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Good Indian Girl, Sort Of: Ilica Mahajan

I currently reside in: San Francisco, California

What your favorite hangout in San Francisco? My apartment. No, really! Aside from having the cheapest drinks in the neighborhood, it also features: a free jukebox with all the music selections I like at a volume that seems sane, I get to control the guest list for the most part (it’s very exclusive…), no bathroom line, there’s *almost* always toilet paper, and at the end of the night, the walk to my bed is less than a minute!

But also, I love going to either Golden Gate Park or Dolores Park with my friends on a sunny day.

I currently work as an: Software Engineer at 3Scan by day, and political activist/organizer with the Democratic Socialists of America (San Francisco chapter) by night.

I do this because: I work at 3Scan as a distributed systems engineer because I’ve always enjoyed solving puzzles and building complex systems (Legos used to be my jam). Software engineering is like figuring out many mini-puzzles to beat the big boss level at the end. The puzzle might involve creating large-scale distributed data processing pipelines to work on curing cancer, or sometimes it involves just trying to figure out when the shortest wait time to get boba is.

But also, I believe that it’s imperative that we all attempt to build an ideal future for everyone, so I love volunteering for the Democratic Socialists of America in the evenings and on weekends. We’re trying to tackle challenging local, national, and international issues to move society towards more balanced and altruistic ends. In San Francisco, we sometimes run or advocate for ballot measures (vote yes on C and 10 if you live in SF!), but we also try to help organize with other communities so that they can have an amplified voice. Last, but not least, I love all the nerdy conversations I get to have with people at DSA about how to build a better future–everyone there really cares and their passion is infectious.

What are some Indian traditions you still follow? I make real chai every once in awhile, and eat maggi noodles when I’m sick. I talk to my parents pretty much every day, and we gossip about all the neighborhood dogs.

I still ponder how I measure up to my cousins or the neighbors’ children, and worry about my salary or how much I just spent on milk at the grocery store since I swear the other store had it for like 10 cents less.

Bollywood or Hollywood, and why? Bollywood comedies, but Hollywood dark humor!

Bollywood’s slapstick comedy is just too funny to not laugh at–it’s the purest form of comedy. But when it comes to humor that has a subtle societal commentary, Hollywood often has that art form down.

Favorite movie? This changes, but lately it’s been Sorry to Bother You.

What’s your favorite thing about Indian culture? I think it’s the informality that exists within close bonds. For example, the idea of saying “thank you” or “sorry” doesn’t really exist within your family and close friends in India. Formalities exist between people who have more boundaries between them, so it feels comforting to be able to drop them between people who are close. Also, Indians have a particular kind of sarcastic humor that I love. You get a lot of sass from the people that love you. Or, maybe that’s just my family!

What’s one piece of advice your parents have given you that should probably be or are abiding by? I should probably be drinking more milk….or eating out less and saving more money…..and be earning in excess of $400k at “The Google” like that one kid that the newspaper talked about once.

Good Indian Girl? Sort of. I mean, I think so. I’m an engineer, can speak Hindi-Urdu fluently, can cook hella dope Indian food, and am a happy, loving and well-rounded person who can take care of myself. But, I also often don’t do what I’m told to, I’m not at all religious, I’m dating someone who is not Indian, and am trying to find my own path which frustrates my parents and family often. I’ll give myself a solid B+ under the current definition of “good Indian girl”, but I like it that way. It’s on the younger generations to start reconsidering what it means to be a good Indian girl.

To follow Ilica’s work, you can give her a follow on Twitter at @iliMocha!

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