Mum(bai)'s Not The WordBy Mala Bhattacharjee Posted: Nov 8, 2011
I've been a huge advocate of ONE LIFE TO LIVE's commitment to diversity, cheering how they've showcased the Patel family this past year. I love Vimal and Rama and how they've risen above caricature minorities and become general comic relief — we laugh not because they're wacky brown people with accents, but because they're constantly in funny situations. Unfortunately, with the introduction of Vimal's little sister, Neela, the show has defaulted back to irresponsible storytelling and outdated stereotypes.
I was appalled while watching today's episode, seeing the Mumbai airport depicted as a plain brick wall with a cheaply lettered sign attached to it. As if it's the back of beyond. This, my friends, is the real Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport: http://www.csia.in/. I'd venture to say it kicks the fictional Llanview International Airport's ass, don't you think? I mean, I hate to be accurate here, but India is the world's largest democracy, with thriving tech and business sectors. Yes, it has poverty-stricken villages and slums, but that's not all of India any more than the rural Appalachia of Winter's Bone reflects the entire U.S.
As for the expanded Patel family ... It's not exactly a positive reflection either. OLTL writing Neela as this rebellious young girl who wants freedom in America — and sees it in the form of Jack Manning, of all people, makes little sense. Vimal's parents are liberal and educated enough to speak English. They accept him working in the United States and being married to a money-hungry boarding school brat like Rama. They're probably not going to be rushing their teenage daughter into an arranged marriage with some guy the minute she's legal. I mean, I have some pretty conservative family back in eastern India, and — brace yourself for this one — they actually let their girls go to college. And grad school. Gasp. In fact, well-to-do Mumbai girls often enjoy more freedom than Indian teenage girls living here in the U.S. So, Neela being some starry-eyed, fresh off the boat, naif who swoons at the mere sight of her first white boy is really disturbing.
Considering OLTL hasn't yet stopped to correct actress Teresa Patel's mispronunciation of "Vimal," I'm not really holding out hope for a sudden burst of cultural accuracy about Indian family values ... but, personally, if my choices were Jack Manning or an arranged marriage, I'd show up at the temple with wedding bells on.