I still don’t really know where to go for food though but I can subsist on shawarma for a few more weeks probably
i think a part of why i lose my shit every time i’m reminded that zayn malik, mainstream superstar millionaire known by billions all over the world, is half-pakistani (and therefore desi like me) is that outside of my immediate family, i grew up completely immersed in the idea of normalcy equaling whiteness.
everywhere i turned as a child, there were white people. everything i saw as a young girl was not only about white people, but for white people. every dream i dreamed, every hope i fostered in my heart, was represented first to me by white people, in the context of a white person accomplishing that dream, living that hope. i never saw myself represented anywhere except bollywood films, and even there, the heroines were tall, thin, and extremely extremely pale. somewhere along the line, i resigned myself to either buying into a white world or forever living on the outside looking in.
i spent most of my life telling others that i was “white on the inside” as if being brown on the inside would be the height of embarrassment. as if my otheredness was a source of shame. i didn’t pursue pathways because i wasnt brave enough to fight against my mom pointing out that “there are no indian actresses on tv, betiji.” or my friend saying “whoa the main character in your book isn’t white?” and that’s my own fault, but. it’s also evidence of a gap. it’s also evidence of why representation matters.
and so when zain malik, with his dark hair and dark eyes and half-Bradford, half exaggerated desi accent burst into the scene, tweeting about roti and talking about his mum’s samosas, taking pics with his family in their salwar kameezes, requesting suraj hua madham on bbc asia…
it was like tentative spring. and as that same zain malik turned into zayn malik who turned into a MEGAFUCKING POPSTAR THAT EVERYONE KNOWS and adores and thinks is BEAUTIFUL…
well. it was like goddamn summer.
you have to understand. mindy kaling and aziz ansari are amazing. and i love seeing them make it big. but their culture and color is constantly a source of—not shame, but challenge, maybe—for them. they always talk around it, because hollywood likes to exotify. and i know zayn has stepped away from being so public about his culture, his religion. i know he’s had to distance himself from it for the sake of his family not receiving hate, for the sake of his self not being dragged through the mud in the media or by his own fucking racist fans. i know he’s been whitewashed in many ways.
but hearing zayn in the brief beginning of his career be so open about his love of bollywood, speaking urdu, celebrating eid, tweeting about prayer…it was like the sun breaking out of the clouds. it was like i could step out of the shadows and point a finger and be like “HIM! HE’S LIKE ME! YO! LOOK!” in philadelphia, when he answered my soundcheck question it was the most profound moment of my fucking life to hear him say the words “khabhi kushi khabhi ghum” because for the first time, OTHER PEOPLE WERE THE ONES ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN. for two seconds, zayn and i were the only ones in that entire stadium who understood those fucking words. and that means…so much to someone who’s had to conform to make herself understood her whole life.
so i just want to say thank you to him. and to his family, who share tidbits of his life with us in ways that confirm for me that the same kid who is selling out stadiums and living a life i only ever imagined in the recesses of my mind is also the kid who grew up loving amitabh, just like me.
i can finally say that, you know.
just like me.
actually this amazing piece of writing is important and wonderful enough to belong on the mainblog, 1D-ness notwithstanding