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Brown People We Know
54 minutes | Oct 22, 2021
SAU: Education, Immigration, and International Student Exchange w/ Rajika Bhandari
Rajika Bhandari has spent over 25 years studying international education programs and student mobility. She’s served as Director of Research and Strategy for The Institute of International Education, received an IIE Centennial Medal while serving on the US National Commission for UNESCO, and has had her work and words featured in The Wall Street Journal, NPR, The Guardian, and other major publications. On top of all that, Rajika is an adjunct professor at Teachers College in Columbia University. In this episode, we focus on the link between education and immigration. Rajika discusses the motivation behind students coming to the US, and how it tends to vary between European and Asian international students. She reflects on the relationship between international relations and student flows from various countries, on the massive economic impact of international students, and on brain drain and brain circulation. Lastly, Rajika reflects on her own journey as an international student that came to the United States and what it was like to put that story in her new book, America Calling.
68 minutes | Oct 14, 2021
Dan Abraham - Management Consultant on Moving to Colombia, Impact Investing, & Multifaceted Identities
Dan is a management consultant turned company builder. After majoring in Cognitive Sciences at Rice University, Dan went on to work as an associate with the consulting firm Oliver Wyman. There, Dan took a secondment where he was shipped off to Colombia to work in the impact investing space. He got hooked. Dan left consulting and today, he lives in Colombia working as Chief of Staff for Polymath Ventures, an investment firm that builds new businesses from scratch to scale across Latin America. In this episode we reflect on how Dan’s multifaceted identity, as a Malayali Christian son of divorced parents that moved around a lot, affected his relationships with the “brown community” in New Jersey. We also talk about why it led to his decision to turn down a full-ride scholarship to NYU Stern, despite knowing early on that he wanted to build a career in business. Dan also gave us a glimpse into how Polymath Ventures tailored its business model for Colombia, why the country is ripe for investment, and his excitement about finding a place that combines social impact and business. Lastly he shared some funny anecdotes about life in Colombia. Those included not having internet access during the 2016 election results, getting approached by a Colombian Bhangra team, and venturing into some of the lesser-explored spots in Colombia.
29 minutes | Sep 28, 2021
PWK: The Carolina Desi (Jessica Kumar)
Carolina-based Desis Gurtej Singh and Rashmili Vemula explore life as the children of Desi immigrants in their podcast, The Carolina Desi. With their guests, the dynamic duo discuss the double life that so many of us live while navigating the cultural and societal differences that surround Desi Americans. On today’s episode, Gurtej and Rashmili interviewed Jessica Kumar. When Jessica was 23, she decided to begin her journey pursuing hindi fluency while visiting India. In 2016, she did something that may surprise many of us. She immigrated from the United States to Bihar with her Indian husband and two children. On this episode, Jessica (@invisibleindia on IG) discussed her misconceptions about India before moving there, how her children have embraced their Indian and American identities differently, and becoming a fluent Hindi speaker.
65 minutes | Sep 21, 2021
Anu Sehgal - South Asian Culture Educator On Sharing South Asian Diversity And Shifting From Corporate Life To Entrepreneurship
Anu Seghal is a cultural educator that grew up in India as the daughter of an Hindu Army soldier and a Muslim gynecologist. She moved to the United States over 20 years ago to complete her education and began working as a brand manager for major companies including Colgate and Mattel. In those roles, Anu honed her entrepreneurial skills, something she’s had since childhood, to then launch The Culture Tree. Since 2015, she’s spearheaded this organization which works with museums, schools, and libraries to promote South Asian Literacy, in addition to running language classes for children! Past clients of the Culture Tree include the Met and Children's Museum of Manhattan, and in 2021 they hosted Colors of India, the first South Asian event in NYC’s Hudson Yards. We talked about the diversity that Anu saw within India, both living in a multicultural household and growing up as an “army brat.” She reflected on coming to America and what she did to fit in, versus today running a business that highlights her South Asian heritage. Lastly, we talk about how running The Culture Tree has influenced the way that Anu parents and the role that Anu plays in taking care of her own mother today.
77 minutes | Aug 10, 2021
PWK: Mild Mannered & Timid (Basmati Wars)
Mild Mannered & Timid is a conversational show where hosts Kunal, Kush, and Ria share their unfiltered takes on anything and everything related to the diaspora. If you don’t believe it, just check out the names of their episodes: Jalebis Look Like Poop, What The F Is Holi, Cockfighting, Women Should Not Wear Ripped Jeans, and Baba F*ckdev. Today’s episode is called “Basmati Wars,” because Kunal did some research and reveals to us why India and Pakistan are fighting over Basmati. Him and Ria talk about their move to LA, including the expensive breakfast spot across the street. And there’s a more somber conversation on hate crimes… but that’s in addition to chatting about Kim Kardashian’s Om earrings, Google’s opinion on the ugliest Indian language, and the Florida of India. Again, unfiltered takes on anything and everything.
60 minutes | Aug 3, 2021
Yawar Charlie - Gay Actor and LA Relator on First-Time Home Buying & Wearing His Pakistani Heritage Proudly
Yawar is a Gay Pakistani American actor-turned-real estate agent. Acting, for him, is a family business. Yawar’s grandfather, Noor Mohammed Charlie, was a pioneer in the Bollywood film industry until the India-Pakistan partition. And though his parents, successful actors themselves, discouraged Yawar from pursuing acting, he built a successful career in the industry. You may have seen him on shows like NCIS Los Angeles, Heroes, and General Hospital. Today, Yawar has shifted his focus to real estate. In 2016, he joined the real estate powerhouse, Aaron Kirman Group, which sold over $580MM in real estate in 2019 alone. He continues to sell homes, and you can watch him do so on The American Dream TV and CNBC’s Listing Impossible. In this episode, Yawar talks about community migration and why his family discouraged him from pursuing the family business of acting after they moved to the United States. He shares tips for first time home buyers and talks about selling to South Asian clients in a very competitive LA housing market. Lastly, he reflects on coming out as gay to his traditional Pakistani family and on having a very public marriage at the Grammy’s. Throughout the conversation it was amazing to hear about how his identity has played a role in his different careers and about the different ways in which Yawar wears his South Asian culture proudly.
55 minutes | Jul 29, 2021
PWK: South Asian Stories (Romen Borsellino)
South Asian Stories is an interview podcast where Sameer Desai chats with artists, entertainers, athletes, scientists, and even a former surgeon general to discover South Asians who have taken a different path. Join him as he uncovers their identities, success, and failures through their stories. Romen Borsellino is a staff writer on NBC’s A Little Late with Lilly Singh and was executive producer and co-creator of Freeform’s 2020 election series Kal Penn Approves This Message. He’s also worked on Michael Schur’s 2019 NBC comedy Sunnyside. Prior to that, Romen served as a political appointee in the United States Department of the Interior under President Obama. Romen has also worked on a number of high-profile political campaigns in his home state of Iowa, including President Obama’s historic 2008 Iowa caucus race and 2012 re-election. In this episode he discusses watching Harold and Kumar in theaters with his dad, working on the Clinton campaign, and going from Kal Penn’s assistant to his co-creator on Kal Penn Approves This Message.
51 minutes | Jul 27, 2021
Sujata Day: Actress, Writer, and Director On Making an Independent Film & Telling South Asian Stories Through Independent Film
Sujata is a performer, writer, and director for TV & Film. You may know her from the Upright Citizen Brigade’s Asian AF show, from her involvement with Sundance as a Lab Fellow and a Film Festival influencer, or from her characters in film and TV. Those include Cece in The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl or Sarah in HBO's Insecure. More recently, she acted, wrote, and directed in her first independent full-length feature film, Definition Please. The movie, which has been touring the film festival circuit, discusses mental health and family relationships in the context of a Bengali family. And the protagonist is a washed up Spelling Bee champion… a story which may hit painfully close for those of us in the diaspora with a dusty third grade trophy somewhere in the house. In this episode, Sujata talked about why she got an engineering degree despite knowing that she would be an actress from a young age, in addition to the hilarious stories behind her transition from consultant to actress. She shared the moment that got her moving on her dream project, and how she convinced actors that have been in Scrubs, The Jungle Book, and other major productions to take a chance on her independent film. Lastly, she talked about making a South Asian film where an identity crisis was not the central conflict and how she avoided stereotyping while still crafting a relatable story in Definition Please.
44 minutes | Jul 22, 2021
SAU: South Asian Representation in Media and What Ethical Representation Looks Like w/ Madhavi Reddi
Madhavi is an interdisciplinary artist. She’s the producer on two documentaries: What’s Your Name and Through Fish Eyes. She’s done photography exhibits, Bharatanatyam and theater performances, and has even dabbled in podcasting. She’s also a PhD student at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, School of Media and Journalism, whose work focuses on identity and representation, particularly in entertainment media, art, and politics. In this episode, Madhavi reflected on the current state of South Asian representation in media and how we got here. She explained what ethical or proper representation looks like and what we can do to create more of it, especially in film and TV. And she discussed the responsibility of creators to create ethical representation, using including such as Apu from the Simpsons and Indian Matchmaking.
57 minutes | Jul 16, 2021
Anish Mitra - Ex-Goldman Sachs VP On Living Intentionally & Breaking Down The World Of Finance Using Comedy
Anish is a NYC Queens-raised Bengali that built a career in finance, working for Barclays and Goldman Sachs. While he still wears Ferragamo and advocates for crypto, he’s not your typical finance bro. Before leaving his job as a VP at Goldman, Anish started building a second career in standup comedy. He’s performed at Gotham Comedy Club, The Village Underground, and at many corporate gigs. He even ran a monthly show, called The Surprise Show, which featured some big names like Hasan Minaj, Jim Gaffigan, and Nikki Glaser. Today Anish has combined his two careers into IPO & Chill, a brand focused on putting out entertaining financial news and content. You’ve probably seen his TikToks about the best shoes to buy as an intern, or his IG stories about whether you should buy Bitcoin. In this episode, Anish talked about the reasons why people pursue a career in investment banking. He talked about getting money for the first time and about how his attitude around money and his spending habits have evolved over time. He shared the funny story of how a coworker introduced him to stand-up comedy, and how that medium compares to making funny content for social media. Near the end, Anish shares his one tip for living a more intentional life and becoming a better dater.
2 minutes | Jul 14, 2021
Two New Segments!
Another exciting announcement for BPWK listeners! Check your podcast feed in the upcoming weeks for the launch of our two new segments. South Asian University - an interview series where we bring in academics and discuss cultural or historical topics that affect the diaspora. SAU episodes will come out every five episodes in lieu of our regular interviews. The first one is with Madhavi Reddi, a PhD student studying ethical media representation with a focus on the South Asian diaspora. Releasing 7/20. PWK - a feature series where we bring you episodes from other South Asian-created podcasts ranging in topic, style, etc. It could be a talk show, a show about South Asian history, anything is game. PWK episodes will come out biweekly on Thursdays, in addition to our regular episodes. The first one is with South Asian Stories, a show that is similar to BPWK. Listen as Sameer interviews Romen Borsellino, an Indian-Italian writer for celebs like Kal Penn and Lilly Singh. Releasing 7/29. Episodes will be labeled SAU and PWK in the feed. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your podcast app to get notified when they come out!
60 minutes | Jul 9, 2021
Anushay Hossain - Journalist On Objective vs. Opinionated Reporting & Raising Bangladeshi-Persian Children In America
Anushay is a feminist Op Ed Journalist that has appeared on CNN, PBS, Forbes, Huffington Post, and the iconic Bangladeshi newspaper - the Daily Ittefaq. She’s also the host of the Spilling Chai podcast and the author of The Pain Gap, her upcoming book on the state of Women’s Healthcare in America. As the granddaughter of one of Bangladesh’s founding fathers and the daughter of a famed Bangladeshi feminist, her interest in impact and politics is a natural fit. In this episode, Anushay reflects on the influence of her mother on her own work and why you can’t be an “objective journalist” in today’s environment. She shares her thoughts on working in different mediums like blogging and podcasting, and about the life event that led to her writing her book. Lastly, we talk about marrying a Persian husband and how she’s trying to balance both cultures as she raises her children in America.
60 minutes | Jul 2, 2021
Shivani Bafna - Influencer On Becoming A Bollywood TV Host & Bringing Authenticity to Social Media
Shivani is a social media influencer that built her following when she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a Bollywood TV Host. She spent two years in Mumbai, where she hustled with no industry connections, to become an interviewer for the Asian Variety Show. In that role, Shivani went on to interview stars like Varun Dhawan, Ananya Panday, and Shah Rukh Khan. She vlogged this journey on YouTube and joined Instagram in 2014, so it’s no surprise that she’s made it big as an influencer today. Many people know her from her viral engagement video, which has about 7.5M views on YouTube. In this episode, Shivani talks about how it felt to pursue an unstable career in a new country right out of college, and about the messy moments that led up to her success in Bollywood. She shared how her brand reflects herself and why she doesn’t feel limited to the South Asian content niche despite having a mostly South Asian audience. Lastly, she explains why she ultimately decided to leave Bollywood, come back to the US, and take the entrepreneurial route that she’s pursuing now with BFN Agency and Behind Every Dream. Through the latter, Shivani aims to celebrate the good and bad of our journeys by encouraging people to share their whole selves, not just their highlight reel, on social media.
60 minutes | Jun 25, 2021
Raj Kalra - Media Executive on Being in a Same-Sex Interracial Marriage & Living in Korea
Raj is a television executive with over 12 years of experience working for companies like Disney, Marvel, and A+E Networks. He’s currently living in Korea, working remotely to help the UK company Particle 6 expand to the US. We chat about getting to LA to start his career in the media industry, about being one of the only South Asian executives on the creative side of a media company, and about his career tips. Raj also has a unique family, being in a same-sex interracial marriage and the father of two adopted children. Raj tells us why he moved to Korea and what the adjustment has been like for him and his family. He also reflects on his father’s unexpected reaction when Raj decided to come out as gay and the importance of South Asian gay representation in media and communities. Lastly, the episode sees a recurring theme: whether the pressures that we feel as children of immigrants are put on us by our parents or whether we put them on ourselves.
58 minutes | May 28, 2021
Surbhi Sahni - Michelin Chef on Making Mithai Mainstream in America & Employing Immigrant Women
Surbhi Sahni is a chef with over two decades of professional culinary experience. She served as the Creative Director behind the Michelin-starred New York restaurants Devi and Tulsi. Today, she continues to work her magic at Saar Bistro in Midtown, New York. Surbhi is also the founder of Tagmo Treats, a small-batch South Asian food company, through which she creates delectable mithai confections like burfi in chocolate, pistachio, and rose flavors. Through Tagmo, she aims to make Indian mithai a mainstream dessert in America. Aside from her culinary delights, Surbhi has used her work as Job Director at Sapna NYC and Founder at Tagmo to provide job training and employment in professional kitchens for immigrant women. In this episode, she shares her own story starting as a chef in an all-women kitchen in Delhi, before successfully immigrating to the USA despite a Visa mishap. She explains why we continue to see a gender disparity in professional kitchens and about her qualms with the coveted Michelin Star award. Lastly, she talks about the form of recognition that brings her the most joy, the real process behind how chefs draw inspiration for dishes, and about her cookbook recommendations.
54 minutes | May 21, 2021
Vikas Arun - Pro Dancer on Blending Bharatanatyam with Tap Dance & Representation as a Gay South Asian Male
Vikas is a groundbreaking tap dancer that has performed on So You Think You Can Dance, done commercials for J. Crew and Vogue, and is the first South Asian artist-in-residence at the American Tap Dance Foundation. Aside from performing, Vikas teaches at the Broadway Dance Center and is a guest lecturer at Columbia University. Most recently, he founded Project Convergence with Ramita Ravi, a dance company that blends Tap Dance with Bharatanatyam. Outside of dance, Vikas is an Ivy League engineer currently working on real-time data collection for guns. In this episode, Vikas shares the perspective on risk that allowed him to pursue a career as a full-time dancer, and why the best projects for his resume have not always been the most interesting. He reflects on the importance of representation from the perspective of a South Asian gay male in the Western dance world. Lastly, Vikas explains why he decided to pick up an engineering job, it’s impact on his career as a dancer, and how his work has been affected by the recent focus on guns.
45 minutes | May 7, 2021
Ranjan Ravaliya - Retired Chemist on Becoming a Priestess at 62 & Her Family Fleeing Africa During Idi Amin
Ranjan is a retired engineer who earned her PhD in Chemistry in India during the 1980’s. At 62, she decided to come out of retirement by visiting Haridwar in India and training to become a priestess. Today, at 67, she goes by the moniker The New England Priest as she officiates weddings. It was interesting to hear about her motivation for becoming a priestess and how she has adapted her learnings from Haridwar for the unique weddings that she conducts in America. For example, interfaith weddings. In this episode, Ranjan shared the story of her family leaving Tanzania during Idi Amin’s time and about earning the nickname “Rapid Ranjan” as she hiked Kilimanjaro years later. We talk about her decision to pursue higher education despite her father’s wishes, and the funny way that she convinced him to pay for it. And she reflected on parenting as a single mother of two and what she sees her role as a grandparent today.
53 minutes | Apr 15, 2021
Prince Bhojwani - Investor From a Pakistani Hindu Refugee Family on Burnout And South Asian Activism
Prince’s parents are Hindus that fled Pakistan, so he grew up in the States and lived through experiences like the backlash after 9/11. Today, he’s lifted from that experience as one of the co-founders of ASANA Voices, a South Asian organization impacting political, economic, and social issues. By 30, he also sold one of his business ventures and currently serves as Chief Investment Officer of The Graywall Company. In this episode, Prince shared his method for successfully discussing social issues and some of the initiatives that ASANA Voices is working on. He talks about how he accidentally created his first company, which he named after his dog. And he reflects on a near death experience with burnout, his recovery, and what we can do to avoid it.
42 minutes | Mar 26, 2021
Annesa Tabassum - Nurse Using TikTok to Fight Stigma Around Abuse and Divorce
TikTok isn’t just for dances. Annesa is an advocate using the platform to share her story, marrying young and divorcing an abusive husband, to inspire women to act with confidence and to break stigmas in the South Asian community. Her vulnerability has earned her well over 300,000 followers, with some videos hitting views in the millions. And her job as an influencer is on top of being a full-time psych nurse and a full-time Masters student. In this episode, Anessa talks about having to explain Bangladesh to people who think that it's the same place as India. She explains the mental barriers that she faced when leaving her abuser and how Islam played a role before and after her marraige. And she shares the story of how she became a TikTok star thanks to a bet.
45 minutes | Mar 18, 2021
Deepti Sharma - Food Entrepreneur on Running for NYC City Council & Living in India After College
Deepti Sharma doesn’t just eat at restaurants, she builds businesses around them. She’s a Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneur with two food-related ventures. In addition to her businesses, Deepti is very active in the NYC community. She’s a board member for the Business Center for New Americans, a mentor in the WE NYC initiative, and one of the candidates that ran for NYC Council this past year. In this episode, Deepti shares how COVID affected her two businesses differently. She reflects on her experience as a candidate in New York’s first ranked choice election. And she talks about asking her kids lots of questions, and the definition of success that she wants to leave them with.
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