Here’s what I learned in my first year and how you can do better!

2020 was my first year getting paid to do journalism. This year, I have seen an abundance of advice for journalists, probably vastly outpacing the desire for it. These include misconceptions that you need to work in a newsroom to build up your network of editors before going freelance (I didn’t) or that you need a degree in journalism to do it (I also didn’t). …


After a long, hard year, the Festival of Lights is a welcome reset

Woman lighting candles for Diwali.
Woman lighting candles for Diwali.
Photo: India Photography/Getty Images

After an exhausting year dominated by a pandemic and an equally tiring election cycle rife with racist and xenophobic attacks, a weekend of new beginnings and celebration feels overdue.

Enter Diwali.

Also known in the West as the Festival of Lights, this celebration will be observed this year by millions of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists on Saturday, November 14 as one of our biggest holidays. Others will observe Bandi Chhor Diwas, the biggest holiday of the year for Sikhs. …


Election 2020

A woman wearing face mask holds a sign that says “desis for Biden Harris.”
A woman wearing face mask holds a sign that says “desis for Biden Harris.”
A supporter holds a sign while listening to Kamala Harris, Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, speaks at a “Get Out The Vote” rally at Morehouse College on October 23, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP/Getty Images

South Asian Americans make up around 2% of the American population and comprise an even smaller percent of registered voters in the United States. But you wouldn’t know it from the outsized effort candidates made to target the desi vote this election cycle.

For the first time in United States history, political analysts projected that South Asian Americans would be a key factor that tipped not only the presidential vote in key swing states, but also electoral decisions in local races nationwide. …


Some are proud. Some are not. Here’s how identity politics play out.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris sits and listen to Joe Biden’s remarks at the Alexis Dupont High School.
Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris sits and listen to Joe Biden’s remarks at the Alexis Dupont High School.
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The day after Kamala Harris was named Joe Biden’s pick as his running mate in the 2020 election, Ankit Jain of Washington, D.C., awoke to an email from his South Asian American family members titled, “Fwd: Kamala Harris — Indian Heritage.” A video of Harris making dosas with Mindy Kaling has gone viral in family WhatsApp threads and so has a photo of Harris and her sister Maya clad in saris with their maternal relatives.

South Asian Americans I know have started speculating about what Diwali and Holi in the White House would look like as well as what desi…


No one wants to talk about it, but it’s all there

A screenshot of Radhika and Akshay during their engagement ceremony from the Netflix show “Indian Matchmaking.”
A screenshot of Radhika and Akshay during their engagement ceremony from the Netflix show “Indian Matchmaking.”
Radhika and Akshay in “Indian Matchmaking.” Photo: Netflix

My roommates in Rome, co-workers in Washington, D.C., and friends in New Delhi all have something to say about Netflix’s new reality series, which pulls back the curtain on a facet of arranged marriages in India and the South Asian diaspora, matchmaking. For the few who have managed to miss the show’s viral popularity, matchmaker “Sima Taparia from Mumbai” works to connect her clients across the world with suitable candidates for marriage. The key word here is suitable, which in the world of Indian Matchmaking means upper caste, light-skinned, Hindu, nondisabled, straight, thin, tall, educated, and employed.

The research on…


Wake up. The caste system is alive and well, and here’s how to dismantle it.

A photo of Indian protestors holding a candlelight march.
A photo of Indian protestors holding a candlelight march.
AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) workers during a candle march against BJP Minister VK Singh over his remarks on the Faridabad Dalit burning incident, at Jantar Mantar, on October 25, 2015 in New Delhi, India. Photo: Ravi Choudhary/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Growing up as a Brown girl in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, people were as likely to think I was Native American or Mexican as they were to guess that I was Indian. Once I clarified that I was Indian American, rather than American Indian, two of the most common questions I received were whether my family worshipped cows (we did not) and whether there was still a class of people regarded as “untouchables” in India. I laughed off the latter question as easily as I did the former and wondered how my classmates could have such regressive opinions about South Asians…


Harry Potter had us in the back. Now we are front and center.

An illustration of a South Asian woman reading a book. A rich landscape of a South Asian city emerges from the book.
An illustration of a South Asian woman reading a book. A rich landscape of a South Asian city emerges from the book.
Illustration: Aishwarya Srivastava

I spent most of my childhood years completely and truly convinced that one day Warner Brothers producers would show up on my doorstep to cast me as Parvati or Padma Patil in the Harry Potter movies. At the time, my younger sister looked like my twin, and we happened to be in the ballpark of the right age to play the Patil twins—never mind the fact that we lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, rather than, say, anywhere in Great Britain. Unsurprisingly, no producers ever showed up on our doorstep. …


More culture. Less capitalism.

Photo: India Photography/Getty Images

Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where being Indian was so rare that my classmates were more likely to think I was Native American than South Asian, Indian clothes were brought out only once a year — like how I imagined our White neighbors would bring out their nice china for Christmas dinner.

When my sister and I were toddlers, we had tiny baby lehengas — traditional Indian dresses with full skirts and cropped blouses. Hers was light green with gold checks, and mine had a full red skirt and a tiny green halter top. Pretty soon, the once floor-length…

Kiran Misra

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