Shetu Modi is a writer, director and editor based in Toronto. Her recent film Hot Air screened at Filmi, Toronto’s South Asian film festival, and the Cinematic Arts Festival in Los Angeles. She currently works at the Canadian Press as a video producer and editor.
Growing up, I participated in Indian folk and classical dance groups, ate Indian food almost every day, visited India with my parents and brother and spoke Gujarati to my grandmother, who often lived with us. I was so involved in cultural activities that it never occurred to me that I would ever be ashamed of the less showy and obvious aspects of my culture and the way I was raised. In university, things changed. When roommates learned how much my mom called, I was embarrassed and apologized even though I liked talking to her every day. I rudely asked my cousin why she still lived her parents at age 25, even though lots of South Asians live in multigenerational houses. I had an aversion to dating Indian guys – especially Indian guys who still had accents. I thought I was “allowed” to say things like “brown guys are creepy” because I’m brown.
The protagonist of the “The Pits,” Dhruvi, is an exaggerated version of my younger self. She’s more actively ashamed of being South Asian than I ever was, especially of the more overt aspects, but her character arc represents my progression from a little shame to total acceptance – and love – for my cultural background. It took me longer to come to this realization; I’m glad I (and Abhay) can help Dhruvi come to it very quickly – even in little ways, like through the acceptance of Indian food and the fact that her perspiration sometimes smells like curry, and in more significant ways, like overcoming xenophobia and internalized racism.