February 2 2015
There’s some depth and character to the reality TV programme now and it’s throwing up some real issues…can women have it all?
By Chayya Syal
THIS week saw “Desi Rascals” get off to a significantly better start. Love was in the air as Moses got suited and booted to impress the apple of his eye Jo (we’re really rooting for them!)
Cupid’s arrow ricocheted off Owais’s cheese grater-like abs for the umpteenth time as he came face-to-face with Rita’s boyfriend Adam. Things didn’t get better as he later had a fierce face-off with Yasmin – with poor Shmoyel in the middle – following his jokes about her height and mannerisms.
Week Two also saw the King of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan, make a cameo appearance which overwhelmed Arshina and Jyoti who burst into tears as he held her hand and recited a couple of his famous dialogues (never wash that hand again Jyoti!)
We saw many of the older characters open up about their marriages and all things to do with the heart to the younger characters. This dynamic proved to be the winner for Week Two because it was done in a mature, sophisticated and sensitive manner. I found myself feeling much more connected to the entire cast.
I wish that there had been more of this, because British Asian culture is not just about young British Asians’ individual experiences; the older generation influence and contribute so much to the formation of our collective identity. This is what makes the British Asian experience vibrant, multi-faceted and unique. I personally want to see this being fully explored in all aspects of modern life as the show continues.
Another dynamic was the interaction between the female characters. So far there’s a good bond of sisterhood going on with many of the women having independent identities and lifestyles. This is great because I’m tired of seeing women on television bitching and dragging each other down. I love how empowering, feisty and self-assured the women of “Desi Rascals” are because most British Asian women are like this, in my experience.
We want it all: good careers, an education, a healthy social life, friendship, love and why shouldn’t we? Shreena encapsulated this by saying to Anita: “We’re not brought up to be housewives. We go to uni, get jobs and work as well.”
Whilst this is true, it is worth noting that many modern British Asian women do become housewives and also work at the same time.
I was particularly struck at the relationship between Anita and daughter-in-law Shreena. Their story has been an interesting one to follow because it’s rare to see a British Asian marriage being played out on a reality TV show – warts and all.
Indian mother-in-laws generally get a bad rep for being cruel, but it was refreshing to see Anita and Shreena working at their relationship and seeing that it is difficult for both of them. My favourite moment was seeing them both bond whilst making rotis (chapattis) with Shreena confessing that she’d only made rotis once.
We later saw her go back to her maternal home and discuss the difficulties of marriage with her mother Purnima who shared her own story. Their mother-daughter relationship is an emotive, precious one and viewers can feel this. As Shreena stood in her old room, I had tears in my eyes. It was also at this point that my own grandma sadly said: “Before I got married, I could freely be myself in my maternal home. After marriage, I felt that this could never be my home again.”
While many of the older characters repeatedly stated: “Things have changed” it made me think in what sense has there been a significant change we can all feel? Yes, it’s increasingly normal and more acceptable to see interracial couples and inter-caste couples openly together, but this is not universally seen or felt in all British Asian communities. If anything, there is still a large portion that is opposed to inter-caste couples and openly disapproves of interracial couples.
Shreena’s and Anita’s struggle to adjust to each other as women shows that some things don’t really change because it’s an age old ‘saas-bahu’ story that we are used to hearing.
Many British Asian women are familiar with the heart wrenching stories that our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and great-aunts went through with marriage back in the day. It’s no wonder that so many of us feel divided when it comes to marriage. We are reminded of the sacrifices that women make which fills us with reluctance (doubt?) because we’ve been brought up to have it all. Shreena’s story disrupts this way of thinking and shows a very realistic portrayal of being a wife and a daughter-in-law.
What it means to be a modern British Asian woman is constantly in a state of flux and this week “Desi Rascals” highlighted this. It showed its viewers that we are more than just wannabe Bollywood dancers, eager brides and quiet women. We are just like other aspiring women with hopes, dreams, fire and a heck of a lot of which to be proud.
Picture: Purnima Patel, Moses Baig
*Watch ‘Desi Rascals’ at 8pm every Tuesday and Friday on Sky Living
*Follow Chayya Syal’s weekly column on ‘Desi Rascals’ only on www.asianculturevulture.com. Want to debate the topics covered here, please go to the post on ‘Desi Rascals’ on our FACEBOOK page. Don’t be shy!