All three protagonists are undoubtedly American and from immigrant families. Neither identity is in the spotlight, nor is it discarded; not necessarily shameful or glorified. Their parents, like mine, speak with an accent, but they are never caricatured. Devi, Rami and Dev have friends from different walks of life. These shows are in many ways believable because they are semi-autobiographical, created by first-generation Americans who are roughly my age: “Never Was I,” 42-year-old Mindy Kaling; “Rami” Yousef, 30; and “Master of Nothing,” Ansari, 38, and Alan Young, 38.
As a child, these stories would do a lot of hard work helping to normalize, validate and glorify my life, the potential impact on my personality cannot be overstated.
But this ship has already sailed. What I was looking for then is who I am now. Americanism is water poured into my ink, two inseparable and diluted parts. This realization triggered a kind of existential crisis: if my family had never come to the United States, if television hadn’t served as a salvation, who would I be?
I understand that I mourn an alternative version of myself, which clogs my head with questions: that we are giving up – gradually, involuntarily – in pursuit of assimilation? How do we lose and get into it? What do we lose as individuals, as a family and as a people? And who gets what from our losses?
Basically, I forgive myself for the choices I made, and I am amazed at my ability to adapt, driven by a sense of survival. But the inside of me has been transformed in such a way that it is irreversible. And in the end, I’m not sure if anyone won.