Brown People We Know is an interview podcast with South Asian Americans taking non-traditional paths. Past guests include a a world-touring Death Metal guitarist that retired and became a dentist, a single mother that became a Hindu priestess at age 62, and a professional dancer blending Bharatanatyam with Tap Dance on large stages like NYC's Lincoln Center. By sharing these stories, the podcast aims to break down stereotypes about South Asians and to reduce social pressures from within the diaspora community to take a certain path. BPWK has been featured in Forbes and News India Times, and in 2021, we received the Lions Share Podcast of the Year award.
LIVE: Armaan Gupta - Artist Kahani on Building Products, Switching Careers, and Bringing South Asian Creatives Together
Armaan aka Kahani is the founder of NONRESIDENT, an alternative record label for diaspora artists. Armaan started his career with a decade plus in the VC/Tech industry where he’s held numerous roles building and growing digital products for companies like Lumenary, Jakt, and Mapfit, which was acquired by Foursquare. In the last two years, he took a leap and shifted his focus to music full-time. As the artist Kahani, Armaan has spent his time remixing South Asian classics and growing the aforementioned label - NONRESIDENT. Through the label, he’s worked with artists like Anik Khan, ShiShi, and Raaginder to throw concerts in NYC, Tulum, and around the world. And of course, to put out some bangers.
This episode was recorded LIVE in NYC.
Annika Sharma - Author & Podcaster On Building A Career As A Creative & Discussing Complicated Topics
Annika has built a career with her love for health and for words. With an M.Ed from Penn State and a MPH from George Washington University, she currently serves as a Communications Project Manager at Weill Cornell Medicine. In that role, she helped build the comms strategy for the Office of the Research Dean and to revamp the website for the health system’s research arm. Aside from this work, Annika is an author and a content creator. She has a three-book deal for a series called The Chai Masala Club, which focuses on a fictional group of friends and their travails in love. The first of those books, Love, Chai, and Other Four Letter Words, came out October 2021. She is also a founder and co-host of The Woke Desi podcast, which explores hushed topics within the South Asian community.
In this episode we talk about creating and using her pen name instead of her birth name, Sribindu Pisupati. She reflects on how her career as a writer has evolved as she moved into a management role, and compares writing for a medical institution against writing fictional novels. Lastly, we talk about why she dove into the podcast medium despite starting her career as a writer and what she’s learned in the process.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Podcast of Role Models
It's very evident that Suraj puts in a lot of time and effort into finding great guests for this show, and into writing extremely thoughtful questions for them. No "surface level" softballs here. As a fellow South Asian American, I'm inspired by this podcast every time I listen.
I really appreciate the way Suraj carried this podcast. The podcast is insightful and knowledgeable (it covers a lot about culture, business, individual’s journey etc). Really great one !!!
Great content and interviews
This is a great podcast with cool interviews across the south Asian diaspora