s - they didn’t make Cabbage Patch Kids with light brown skin and dark brown hair and eyes.
There was black and white and that’s how the world was divided….but not because I grew up in Southall, England.
Pretty much every kid I went to school with had brown skin, brown hair and a mom who made them eat rice every night.
So, where were our dolls?
I watched Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix special - Homecoming King - recently and I fucking loved it. LOVED it. It was like hanging out with my coolest cousins - it was hilarious, heartfelt and bilingual.
Here’s a dude that looks like me and sounds like me.
Someone who can reference Drake and knows heartbreak.
Someone who also understands that if you’re reading this, it’s already too late, I’ve bit the fucking laving in the biryani and I think I might be dying, man.
Over the past couple of years - I’ve noticed it more and more.
More Indians represented in media.
More people who look like me and sound like me.
For me, it started with Kal Penn in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.
For the first time in my life - I saw an Indian character I could relate to. For once, I saw an Indian person who didn’t have a thick, ridiculous accent. An Indian person who wasn’t mocked with “smelly curry” jokes.
Sidebar: Literally fuck every single person who makes this joke. Firstly, people didn’t die in the spice trade for you to be so goddamn ignorant and secondly, do you even understand how complicated and lush and beautiful a curry is? How much time and energy and love it takes to make? No. You don’t. So, shut the hell up and try not to choke on your shitty mayonnaise sandwich.
I saw an Indian dude who dropped pop culture references and used the word “dude” about as much as I do. I saw someone whose dad looked like an angrier version of Paps. I saw an Indian who wasn’t a doctor or an engineer or a call center employee.
Alright, fine. He was applying to med school in the movie but like the man said:
And then came Mindy Kaling who was basically a goddamn revelation in really cute shoes.
A smart, funny, mouthy Indian WRITER who gives ALL the fucks about cute packaging for make-up and SNL sketches?
It was like hearing my voice for the first time. Holy shit - that’s what I sound like?! That’s amazing! My voice is like a cross between Fergie...no. I sound like Asha Bhosle and Jesus!
And of course, there’s Aziz Ansari. A man who created a genuinely honest look at the first-generation immigrant experience for millennials with Master of None.
The “Parents” episode of the first season and the “Religion” episode of the second season really hit home for me. The former deals with the stark differences between immigrant parents and their children and the latter deals with coming out to your parents about your lack of religious convictions - both issues I’ve certainly dealt with in the past couple of years.
I am part of #NewBrownAmerica
I can talk about the issues of the GOP condemning systemic poverty as if it were a mortal sin, I can rhyme every single word in Montell Jordan’s This Is How We Do It, I know how Ganesh got his elephant head and that Mom has hidden little Ganesh statues in all of my apartments she’s been in and I’ve been making cups of chai since I was six-years-old, so I’m totally comfortable mocking the shit out of anyone who orders chai tea lattes.
Chai means tea. Latte means milk. You’re ordering a tea tea milk and you need to knock it off.
And I can do whatever the hell I dream of doing because isn’t that the promise of America?
I’ve even become more comfortable with speaking Gujarati. I mean, I’m super rubbish at it and my pronunciation will make every one of my masis wince, but I’m not embarrassed anymore like I used to be.
We were trying to book an AirBnB last night and I asked J to text the link to our buddy.
“How do I do that?”
As in, here. Let me show you.
I’m becoming more myself and it feels easier.
Maybe because I’m in my mid-30s and you just don’t care as much about that kind of stuff anymore but also because there’s a we now.
I see people like myself on television and it’s such a big fucking deal. And you know what’s even more exciting?
In like, fifty years - it won’t even be a big deal anymore. Some little Indian girl is going to see tons of people on TV like her and she won’t even bat an eye because duh, why wouldn’t Indian people be on TV like everyone else?
Representation matters and seeing this new crop of talented, smart, funny and brilliant brown people who grew up on Bollywood and Barbies, Ganesh and Ghostbusters and the goddamn pressure cooker going off at 8:00 in the morning gives me such hope.
Still waiting on that Cabbage Patch Kid, though.
Originally written Tuesday, May. 2017.