by Avani Nadkarni.
I was driving home from work one day last week when I heard my favorite new song on the radio.
The usual half-asleep mode I get lulled into while driving the 55 minutes was shaken as I forgot about any cell phone driving rules, excitedly began calling all my closest friends, leaving shrieky messages.
“They’re playing Jay Sean on the radio!” I yelled into their voicemails. “On the mainstream radio!”
Jay Sean, a British pop singer of Indian descent, has been on my playlist for about five years, but only recently, after signing on with American rapper Li’l Wayne’s record, has he caught the notice of mainstream America.
Most Indians in America aren’t used to seeing or hearing someone so closely resembling themselves yet. It is still thrilling, exhilarating, even to those born here, when someone like you “makes it.”
A large group of my Indian-American friends and I crowded around a television set in my friend’s apartment to watch the 2009 Oscars, squealing when “Slumdog Millionaire” won nearly every award. We smiled like proud parents when songwriter A.R. Rahman performed his Oscar-winning song.
More and more lately, it’s become trendy to be South Asian. Or maybe it’s just that, as children of Indian descent born in America, we are feeling freer to pursue careers that naturally garner more of the spotlight.
We proudly watched Kal Penn as he gained two degrees at UCLA and co-starred in several films on Indian-Americans before shooting to fame as goofy Kumar in the “Harold and Kumar” movies and now, nabbed a spot in President Obama’s administration.
We happily watched Bobby Jindal, whose politics we all may not agree with, as he became the first non-white governor of Louisiana since Resconstruction and we watched his wife, Supriya, refuse to be a in-the-background First Lady while championing for math and science education reform.
As a former gymnast, I watched first Mohini Bhardwaj in 2004, then Raj Bhavsar in 2008, help the U.S. Gymnastics Team to silver and bronze medals, respectively.
It may take a while, but I think eventually, as Bollywood and Hollywood intertwine and more and more Indian-Americans are encouraged to dabble in entertainment, politics and sports, seeing a fellow Desi face may lose its luster.
But, for now at least, I’ll still shriek like a proud mother whenever someone that resembles me stars in a movie, wins an election or a medal. And I don’t think I’ll be alone.