Good Indian Girl, Sort Of: Nidhi Chanani
I currently work as an: Artist and graphic novelist
I do this because: I want to make people happy. For years, I tried to fight the system through nonprofit work. It did not satisfy me. I pursued a career in the arts because I wanted to remind myself and others that we are surrounded by beauty and love. I feel that this is my best weapon against the oppressive systems that exist.
What are some Indian traditions you still follow? There are so many! I’m vegetarian. No shoes in the house. I do not put books on the floor because I believe it’s disrespectful. I usually call any elder ‘Uncle’ or ‘Auntie’ and am uncomfortable calling them by their first names. I love savory breakfasts (I mean, if you give me a waffle, I’ll eat it, but I prefer salty over sweet in the morning). I speak Hindi at home with my baby. I’m sure there are more, but at a certain point these traditions became part of who I am. I am inextricably Indian.
Bollywood or Hollywood, and why? Both! I grew up binge watching Bollywood movies on the weekends. My mom would make moori, pakoras, and chai and we would settle in to watch all the current films. I enjoy the new direction Bollywood is heading with films like PK, Talaash, Dabba, but I’m less interested in the ‘Dilwale‘ type films. I believe Bollywood has so much to offer when they’re not trying to mimic Hollywood. India is rich with stories, both past and present, and I am always excited to see those presented in film. Much of my work is inspired by Bollywood – the colors, the details, the romance!
I have a similar love for Hollywood and the storytelling involved. But I also watch films from all over the globe. Basically, if there’s a good story involved I want to absorb it.
What’s your favorite thing about Indian culture? The colors, the cacophony of family gatherings, the flavors of home. The music and unique instruments, the intricate patterns found on clothing, henna, and in the roll and rhythm of Hindi. There is so much that I love that I couldn’t possibly list it all.
What’s one piece of advice your parents/family have given you that should probably be or are abiding by?
My mom always said “Make sure you can stand on your own two feet.” My mom had a rough time in the US and was only able to make it through because she’s strong and independent. I believe that who I am, and how I approach my life, stems from seeing her struggle and persevere.
Good Indian Girl? Definitely, Sort Of, Maybe, No Way – and why?
I suppose I’m sort of a good Indian girl. I don’t eat meat, I value family, and I practice respect. However, I break the rules and often challenge the expectations of women.