Woodbury girl chosen for cable television programArea News
-- Yes, I am Indian, No, I am not Native American.
By: Riham Feshir , Pierce County Herald
“Yes, I am Indian, No, I am not Native American.
“Yes, I am from India. No, wearing a bindhi (red dot) doesn’t mean you are married.
“Yes, my parents did have an arranged marriage. No, I do not like chicken.”
Those are the words of a poem written by a Woodbury 13-year-old who will soon represent a heritage and culture that’s often stereotyped.
Mahima Gupta was chosen from a total of 60 Indian children nationwide to be on a Nickelodeon program titled “Nick News” that will celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
The Crosswinds East Metro Arts & Science School eighth grader was followed around for two days as the show’s producers taped and interviewed her for the program that will air in May.
Gupta first heard about the show from her School of Indian Language and Culture, a Saturday school for Twin Cities students of Indian heritage.
She auditioned and was interviewed over the phone for 40 minutes.
Two weeks later, she was contacted by Nickelodeon, which was impressed with her answers, her mother Gita Gupta said.
“I didn’t even think I would be in it,” Mahima Gupta said. “I thought it would be fun to represent all the Indian kids in the U.S.”
During the interview, she was asked if it was difficult to be Indian American and what challenges she faces in school, she said.
Gupta emphasized the importance of being Indian American. She was born in the U.S. and has lived in Woodbury since she was 3.
“I don’t think I would be who I am without either of those in my life,” she said of both cultures.
She hopes that the show makes people aware of Indian culture and clarifies the stereotypes out there, she said.
“I don’t think it’s really their fault because all they know of Asians is from TV,” Mahima Gupta said.
She said a lot of her friends think every Indian family practices a culture exactly like the one seen in the movie “Bend it Like Beckham,” where a daughter rebels against her parents’ strict cultural rules.
When asked what some of the stereotypes she often hears about Indians, she said: all Indian kids are nerds, they all have heavy Indian accents, all Indians eat curry every day, or all Indians were born with the “Bindhi” (the red dot on the forehead.)
But not all stereotypes are wrong, she said.
“Being an Indian kid, your parents want you to be a doctor or an engineer,” Mahima Gupta said. “That stereotype is pretty true in most families.”
Gupta said she was taped by Nickelodeon to celebrate the culture without putting all Indian families in one specific category or another.
“There are American stereotypes too that can be correct in some (families) but not in others,” she said.
“Nick News” followed her in class on a Friday last month and came back to tape some segments at her Wedgewood neighborhood home. Show producers taped her mom cooking, they taped her playing the clarinet and writing poetry.
They made sure to get shots of Mahima Gupta in the lunchroom interacting with other kids and in the classroom.
“Nick News,” hosted by Linda Ellerbee, is an educational children’s and teenagers’ show on Nickelodeon that has been airing since 1992.
The show discusses social, political and economic issues in a format intended for children and adults.
Gupta’s segment will be part of a few that will showcase children and teenagers of Asian descent. It will air during the Memorial Day weekend.
“I’m pretty excited,” Gupta said. “I don’t like too much attention on me … but I’m glad my school is getting some publicity.”
Riham Feshir is a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin.