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Where is the brown girl and where is her sexy/bitchy/innocent/quirky alter ego?

Everyday starts with a disappointing visit to my mailbox. Professional editors apparently have their hands full during the current pandemic; everyone and myself are trying to get their book published. I screen calls on my phone, avoiding the publishing company who still want to talk to me about advertising, which loosely translates to ' give us more of your money '.

Call me innovative, but I just want to read through my edited book before handing over more money. So what am I doing with my time, while I dodge the well rehearsed lines about google ads? Watching a lot of Netflix drama?

You would say it's a total waste of time, but I feel for a creative, there is nothing better than observing other creatives. Story is so deeply part of being human, primal and enduring, that just being entertained in these socially distanced time makes you feel a little more connected to humanity. Also, finally I've found a way to get Netflix viewing onto my CV! There are two wildly different shows that make me wander back to my main character Amara to have a chat with her.

No one will be surprised by how immensely popular The Witcher has been on Netflix. It has, to my pleasant shock, edged itself into one of my favourite fantasy shows and when I want a well made escape from modern life, I can binge the episodes and be as gripped as my first watching. I deeply identify with one of the characters, Yennifer, being one of the most lusciously dense and three-dimensional women to have been developed in fantasy. Her race in the show seems to be perfectly portrayed by a mixed race actress, of Indian and British descent. This is wholly new to me. I think for many women, they will ask why?

Because I have not seen women who look like me be elevated to these heights in fiction or popular tv. And try as I might, even though I've loved how the view of women with power has changed, seeing someone who looks like me yield power as she harboured her own vulnerability, her infertility, her personal self loathing .... was totally new to me. It brought me a joy and connection I did not know I had been missing after years of watching powerful woman make their mark on the fictional and fantasy world. She looks like me. Well with way better urmm assets ( props on those nude scenes Anya Choltra).

So what was this second show you ask? Never Have I Ever has also rippled through my life. Here again, a south asian character front and centre on the screen. She's not the bookish brown friend there for comedy relief, she's not the inserted ethical diversity. What do I love most? She's not well behaved, she's not proper, she's a train wreck and blundering through her teens one disaster at a time. It's like looking in a mirror. I was comforted by hearing the writers of the show skill-fully decided that they needed to change the image of demure south asian woman. Again, even by season 2, this experience is wholly new to me.

So I'm still debating with Amara, still facing off with her in my mind. She is written as mixed race in the books. Why? Because I felt I had to write what I know. I know how to be of Indian descendent with decidedly western influences. As the slang goes, a coconut. I like to think of it as a fancy shell with a cute umbrella and a rum based cocktail inside as often as possible, but definitely a coconut.

But here is my insecurity: Have I done enough? I don't mean, have I made the character all about being Indian to gloat that my work of fiction/fantasy has a mixed race lead, I am not inventing the wheel here. Have I made her as real, as tangible, as refreshingly and authentically woman as I can make her. Because what makes these characters so wonderful in both these shows is not that they are both woman of Indian descent, it is the absolutely gorgeous characterisation that makes these characters take on a flesh and bone form, bringing up the stark truth that sometimes women of colour in media are just hollow ghosts of a character.

I'm ready to go head to head with Amara. Round 2 of the battle. In my head she winks a grey eye at me as she smirks and flicks some red earth of her shoulder, she's going to tell me later what she's been up to. I won't claim to be anywhere near as talented as the women behind these two amazing shows, but I'm so grateful to have been shown that there is place for myself and my characters, that it is already being carved out. The arena is ready, are you ready to scream out and make your voice heard?

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