Sarita Choudhury’s entrance as the “fabulous at 50” Seema Patel in HBO’s “And Just Like That” was the much-needed breath of fresh air and diverse representation that had been missing in its predecessor “Sex And The City.” Patel’s character oozes confidence and sass — particularly when Carrie embarrassingly commended single Patel for “still trying to find the one,” be it the digital way, I applauded Patel for not allowing herself to be shamed by ageism. Halfway through the series, however, as I watched the trailer for episode six — titled “Diwali” — I could sense that all the stereotypes around the one South Asian character had been clumsily cluttered in one. My gut feeling was right, and I cringed through the entire episode. As a South Asian single woman in my 40s living in the U.K., I love that HBO has continued to follow these core characters in their later stages of life, but am equally disappointed that the attempt to bring diversity into the show is at times confusing.
Though not a resident of NYC (but a HUGE fan and frequent visitor), I failed to understand how the once savvy and intelligent writer Carrie Bradshaw, who wrote for “The New Yorker,” “Vogue,” had her own book published and lived in Manhattan (bursting with multiple ethnic groups), had NEVER heard of the biggest Hindu celebration throughout her writing career, given the diverse crowds you would expect such a figure to be amongst. As her new best friend Seema takes her on a shopping spree for a sari (it seems ok to call a lehenga a sari apparently!), she also announces how Diwali is deemed the appropriate time for her parents to jump on the “why have you not found a man bandwagon?”
Let’s be real, many South Asian families never “need” an occasion to raise that question, but to add to the cringe factor, in 2021/2, the writers thought it would be appropriate to throw in the “arranged marriage” card, and making Carrie question if Seema would consider that route since her parents are so happy (apparently!). It’s Seema’s “No, I am just a bad Indian girl” response that really irked me! Her character has just played right into that aged narrative that so many single, sorry, happily single, women are trying to break away from. Such poor scripts only add to that difficulty. Why can’t, for once, there be a South Asian protagonist who is successful, happy with her single status, without appearing as if she is a rebel with a cause? It would have been so refreshing to have seen a Diwali party where the subject of “when will my daughter marry?” is not the focal point and is replaced with a funny, witty conversation. Legendary Madhur Jaffrey’s talent was completely wasted in that cameo, but more shockingly, how did the producers not realise that the character playing Seema’s dad was the SAME actor that once played a busboy who hit on Samantha Jones in the first few episodes?? HBO, this is not the representation we were looking for!