[WARNING: Spoilers for the second season of “Master of None” ahead.]
Religion is more than just a path to salvation for Indian immigrants to America. For many immigrant families, religion is a concrete and crucial source of cultural identity ― something that sounds, smells, and feels familiar in a country where everything is foreign. The Indian temples, mosques, gurdwaras, and churches that dot America’s religious landscape are a testament to how important that identity is to the first generation ― and how desperately those immigrants would like to pass their religion on to their children.
That’s why, when their kids begin to doubt, it’s a heartbreaking, painful situation all around.
Watching Ansari’s character gave me flashbacks to discussions with my own parents about religion, culture and doubt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen those conversations reflected on television in this way.
The third episode of Indian American actor Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” explores this tension through film in an incredibly poignant way. As the child of Indian immigrants myself, watching Ansari’s character gave me flashbacks to discussions with my own parents about religion, culture and doubt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen those conversations reflected on television in this way.
The episode, titled “Religion,” explores how the main character’s doubts about the religion he was born into affects his relationship to his parents. Dev (played by Ansari) has long been told by his parents that he’s not allowed to eat pork simply because “that’s our religion.”
But after being introduced to it by a white friend, Dev starts eating pork in secret. And later on as an adult, he drinks wine, doesn’t fast for Ramadan, avoids reading a copy of the Quran his mother gave him, and eventually, just stops believing in the way that his parents believe.
In the episode, Dev’s parents are visited by a few religious relatives and his father…