Many people consider Devi Vishwakumar to be I have never being a problematic character. She lies, hurts the people she loves, and makes incredibly selfish decisions – that much is true. However, there is something to be said about authenticity when it comes to Devi’s character, as she is rarely anyone but herself. She apologizes (mostly) and is not afraid to be her real self, no matter how culturally inappropriate or frowned upon. For this reason, when watching the new season of I have never, I was jealous of Devi and wished I had been more like her than I was her age.
I was born in the UK and have lived in a South Asian household for most of my life, except for a three year hiatus where I lived in Southampton with my university roommates and my current neighborhood in my own apartment. Throughout my childhood and teenage life, I’d say my parents were a reasonable level of severity – definitely more so than Devi’s mother, Nalini, at least. I got to visit friends outside of school, I went to my fair share of house parties, and I even managed to convince my parents to let me go to the Reading Festival a long time ago, plus a full annual trip to Zante in Greece. But I still feel like I could have taken more risks and been a more authentic version of myself.
As a South Asian woman who grew up in the UK, it sometimes feels like you’re leading a double life. There is the “you” that you are when you are with your cousins, grandma, and your parents, and there is the “you” that you are when you are away from all of these people. Growing up, I wasn’t very open with my family about things at school, I never had male friends visiting my house or sneaking into my room, and I very rarely had friends to stay over. When I watch the show I can’t help but feel like my experience was very different from Devi’s. When I watch her transition from school to home, I have the feeling that her personality, her opinions and the way she speaks hardly or not at all change, unlike in my case.
Devi is pretty open with her family about the language she uses, and she really doesn’t hold back when it comes to swearing, sex, or dating – topics that are usually off-limits in South Asian cultures. In comparison, I didn’t even ask my mother about the periods before it happened to me, and it wasn’t because I didn’t know her; it just felt awkward bringing it up. I would never openly curse or argue about dates with my parents (to this day) even though I’ve been with my boyfriend for five years (not to mention that we live together). There are definitely more factors at play besides Devi’s bold personality, but I couldn’t help but notice all of these things that she loved to do and say without fear of judgments that made me wish I could have been fair so brave in my younger days
The only caveat is probably the episode where her nose is pierced because she is concerned about what her mom is going to say. Even then, the nose piercing is a direct result of sneaking out of her house in the middle of the night to hang out with guys, and she comes to the solution pretty quickly that she’ll “just take it out” before she sees hers Mother the next morning anyway.
I can’t help but wonder how my life would have been if I had taken more risks and been less afraid of what my family would think of some of the things I talked about, how I acted or what i did. Perhaps a more open relationship would have been the result, or a greater level of understanding of the difficulties of growing up in a Western society. Anyway, my hope for other young South Asian girls watching the show is this: Take risks. Within reasonable limits, of course, but take the time to blend the “double lives” together as best you can without worrying too much about what is being said or thought about you. Because the truth is, life is too short to live with regret, and we all could use being a little more like Devi Vishwakumar.