As an Indian gal of a certain age, I am conditioned to be an undying fan of certain people on American TV—Rachel in Friends, Buffy the vampire slayer (if I was trying to be weirdly different), Phoebe in Friends and of course, that girl in Remington Steele coz we still got the serious British guy hangover.
Cut to now when Mindy Kaling is rocking the scene with her insanely funny self, blonde TV girl stereotype be damned. So I am pleased, right? My kids get to see someone like effing Mindy Kaling on TV and aspire to be her? Awesome sauce! So imagine my surprise when Mindy brings up the idea that South Asian women are invisible. Who, us? Are you kidding me? Here is why we are NOT:
1) ‘Brown Privilege’: My first job in the U.S (coz I reboot my life at every move) was in a tiny office where an older lady gasped when she read about some female infanticide statistic in India. She ran over to me to say “you are a survivor! Kudos!!”. To which I said ‘yes, ma’m. Oh, do you think we could replace the red velvet cakes in the break room with chocolate cakes instead?”. I got my wish, and my special ‘survivor’ privilege. Which meant I always got to choose the takeout lunch first. Take that, you cold-sandwich lovers!! I felt special.
2) “Where I come from…”: I live in San Francsico. Which means most people have either attempted being a ‘global citizen’ or are eager for stories to share at the water cooler so they can pretend they KNOW how to behave like one. I might be the only person strongly reaffirming I have ridden on an elephant, in the streets of a city. Which basically does not compute in people’s heads. But. I. Thought. It. Was. Politically.Incorrect. Now.You. Tell. Me. NO??
3) My crappy cooking skills are exotic: My mom can stop laughing. Like right now.
The real challenge of being a south Asian woman isn’t anonymity or invisibility. It’s that there are too many of us. I feel like the first child who asks the mom “but I thought I was going to be the only one. Like forever!”. So Mindy Kaling, much as I love you, you are so.wrong. Nationwide is NOT on my side. I am hoping not.