This column is inspired by Andrew Eckhous’s The ‘Nevers’ and the ‘Haven’ts’.

I’m scared shitless, you guys. I’m that girl on the cover of the “Scream” poster, the one with her hand over her mouth that most Yahoo Answers users seem to agree is Drew Barrymore. I’m Jessica Biel, loping through clothesline after clothesline as the hot Texas sun swelters down my back as a chainsaw-wielding psychopath tries to turn me into living room upholstery. Of course, in this interpretation, Leatherface is Engineering Dean Dave Munson and his chainsaw is a freshly inked college degree, hellbent on making my existence as exciting as a stick of celery in a Xerox machine.

I’m terrified because in approximately seven weeks, I will be sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of other 20-somethings, all scared shitless, while an old white person stands on a stage to make speeches about the future. I’m scared shitless because, in all likelihood, that same old white person made a version of The Future Speech last year, and will be doing so again in 12 months as he stares down the next legion of 20-somethings, all scared shitless.

The funny thing is, I wasn’t all that bothered a couple days ago. Senioritis had set in the summer before fall term. And a sizeable portion of my soul was very much occupied counting down the maximum number of spaces on an Ahmo’s meal card I could check off before leaving Ann Arbor for good. Was I a little glum? Sure. It’s Ahmo’s. But still, no poo had yet been lost.

Until, in the span of 24 hours, I devoured a three-course meal inventively labeled ‘Hollybrownwood.’ It roared out of the gates with Aziz Ansari’s “Live At Madison Square Garden,” followed closely by a double whammy of Dev Patel — first, Neil Blomkamp’s “Chappie,” and then Some British Guy’s “The Second Best Marigold Hotel.” Watching all three in close succession is a bit like jumping off the Taj Mahal. Or, more accurately, jumping off the Empire State Building and through the dome of a Trump Organization Taj Mahal in Las Vegas. It’s smile-inducing hearing Ansari seemingly dig into issues of race, a topic his previous material always kinda prodded but never really managed to craft to its own designs.

I say seemingly because, at first, the ‘being Indian’ jokes punch along with the typical irreverence we’ve come to expect from an hour of his comedy — heartfelt story followed by “That’s what you have to do when you’re an immigrant: Handle your shit! Kill some racist motherfuckers when you need to.” He’s letting the air out of the tires, deflating the stakes in the same way he’s been doing for a decade. And yet, for the first time, he offers us a reason why, as succinct as it is blunt: “I’m never going to have any of these stories to tell my kids about. Are you kidding me? My life is super easy because my parents did all the suffering for me.”

The next hour is a brisk jaunt through relationship advice, the inherent creepiness of the male sex and a Ja Rule impression so good I googled Ja Rule for the first time in five years and learned he was born on a leap day and raised a Jehovah’s Witness by his mother. Not so much as a callback to racial commentary until the show ends in a hail of confetti. Ansari calls his parents onto the stage, wraps his arms around them and clasps the mic with his father’s hands.

The first time I saw it, I cried. Not really, but I did walk away (closed the Netflix tab) with a feeling that ‘maybe Hollywood isn’t out to get my people’ (an actual note now scrawled on a corner of Ahmo’s wrapping paper), to pigeonhole them or glaze them into the fine, digestible powder of stereotypes. I didn’t walk away with any sort of realization, but with an acceptance that this unperturbed star-making machine — that almost never launches Indian-American talent — maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t caught in a tug-of-war: That grapple between the burden of honestly representing problems facing ‘my people’ or shoving them under the table. Does Aziz have to talk about being Indian just because he is Indian?

By boasting “my last three roles were Randy, Chet and Tom” at Comedy Central’s roast of James Franco, is he thumbing his nose at the fact that most people can’t fill 10 fingers with the names of recognizable brown stars working today. That there simply are no parts tailored for Indians? That “Slumdog Millionaire,” told by a white British guy, is and will forever be the last semi-interesting movie you saw about people from my country?

I’m scared shitless, you guys. I’m scared shitless because in approximately seven weeks, I will no longer have a sounding board. I will no longer be able to sit down, put these questions on a piece of paper and have people look at them, think about them, even if for only a couple minutes. But above all, I’m terrified because an industry I want so desperately to be a part of still hasn’t answered them.

Aziz’s specials have a calming effect. Any short man jittering around on stage impersonating a rapper is bound to. But this hour, and especially those first few minutes of jokes, went further because they were like his hand over my shoulder, a click in my brain that Aziz is being Aziz. He is saying “Maybe I’m not the vessel for your questions, as important as they may be. I haven’t really faced the harsh realities of racism. My parents made sure of that. Maybe I need to be the person I want to be.”

“Slumdog Millionaire” is a movie I try to rewatch at least once a year. A) Because it’s a great fucking film, brilliant in its level of craftsmanship and smarter still in the depth of its performances. And B) Because it reminds me of what was the first and may be the last time in my life I get to watch an Indian man perform a song on Hollywood’s biggest stage on Hollywood’s biggest night. Then walk away with Hollywood’s greatest award. The film’s success gave my high hopes for its star’s, Dev Patel, career. He had been in virtually every frame of the picture. More than anything or anyone else, he had been the its emotional centerpiece, the needle round which the compass was built.

I thought Hollywood would write movies to accommodate him. That the strength of this showing would prove this highlighted sliver of Indian culture is more than some exotic sideshow, enjoyed, lauded for one awards season and forgotten in the next. I wasn’t right. And Dev Patel’s career arc since “Slumdog” has been a storage bank of the reasons why.

Part two of this column will be posted online on Sunday night.

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