In this op-ed, writer Vandana Pawa analyzes Bridgerton season 2 and how the impactful moments of intimacy between the Sharmas are informed by cultural traditions.
In Bridgerton season 2, newcomer and diamond of the season Edwina Sharma refers to her sister Kate as “didi,” the Hindi word for “older sister,” and the only thing I’ve ever called my own sister since I learned how to talk. The first time Edwina uttered it on screen, casually sprinkled within a conversation otherwise spoken in English, I gasped. Despite being an honorific of sorts, in my experience, “didi” implies a connection that can only come with the intimacy of sisterhood. I immediately jumped to tell my sister and best friends (who have didis of their own) what I had just noticed, a moment of intimacy in the group chat.
Elder Kate (played by Simone Ashley) returns this intimacy in her own ways, massaging oil into her younger sister’s hair to bring the comforts of home during a moment of broken-heartedness – an act of intimacy that South Asian mothers and grandmothers have been sharing with young ones for centuries. “In moments of deep sadness, and in moments of jubilation, you see them reverting back to their culture," actress Charithra Chandran, who plays Edwina, shared in a press conference.
The Sharmas are the focal point of Bridgerton season 2, with British Indian actresses Simone and Charithra at the helm. Where exactly in India the Sharma family hails from originally is unclear — their last name points to one region of the subcontinent while their linguistic mannerisms indicate another — but they take the ton by storm as soon as they arrive in London from Bombay. Edwina joins the marriage circuit, and she’s quickly named the Queen’s “diamond” of the courting season, causing her to become highly desired among the city’s most eligible bachelors.
Many will claim this a win for representation, but it’s not the idea that Indianness can be desirable that I find worth celebrating — being desired by white people isn’t the win we’re socialized to believe it is — but rather the ways Kate, Edwina, and their mother embody forms of intimacy beyond the romantic through acts of cultural tradition. These moments were minimal on screen in the larger context of the season’s story, not defining the women entirely, but the joy with which they’ll be received by the millions of viewers who practice similar forms of intimacy in their own cultures will be especially significant.