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!
My Hero, Rishi Patel
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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