As a South Asian American, a young adult living in the United States, I often wonder how I can define myself. Often times, I can refer to various television shows that allowed me to gain an understanding of the two cultures I am a part of to truly allow me to relate to my identity.
As a kid who spent the initial years of them in India, I was quick to learn Hindi. However, upon returning to the United States, learning English became a challenge. So, my parents turned to television. They allowed me to watch various television shows that would let me learn English. They even began conversing with me in English to ensure I would not face difficulty at school.
However, the fact that I was living in a South Asian household meant watching Indian television along with the various channels like Disney, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network.
Thus, I found myself in a pool of shows which I got to enjoy as a Desi kid in the United States; here are a few!
1) Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi
This show was the epitome of Indian Television. It ruled television for so long that at some point the drama would make me weep. The show ran for almost a decade and ruined television for me, as well as many other Desi kids who grew up with this show.
2) Hey Arnold
This is the show on Nickelodeon that I watched and conversed about in school. It was the kid with the yellow hair who lived with his family. He faced many social issues like bullying in school that many Desi kids may undergo because of their body and appearance today.
3) Sesame Street
Sesame Street allowed me to begin learning English and taught me new things on a daily basis. Big Bird, Elmo and the rest of the puppets held great value for me as a kid, as I learned new things every day.
4) Astitva – Ek Prem Kahani
I remember this show, as it was something I watched with my mom at my grandparents’ home. It was one of the single shows that I remember that the whole family would watch. Not sure what made it special. But for me, it was unique because one character held the same name I had. So as a Desi kid, going to school with a unique name in a pool of Western names meant getting bullied for my name and culture. However, finding someone on television with the same name was exciting!
5) Sa Re Ga Ma Pa
As someone who loves music, this show just stole my weekends away. It was a family show that everyone could watch. My love for music has only grown through this show.
6) Power Puff Girls
Yes. Despite this being a girly show, it empowered girls to achieve their dreams. It showed young girls that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.
7) Lilo And Stitch
Although I am an only child, I grew up with my older cousins. Thus, the sibling relationship in Lilo and Stitch was very relevant to me. Also, it was the role of family, and the involvement of family in our families is something that exists for many South Asian kids. I too loved this show and still do as an adult despite it being off the air.
8) Hum Paanch
This was a comic two-seasoned show which appeared in the 90s and then again in the early 2000s. I was grateful that I was able to watch the second season when it aired. The show would be something that I would sit down and watch, despite secretly despising Indian soap operas.
This show indeed showed the unfortunate side of Indian life – exploitation of the poor in affluent societies. As a kid, watching other kids work and get ripped off was something that kept me grounded. I applaud Indian television for bringing such issues to light as it addressed something that was a fault in our society.
10) Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi
Although I did not realize that the storyline arose from the famous American Show Ugly Betty, until much later in life, I enjoyed every bit of this show. For every Desi girl, it seemed that there was an opportunity that would allow us to pursue a career of her choice and not one picked by people around her and to make sure that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.