Lota Over Toilet Paper: Hasan Minhaj Goes Desi in New Netflix Show
An Indian-American walks nimbly onto the stage with relaxed shoulders and an animated smile. But, he means business. Hasan Minhaj is in his element, not willing to slacken his grip on the story-teller’s baton. He has a stage to OWN and a few solid points to make before he leaves you to your thoughts.
In Minhaj’s latest Netflix series, Patriot Act, the laughs are well garbed in strong political commentary and the memos stay with you long after the curtains close.
Minhaj’s punchlines don't cater to therapeutic, coffee-table humour. You are not going to lapse into paroxysms of feel-good, side-splitting laughter. Nope!
Asian Americans could be the reason affirmative action is about to die, Minhaj claims in the first episode. It is “hilarious” that they have chosen to launch a crusade against affirmative action of ALL things.
“You’re the colour of poop.’’
“You guys have small d*cks.’’
“You smell of kimchi and curry.’’
One would think that these racist microaggressions would rile them up more, but no! “This is the hill,” he remarks with an amused grin, “we are willing to die on”.
Now, affirmative action, Minhaj tells us, began in 1961 in the US as a government initiative to help out historically excluded groups. For the past 50 years, affirmative action has been a fierce debate between black and white America, but now “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are part of the next big fight over affirmative action”. Minhaj weaves in the Harvard University lawsuit in the US federal court right now where the plaintiffs claim that deserving Asian American students are losing out spots because the unfair “quota” system is favouring other racial minorities.
22 percent of Harvard University’s incoming freshmen in 2017 were Asian Americans, and, mind you, Minhaj quips, “we are only 5 percent of the population,” but does that satisfy Asian tiger parents?
“Why just 22? Why not 100?”
Anyway, what Minhaj is trying to tell us is this – choose your goddamn battles!
One can't say it is okay to do away with affirmative action now that racism isn't as bad as it used to be. Remember what Adichie had said? “Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it’’. And Minhaj does a wonderful job of driving home the point.
With barbed candour and a little bit of capitalist humour, he sets the record straight- We had Dial-Up before. Now we have WiFi. Yes, it has come a long away. But, would we spare a person if he were to justify a poor WiFi signal today with the said logic, Minhaj asks with an incredulous look.
“You would kill that person!”
The second episode talks about the need to reassess Saudi-US relations, journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death in the Saudi Consulate, the autocratic sh*t that Saudi Arabia’s so called “reformer’’ Mohammad bin Salman has pulled, and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Saudi's values and Crown Prince MBS' track-record has adversely affected Minhaj as a member of the Muslim community. “We pray to Mecca,’’ Minhaj says, and the fact that the Prophet’s said birthplace is housed in Saudi Arabia is not a cross he is willing to bear.
The episode also talks about Minhaj’s reservations about leaning in to the Indian side of his identity, if not the notorious Saudi side that has executions, bombings, human rights violations, and mass-destruction in the records. Indians have been shady too, Minhaj expounds with a few dry laughs before citing examples of infamous Indian-Americans and the fraudulent schemes they have been allegedly involved in.
The second episode, however, lacks the mettle the first one can easily boast of. Perhaps because the first one, somehow, feels closer to Minhaj's lived experiences-the kind that sears into the immigrant's skin with unforgivable brutality. The second one also packs in more information than the first one, to an extent where you strenuously remind yourself that you're watching a stand-up.
Of course, without giving much away, the “Indian uncle” jokes, a certain lota-vs-toilet paper reference, and a few other one-liners are complete hoots, but Minhaj's Patriot Act' boils down to this:
“Asian Americans, we could be the reason affirmative action is about to die.”
“Whenever Saudi does something wrong, Muslims all over the world have to live with the consequences.”
So MBSs, Asian Americans who have a “hard-on for quotas”, and shady Indians....take a cue!
Also, Minhaj delivers his lines with a tempo that refuses to let go of you.
Lastly, Minhaj stays unapologetically true to himself throughout his well-wrought narration. When you are a brown man who chooses to be in America, you are reminded of your race. Minhaj makes that crystal clear.