Dating a desi

He spearheaded a shift towards a certain cosmopolitan desi identity that isn’t a stereotype, but a complex, layered approach to the world.He made it cool to break out of the stratified desi moulds.His snappy, witty descriptions that cut through intersectionality became conversation cue cards for people who needed a direction to push their budding ideological leanings towards. To watch a man speak of respect, consent, and enthusiasm in dating is rare—and special. Most Indians understand dating, as a construct, from the American sitcoms we consumed as ’90s kids, and the stalker-ish, borderline harassment Bollywood movies told us was “love.” Suddenly, here was a line of thought most of us could actually see reflected in our own social milieus.When Ansari speaks of the trials and travails of online dating, texting rules, and romantic vagaries, he speaks in a language we understand. He is definitely Indian, and definitely not reduced to his Indian-ness.When the conversation centres around assault instead of encompassing what leads to it, we lose crucial insights into what can change on a more organic, fundamental level.What Ansari did doesn’t quite count as assault in the legal sense—but it begs the question of why legality is the only benchmark we keep for ourselves. He’s a poster boy for representation done respectfully and, well, marks the first time someone contextualised the desi south Asian identity instead of merely exploiting it.He also represents a certain educated ability of the international, pop-culture-consuming class of young Indians who have been trying to, quite desperately, find a voice they can call their own. Which is why allegations of sexual misconduct against Ansari hit a very raw, uncomfortable nerve for many of his Indian audience.

To see a brown man in a position of substantial social power taking his space and ceding it to causes that are very intrinsically in antithesis to what his background has represented was not just refreshing—it was a moment of cultural reckoning.The betrayal of Aziz Ansari will soon be forgotten, but the questions it has raised will not. Pull our heroes off their pedestals and demand better of them.This is a confirmation of some of the most rankling fears women everywhere wrestle with—if a man says he’s a feminist ally, can I trust him? It’s exhausting living in a world where everything is conspiring against you, and women have been pushed back into the same corner again and again. His work forced a lot of Indians to pause and reflect on their own realities and how they navigated an increasingly fraught world that forces a political underlining on all that is personal.In particular, Ansari became a template for the “woke brown man”—someone who recognised the layers to his own privilege and tried to work his way through it.

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For a man who literally wrote a book on the social cues men and women engage with in romantic relationships, he was, as any reading of the piece will tell you, awfully obtuse and callous.

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