Representation of India in Popular Culture – Aziz Ansari’s Master of none

(An essay I submitted for my English Class five years ago)

American media is infamous for the lack of diversity in its characters. The ethnicities and cultures that thrive in America are so many, and yet they are all extremely underrepresented in Hollywood. When represented, characters fall into predetermined labels and stereotypes that usually end up making the characters seem flat and depthless. Indian characters in American media are always portrayed as the annoying sidekicks, who may either startle everyone with their brains or bore them with the Indian accent.

Most American sitcoms and movies deal with the life of the average American, who is almost always shown as a white Caucasian male, when, in reality, there exists a large plethora of ethnicities and backgrounds to choose from. There are several instances where white people have been made to look like people of other races, which ends up unintentionally mocking and insulting the race in question. An example of such an instance would be Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s played by an American comedian Mick Rooney. This character received lots of criticism for the unrealistic portrayal of Chinese people. The Indian man in Short Circuit was played by Steve Fisher, another white man with a ridiculous ‘Indian’ accent.

Netflix’s Master of None is one such television show that defies these stereotypes. With comedian Aziz Ansari in the lead role, this show focuses on the personal and professional life of a struggling actor, Dev Shah, being the first ever man of Indian descent to play the protagonist of an American show. The show highlights the troubles of being an Indian actor in New York. It showcases themes of racism and equality in a subtle way and could be considered as a path to slowly eradicate the problem of representation in Hollywood.  It also throws light on the lives of those immigrants who left their country to move to America and adjust to the life.

In the episode ‘Indians on TV’, Dev tries out for the part of the cab driver in an audition, but he is not chosen for it because he refuses to do an Indian accent for his role because he believes that it is degrading to Indians all over the world. Later in the episode, Dev gets the opportunity to star in a sitcom, but the director has trouble in choosing between him and his other friend. When Dev approaches the director because of a leaked e-mail with racial slurs against Dev, Dev asks the question that is on all our minds- Why can’t there be two Indians in the lead? The reply of the Director is that having two Indians as lead characters will not cater to the mainstream audience. Dev protests to this idea, however, he is not able to convince the director. The episode is an insight to the brutal racism that takes place in the country.

The rest of the episodes also consist of similar themes and talk about Dev’s romantic affairs with Rachel- their romance is subtle and realistic. Ironically, the cast of Master of None are all from different races, but Dev’s girlfriends are all white. Apart from this, the show is full of laughter, goodness and truth.

The show is an excellent example of the fact that not all sitcoms have to be about white people to be popular or widely accepted. The world has come to such a point that it is integral to incorporate people all around the world in every line of work. Representation must be done keeping in mind the sentiments of every race and the culture of several audiences.

Most Indians are cast as IT Professionals, Doctors, Scientists, or store owners, when in reality, Indians now dominate every sphere of work in The United States. It is now time that American media begins to realise the importance of representation of every ethnicity there is, because only with awareness, will there come an urge within people for the need to change.

Bibliography

http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2015/11/10/3721209/aziz-ansari-racism-television/

http://time.com/4111777/master-of-none-aziz-ansari-review/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/on-demand/2016/05/09/master-of-none-netflix-review-a-perfect-mix-of-sarcasm-and-since/

Netflix’s Master of None

https://prezi.com/lpelgi__yrkp/representations-of-indians-in-western-media/

The moon and the sun

On today’s edition of ‘let’s romanticize random, inanimate things’:

Why are the moon and the sun considered lovers?

Is it because we enjoy the painful idea of two people being together forever, despite never meeting?

Is it the idea that the sun helps the moon shine?

Is it that together they make it the earth’s rotations more worthwhile? That they make billions of lives what they are?

Is it that if the moon gets too close to the sun it will burn up?

Is it that there are so many stars in the sky and the moon still chose the sun?

My Quarantine so far

Half •Alive

It is so much easier to give advice rather than follow your own advice. My friend came to me with a problem, “I can’t put my phone down! My Instagram usage levels have increased to 6 hours a day now.” As an experienced Instagram obsessed person myself, I understood completely. There was a phase that I went through when I had started thinking in memes. Knowing that I have no self-control or any other form of self-discipline, I deleted the app a few months ago. I only peeked at it sometimes if I ran out of content to consume in the rest of the world wide web.

That got me thinking about what 2020 brought me – things new and old. Confined to my house far away from my home, I took comfort in many different things. During all of this, I found time to work at the company that I am employed in and study for an exam.

I have gone back to being obsessed with everything I see. Every month comes with a phase for me and it started out pretty wild.

When my roommate and I began lock down together, we were scared. Mainly because we had food for barely the next two weeks, and a country wide lock down would mean we could not go out to get food without thinking about at least a hundred times. The other reason was “how are we going to survive without leaving the house?!”. Oh, if only I could have told my past self how wrong we were. Also, I don’t think I could have lasted six months (and counting) with anyone but my roommate. I am truly grateful for her.

Here is a month wise summary of my not-very-interesting quarantine:

March 2020: “The madness will end as soon as this lockdown ends!”

I started watching a Hindi TV show that I used to love in eighth grade. Misogyny and ridiculousness aside, I did enjoy that phase of lockdown 2020 because I felt that I was acquainted with my younger self who believed so much in the “magic” of love. The show was not fun watching at first – you had to try very hard to ignore how horrible the male protagonist was to the female protagonist. They justified the behaviour that was in many ways- plain harassment, by allowing the quirky female protagonist to take “revenge” on the abusive male by playing harmless pranks that got him riled up and angry.

I discovered that this show was produced by a woman. She probably never thought that this show would be received negatively by anyone because it was 2011 and the show was targeted for Indian housewives who probably didn’t have ‘misogyny in evening television’ on the list of the things that bothered them the most. As far as I remember – most of the fan base was young, I even had a group of friends in school who I caught up with so we could discuss the show. The show ended nine years ago and you can imagine my shock when I found out that the fans of the show still post content about it.

Also, I must add that the male character who could have gone to prison at least seventeen times for harassment, did become less douchey by the end of the show. He also apologized to the woman he constantly abused for a long time, but is that really enough? It’s 2020 and I have a lot of thoughts.

When I was watching the show, I was tempted to do an episode-by-episode breakdown of my commentary about why it’s so horrible, (yet I couldn’t stop watching it). Then I decided against it (thank god), because a) Who has the time and b) Nobody wants to read that, Smriti.

The show has even been rebooted a couple of times, with different actors and different storylines – and failed. I feel like maybe a show like that is best left dead. It does not age very well.

April 2020: “Don’t worry, we’ll be back in the real world by the time it’s September!”

I caught up with my college friends and relatives on weekends while we played House Party and Pictionary and Ludo King online. The enthusiasm didn’t last very long though.

My second phase was my Greek mythology phase. The Percy Jackson fan in me was resurrected when I stumbled upon a podcast called ‘Let’s talk about myths baby’ on Spotify. In this podcast, the narrator discusses Greek myths while commenting on the misogyny and the sexism that happened back in the time of the Greeks. It is an absolutely engaging podcast and I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

This too helped me get in touch with my younger self, and I delved more into Greek myths, discovered Madeline Miller, and got so many more Greek mythology books.  I even discovered the wonderful world of podcasts.

This was about when I decided to leave Instagram. I realized that browsing through Instagram was reducing my reading time, so I went ahead and deleted it.

May & June 2020: “This is going to be a productive quarantine for me!”

During this time, a close friend of mine suggested we do a buddy read – we read the same book together and then discuss it with each other. Turns out this was all I needed to get out of my book slump. I fell in love with reading again and did not have the issue of my terrible attention span hindering my reading.

These books remained my obsession for a month or two and when I wasn’t reading, I was drawing. Those were probably the best two months of my quarantine. I went to sleep more fulfilled and less hopeless. I was cooking and getting better at it every day, I was meditating sometimes, I was eating whatever I wanted, I even worked out for most of the month – albeit intermittently.

My roommate and I would spontaneously dress up at night and take pictures, just for the heck of it. We invented games when we cleaned the house on weekends, watched Netflix together during lunchtimes, and talked till 2 am on some nights about life and work and destiny and happiness and missing home. We even celebrated her birthday by devouring two cakes and gulab jamun (while we were dressed up) We made the best of what we had.

I tried to do variants of the same thing with my other friends and different hobbies- I’ll admit, it did not work that well.

July 2020: “Screw it!”

July didn’t have anything much exciting in store either.

We watched the first season of Dark on Netflix, and were absolutely mind blown, while my German Duolingo lessons got more intense. Another highlight was the whole day of re-watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham while making fun of every second scene.

We also started ordering food from outside again- the monotony of cooking and then washing up the vessels later was too much on some days.

August 2020: “There is no escape”

In August we started preparing for our exam in full throttle. This meant less fun and more studying. As much as I don’t like studying, it was refreshing to have a defined purpose after such a long time. After work ended, both of us would sit to study until midnight.  

I also started watching the second season of The Umbrella Academy and boy, that was a fun phase. Shout out to my favourite boy Klaus Hargreeves.

Video calls with my family and friends were the only things I looked forward to. And sleeping in on weekends. I felt very disconnected from the rest of the world at this point, and I had no motivation to get back to any of it just yet. Fitness didn’t seem important either because all the new clothes I had wouldn’t see the light of the day.

Still, by constantly reminding myself to be grateful for all that I had, and thankful for the fact that I had never felt truly lonely ever since the lockdown began, I never once felt hopeless.

September 2020: “That’s all, folks”

What a wonderful way to conclude a post. Good day, y’all!

This is just an attempt to reboot my blog. Thank you for taking the time to read this all the way till the end.

Growing up is Grey

If you started reading this and immediately thought of Fifty Shades of Grey, I apologise. I did not mean for you to recall those horrors. If you did not think of it when you read the title, I’m sorry for bringing up the topic.

Growing up means seeing everything a little more. More definition, from all the lessons you’ve learnt and from the people you have encountered. Black isn’t black and white isn’t white. People aren’t just split into good and bad, emotions aren’t just positive or negative and vegetables aren’t just fresh or rotten;. Everything you know slowly turns grey – even your hair.

If we could assign colours to our feelings, the ones that come up the most are blue – for when you’re calm, red – for when you’re angry, yellow or orange – for when you’re happy. Dark grey – for when you are sad.

This may not make sense to most of you. Apart from being truly happy at a few instances, or being completely devastated sometimes, do we really get to experience our feelings as one dimensional things? Is blue the colour you think of when you are calm? When you look at the sky just before it rains – with its cool wind or perhaps the sickening humidity that accompanies the sky.

It can be difficult to separate things at these times. Confusion is usually the shade of red – because of the amount of stress that accompanies it. but isn’t the cause for confusion only because things aren’t black and white?

What I learnt from three years in college

There’s so many things I do that I don’t understand why I do. Despite everything else, I still find enough time to criticize and condemn myself, but never to appreciate myself. The question that arises here is, why is there such a thirst for external validation, and why do I have such a horrible image of myself? When I look in the mirror, I’m never happy, I’m always picking at the little pimple on the center of my forehead or the fact that my hips look disproportionate. When I achieve something, however small, I can never seem to take the credit for it, I tell myself that it can’t be true, I can’t have done it. If it’s a failure, then I’ll be the first to recognize my mistake and reprimand myself. There’s so much hatred built up inside me, I’m scared that I’ll cave in and break soon. This is not a plea for help, don’t get me wrong, this is my open confession to the world, that I’m battling something that I wouldn’t have had to if I had just been careful to love myself in the first place.

I’ve realized that empathy is one of my virtues, so if you ever need to talk, you should know that I will understand. I thrive on validation and support and hugs are my fuel. People who help you the most when you least expect it should be kept forever. Being good doesn’t necessarily mean that you behave well or conduct yourself nicely, it’s all to do with what’s in your heart. Fight for the people you love, talk to them if you can, live life without any regrets, what if you die tomorrow?

Compliment people, it really makes their day. Don’t say good things behind their backs if you felt that saying it to them would make them happy. Never miss a chance to make someone happy. Happiness is talked about far and wide, but contentment is essential too. The day I’m content with myself, only then will I truly be happy.

I want to do so much with my life, but there’s so less time. I’m scared I’ll grow out of this phase, and not want to do anything anymore in the future. I want to be able to see the world and do everything I can in this life because it seems like such a waste to not do any of it. This year, I want to cry less and laugh more. I want to achieve my goals and beat failure. I want to be content with who I am but work at improving myself daily. I want to do new things and see new things. I want to love harder, and forgive more. I want to be stronger, both physically and mentally. I want to take risks and make memories. I want to love myself fully, with no regrets.

I’ve learnt so much in these three years of living away from home, I’ve grown so much. I’ve learnt (not just from classes), laughed (till I cried), explored, danced, cried (excessively), loved (also excessively), and walked (for so long). I’ve understood the importance of giving your best, the need to work hard, and the vital role of luck in your life. I’ve also learnt that things fall apart, but most of the chaos caused by it is inside your head and that every problem can be calmly solved if you rationally think about it. I’ve learnt that some people will stick with you no matter what, and some people won’t look back even if you’re yelling their name. I’ve learnt the difference between selflessness and foolishnesses and that the people who stick with you now do not necessarily have to be the people who stick with you until the end. I still believe that you should never give up on your friends, and second chances are a must, if they’re extra special, then mistakes should be forgiven. Growth comes from forgiveness and acceptance. People change every day and so do you, don’t judge them too harshly for it. Everyone has their own priorities, you shouldn’t expect to be included in anyone’s list, just because they’re on yours. Sometimes, it’s okay to be selfish, as long as you’re not hurting someone too much. Pain makes you stronger, people make you feel loved and thus happier.

New experiences are wonderful, my only regret is that I won’t be able to relive the moments I experienced first.

Feeling independent is one of the best feelings, I like finishing my chores and going to bed guilt free. It’s never too late to start a hobby, I only developed my sketching skills in a short span of time. Procrastination is my worst enemy, I still haven’t found a cure for this time destroying disease and deleting and reinstalling Instagram doesn’t help much.

I’ve learnt that although I love to grow plants and show them off, I’m also bad at remembering to water them. No relationship can survive with just love, it’s always a two way street that requires effort and time. Family is important, they will love you through thick and thin, and they will always be there. Communication is very important, you need to let people know how you feel, but opening up too much isn’t good, it makes people uncomfortable. Words are powerful and must be handled with care and caution, some actions are completely irreversible. Saving money is important, it should start as early as possible.

Lastly, in this world you need to find something to do that makes you happy, because you cannot depend on people to make you happy. Today they’re there, but there’s no guarantee that they will be there for you tomorrow. You only have you in the end, and that should always be enough.

But Don’t

This is stuff I’ve written ages ago. It’s not good quality material, but I’m just going to post it here to restart my blog. I will take it off as soon as I write something new. It’s quite unnecessarily emo, please bear with me and my angsty self.

Give me another chance

But don’t
For second chances become third chances
And I’ll try and try and try
Until you give up on me
Until I’m on my knees
And you’re on yours
Begging me to stop
But don’t
For I am as helpless as you are
And I’ll cry and cry and cry
Until you give up on me
Until my eyes are tired
And your voice sore from
Begging me to stop
But don’t
For I can fake being nice
And I’ll lie and lie and lie
Until you give up on me
Until I smile widely
And you’re convinced
That I’m alright
But don’t
For I don’t want this anymore
And I’ll die and die and die
Until I’m nothing
Until I’m free
And you are too.

The Dream of an Astronomer

There are over a hundred billion stars in the Milky Way and you wanted to be with them all.
As you gaze into the night sky,
The Dark sky dotted with tiny white flecks,
You wonder if you could ever leave this planet,
Forget human existence,
And be among those twinkling lights forever.

When you’re a child, it’s alright,
Your dreams are filled with the sun, and the moon and these stars,
Every day you feel like you’re going to get there,
Every day you fall a little more in love with the sky.

As you began to grow,
You realise that it cannot be done,
It’s much too hard,
It has never been done before,
You can never live amongst them.

Now you speak about it less,
They appear seldom in your dreams
But you’re always chasing them,
You know it’s of no use,
But you’re too in love to care.

So you read about the stars,
You read about the planets,
You read about everything that belongs outside the earth, and,
For a while, you belong with the stars.

And then reading isn’t enough,
You see the night sky through a lens,
You cover your walls with them in the day.
In your dreams,
You’re still chasing the stars,
When you’re awake,
You’re learning to chase them for real.

After years of dreaming,
And years of reading,
And years of working,
And so many years of chasing,
You lay down in the cold dark earth,
And gaze into the sky,
It’s just like how you saw it the first time,
The dark sky dotted with white specks,
For once you’ll never have those dreams again,
For once you’ll meet the stars,
For once you’ll live amongst them forever

Mediocrity

When you meet people who are talented, intelligent or beautiful in the superlative, you tend to develop a slight inferiority complex that disturbs your self esteem you thought was ‘not that bad’. It reminds you of how insufficient you are in this world. It haunts you to no bounds, imagining that you may never amount to anything more than ‘somebody’ in the future. It is not the fear of being forgotten, or the fear of fading into oblivion. It is the fear of not being able to do anything even though you had a chance.

I am a self-proclaimed ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ and deep inside, I loathe myself for it. I learnt music for five years and abandoned it because I didn’t make time for it, I learnt the violin for 8 years and left that because my heart was never in it, I procrastinate for every exam there is, until I reach a point where there is no reason for even picking up the book to read through it, I write, but it is obvious to anyone that I don’t spend enough time on it, I say I’m passionate but when it comes to the things I truly love, I don’t care about it much.

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At least there’s something I’m really Passionate about and committed to it.

I believe I have reached a level of mediocrity and it is a vicious cycle that I am struggling to escape from. I wake up every morning, knowing that I’m going to be the same ol’ mediocre me, so I don’t give my best, because in the end, what’s the point, really? I’ll still never win in a contest, I’ll still never ace a test, I’ll still never be the funniest or the cutest or the smartest, because there are people who work day and night on their shortcomings to overcome them. And I am not one of them. Why even try, really, because in the end disappointment is all you get.

We go through our daily lives knowing we will reach somewhere, someday, and everything will then fall into place. But what if, instead of everything falling into place, it falls apart? It all falls apart because we weren’t good enough. What would we do then, when it’s too late and the damage is done? There’s no going back from that point, we’re stuck in this endless cycle of mediocrity, the constant thought that we aren’t enough for this world.

Then again, what if we were?

What if all the people we met, all the places we went to, remembered us? What if every little impact we made in this world lead to something bigger? Every little footprint we left on the face of the earth revolutionized the world?

Things like that are never true. Let’s face it, in today’s world, nobody really cares about your ‘little’ contribution. You may have people who appreciate you and love you for who you are, but is that really enough? Shouldn’t you completely accept yourself for who you are to be truly happy? I don’t know if I can ever escape this cycle and I don’t know if I ever will. Even my tries to stop procrastinating have been mediocre.

Well here’s wishing all of y’all mediocre people good luck. One day we will break free. Just pray that it comes before we die. 🙂

 

Fighters

We hide our tears in front of those we love
Fight bravely in front of them.
But at night we unleash
The tiny droplets of water
That choke us from inside.
Relief is not here yet,
Just temporary freedom.
Today was a battle you won.
Tomorrow you will fight again.
You will emerge victorious.

Deep moments of homesickness at the beginning of college this month. I’m happy to inform you that no longer do I feel this intensely about being away from home. 😛
image

To the greatest man who lived

This post is dedicated to the greatest man who ever lived. I hope that wherever you are, you’re content and happy.

I will never forget the stories you told me, of the adventures you had, your progressive attitude, your love and passion for carnatic music, and most of all, your faith in your children and grandchildren. You were practical and right about everything and the coolest grandfather anyone could have.

If there was something I learnt from Muthashan, it was to give your heart and soul to the task at hand. He was always diligent and devoted to whatever he did and never multitasked. He didn’t believe in it.

From folding laundry so well that the clothes seemed as if they had gone through a round of ironing, to the impeccable way he counted and calculated the number of flowers required to make a garland, to the utmost concentration he gave when he listened to music, to the time he gave in cutting vegetables so that each diced carrot was of the same size, to the precision of the retelling of the stories he had read, to morning and evening prayers, he was extremely dedicated and passionate.

Apart from being a brilliant grandfather, he was also an excellent teacher- he helped me learn Malayalam, and taught English to so many of my relatives.

He also loved us so much, it was a great feeling to know that a man like that could love so much. Every summer spent with my grandparents was always eventful because they were there beside me. I loved playing on the swing set when I was little, my grandfather pushing that little plank I sat on attached to ropes and as a surprise, the next summer I arrived, he had gotten a large swing custom made, just for me. My grandfather, despite his heart problem, even joined me in playing badminton one summer, and boy, was he good. He slept beside me every afternoon and regaled me with tales of his encounters at the office, or mythological fables, or something he had read out of a book recently. He loved Ayn Rand and absolutely adored war movies and watched them with fervor. He even gave me word to word descriptions of the things he had read that always left me flabbergasted with his ability to remember words. I never tried reading it, but I wish I had done it- I think he would have been more than glad to have been able to discuss the book with someone. Now I know the next book I’m going to read.

He loved to talk. He talked so much that during his later years, we had to tell him not to talk that much because it interfered with his breathing. But he never did small talk. His words always had wisdom behind them.

He loved his house and the helped the land around it become green as ever and made sure to plant the right trees in the right place in our yard. He supervised everything that was part of the place. Even as he watched it burn down in front of his eyes, he stayed strong and simply helped my grandmother build a new house. He was a source of strength and inspiration for so many of us.

He lived a full life, with adventures, and with the people he loved. He suffered a lot, in terms of how the people around him were. But he never gave up.

I swallow down tears as I write this because oh God, I miss him so much it hurts. It’s not only missing him, there’s also that little bit of regret and hopelessness that surrounds it. It’s not explainable in one word.

I have never seen any other man like him and I’m sure I never will. One doesn’t just stumble upon people like him. He was one in a ten billion, his perfectionist attitude just a tiny part of his great personality.

But this is how it is, isn’t it? Death is inevitable, and unpredictable- as I learnt from this experience. But we all want that one last chance. I wish I could’ve talked to him one last time, feel his calloused and knobbly, yet surprisingly tender hands clasp mine, and wish me luck.

I wish I could have met you and talked to you one last time, and I wish I could’ve listened to thousand more of your stories. You always had an inspiring tale that never failed to amaze and entertain me and your unlimited knowledge about the world and India’s railway lines always left me awestruck. You are an idol to me and I sincerely hope that wherever you are, you are happy. The world was unfair to you so many times but you never gave up on the world.

I want to thank you for whatever you have done for all the people in your life because without you, we would not be who we are today. You were instrumental in so many things that happened in my life and I wish I could have thanked you for every day that I spoke to you. I will forever be grateful to you for all the things you have done.

Thank you so much.

Here is to the greatest man in the world.
Rest in peace, Muthasha. I love you.