#DesiRepDiscussions – My Hero, Rishi Patel 

Desi Rep Discussions

Hey guys!

Over the past couple years, the #DiverseReads movement has gained momentum and people have become aware of reading books that have characters that are not just cis straight and white. After All, this world is a huge place and there are many different, diverse people here that are not straight or white. They have been poorly represented in media for a long time and that has taken its toll.

Desis are an example of such oppressed voices. We have not been represented in a good light in the western media, but, thankfully, that has changed in the last few years and with emerging authors such as Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Tara Sim, Dhonielle Clayton, Sabaa Tahir etc, hopefully, people will see us in a better light and begin to understand our culture more.

The purpose of this discussion event is to make others aware of the lush, beautiful desi culture and to tell them more about us. So, for the next few days, my absolutely amazing friend, Aditi from A Thousand Words A Million Books and I will be sharing various essays by desi book people – bloggers, bookstagrammers, twitterati etc for you guys.

I hope that you learn something new by reading what we have in store for you here and that you enjoy it. Thank you for stopping by!

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My Hero, Rishi Patel

– Pragati

My first exposure to Western Media had been back in 2010, when I was about 15. A friend of mine introduced me to the popular reading website – Wattpad. She’d been reading a story that she thought I would love and bugged me till I didn’t start reading it. She was right. I loved the story. And I was hooked. After that story, I read countless other stories on the forum. All of them beautiful and amazing. But, all of them featured white, straight, cis and able bodied characters. I didn’t read about anyone else. But, I didn’t let that deter me, I continued to read and I continued to fall in love with stories.

When I started interacting with the authors on the websites via comments and even after I became friendly with many of them, I never told them my real name. I had a stupid screen name on the website, which was really westernized. I’d turned the location settings off for the app. So, if they interacted with me, they wouldn’t know I was Indian. I used to think that it would make less somehow, if they found out. So, I didn’t tell anyone.

When I created my twitter account, a couple years back, the trend continued. I didn’t tell people I interacted with that I was an Indian or that I lived in Mumbai. I tried to steer clear of such conversations and only a few of my close friends actually knew this about me.

This continued for a long time, till I came across When Dimple Met Rishi in late 2016. I hadn’t read a book with an Indian MC before that and had only just heard about Star Touched Queen. WDMR was also the first mainstream YA romcom with desi characters that I read. And, I met Rishi Patel.

Rishi Patel, who took pride in his culture. Who didn’t think he had anything to be ashamed of because of who he was. Rishi Patel, who was unapologetically Indian and who loved being Indian. He didn’t think that there was something wrong with him because of who he was. And he definitely didn’t care about people who treated him like anything less because he was Indian.

Reading about Rishi gave me hope. It made me see myself in a different light. It made me understand that nothing was wrong with me because of who I was. It made me understand that I shouldn’t shy away from talking about myself and who I was and if people looked down upon me because of it, they didn’t deserve my time anyway.

Reading about Rishi made me understand how stupid I was being, holding myself back because of what others would think. And, it also gave me courage. If Rishi could embrace who he was and be proud of it, why couldn’t I? By all counts, Rishi & I weren’t different. I even had the advantage of still living in my own country, so I hadn’t experienced any diaspora first hand. So, if he could do it, so could I.

And, I did. I started telling people I was Indian, I changed my bio on Twitter & Instagram & I put a picture of myself for the profile photo. One book, and my life changed completely.

The effect he had on me, got me thinking. If one character could turn around how I presented myself in media, what would happen if more such characters started appearing in mainstream media? This is the reason why we need more representation in media. So that people like myself can be who they are without the fear of being secluded, of being sidelined for others.

Because, if Rishi can do it, so can we.

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7 thoughts on “#DesiRepDiscussions – My Hero, Rishi Patel 

  1. I love this. I cannot even tell you how much.

    I’ve been lucky in never really needing or wanting to keep my Indian-ness to myself? I was the only Indian in my group of friends in high school, but I aggressively embraced my Indian-ness, if only because it made some of my schoolmates uncomfortable. And I made a group of online friends who were also Indian – but it probably helped that I started my online experience on India-Forums…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess. Everyone on IF is unapologetically Indian. And they’re such amazing people. I only started visiting IF in 2014. By then, I’d become so used to this shell where I didn’t tell anyone about being desi, that my experience there didn’t really help.

      It was a huge decision for me to do what I did, not because I was ashamed of who I am, but because it wasn’t normal for me and I’d become so used to hiding that part of me. But, reading WDMR really changed my outlook on it and that’s when things started changing and I started to embrace myself wholeheartedly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just discovered your discussions about desirep and I am so excited… When Dimple Met Rishi was a true game changer for me.. it definitely made me feel that I should expect more representation of ourselves in the books simply because v exist and are such a huge population but not such a big part of the characters that we read about everyday .. Rishi was obviously a favorite because I could relate to him so much.. I think I wore my Indianness on my sleeve pretty subconsciously, talking about our culture with friends at work, dressing up in Indian clothes to office on Fridays and weekends.. Reading about rishi felt like reading about myself and many other people I knew… I appreciate you for your efforts through this blog series and look forward to reading from other desi bloggers..

    Like

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