I know, funny isn’t it? Unless, that is, you happen to be Indian and grew up hating being stereotyped as the child of shopkeepers (I wasn’t). A few things have happened in recent weeks that have made my heart sing and turn to my 13-year-old self with a wry smile and a ‘fuck you’ to all the haters:
- I saw ‘Lion’ in the cinema and marvelled at how a ‘Patel’ headlined a Hollywood blockbuster
- A ‘Patel’ from London won a BAFTA and was nominated for an Oscar
- That same ‘Patel’ showed up on the red carpet with his Mum, Mrs Patel, who rocked a sari. Yep that’s right – Mrs Patel was on the red carpet in a sari. She was not selling sweets or newspapers.
I really wish I had known, as a 13 year old girl growing up in Suffolk, that this day would come. For me, it’s such a huge leap forward culturally and reminds me of the time a silly blonde girl with big boobs asked me how to spell my first name and then said “I won’t even attempt to spell Patel” (twat). Growing up, my surname was at once foreign yet common. Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses would crack jokes related to Patels and corner shops. Boys from school would call me a paki and make Patel-related jokes. People would call our house (having found our number in the telephone book) and swear down the ‘phone, telling us to go back to our own country, that we smelt of sh*t and they wished we were dead.
To all those people (apart from David Jason) I say a big SHUT UP IN YOUR FACE. For the first time in my life, being a Patel (well, sort of, it’s my maiden name) is genuinely ok. It’s not nearly as embarrassing as it used to be. And I have to say, had I got married tomorrow rather than 10 years ago, I’d have been tempted to keep it.
What’s next? Patel for Prime Minister (as long as it’s not that utter pranny Priti)