Good Indian Girl, Sort Of: Deepa Paulus

What’s your name? Deepa Paulus

Where do you live? New York City

What your favorite hangout in NYC (pre-COVID)? I haven’t been in a while because of COVID-19, but I love Muji stores. They are so peaceful, pretty, and smells they smell really nice.

What type of work do you do? Production Assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET).

I do this work because: I grew up watching Pixar films and am totally enamored by them. When it came time to figure out what I might like to study in school, animation made the most sense to me. It is truly a beautiful art form. I’m grateful that I get to apply these skills in a museum setting and it’s been a dream to be doing this—I sometimes have to pinch myself just to be sure.

What are some Indian traditions you still follow? I try to stay connected to my roots. Growing up, I studied Bharatanatyam very intensely. I completed my arangetram when I was 15 years old. I started playing tabla when I was 11, and also took that seriously. I treated tabla the same way I treated dance. I gave it everything I had without thinking about it. Doing those things at such a young age really made me who I am today.

I also drink chai in the morning and evening. I play tabla and I speak Malayalam when I can.

Bollywood or Hollywood, and why? Bollywood because I have been listening to a lot of my favorite songs from Chitchor (1976) and Raja Hindustani (1996) today. There is definitely something about the sound quality of these recordings that stands out to me. I also enjoy hearing the live instruments. I really love the sound of a full orchestra and that inspires me to practice tabla.

Favorite movie? Dead Poet’s Society is my favorite movie. I watched it while I was in a high school in English class and it really had a profound impact on me. On top of it, I also had a teacher who made our class feel similar to the movie.

What’s your favorite thing about Indian culture? Indian culture is vast and there are many cultures within India. I love learning about our culture and hearing people’s stories. My tabla teacher, Sejal Didi (of @tablagirls) is someone I consider a personal hero and she has taught me since I was very young not only about tabla, but also about life. Because I was so young when I started playing tabla, I didn’t really feel concerned about being a girl in a male-dominated space. I also felt (and continue to feel) extremely safe because of Sejal Didi. That trust is really special, so I hope to continue doing music and making strides of my own to make her proud.

What’s one piece of advice your parents have given you that should probably be or are abiding by? They have always supported me in my pursuit of having a career in art. What I learned from them is to work hard and to love what I do.

Good Indian Girl? Maybe. I don’t believe life works in a way where I get to choose the answer to that. 

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