Good Indian Girl, Sort Of: Seetha Shivaswamy
I currently reside in: Austin, TX
What your favorite hangout in Austin? I follow the music–wherever a great band is playing. Austin has amazing music venues and bands of all genres.
I’m also a foodie and nature lover. A walk around the Hike-and-Bike trail, followed by a jump in Barton Springs (the 900 foot long spring-fed pool that is the heart of the city), then out to see some live music is pretty much a perfect day in the ATX! Also, Casa de Luz is an organic paradise for lunch.
If I’m not out and about, I’m foraging around in the little urban farm that is my backyard. The climate is great for cultivating my trees. Currently, I have a lemon, fig, moringa (drumstick/nugekai), banana, pecan, and curry leaf tree. I also have a veggie and herb garden. No one is going hungry around here.
I currently work as a: Western Classical Musician (I’m a flautist). I play a lot of concerts and also teach students of all ages and backgrounds.
I do this because: I really do love my job. However thankless and erratic a career in the arts can feel, the good times are really worth it. I get to travel, collaborate with creatives from all over the world, and teach students who are ridiculously talented and insightful. I frequently play for music festivals like SXSW, have been a recording artist for several movie/TV/video game soundtracks, and have worked with amazing artists running the gamut of famous to lesser-known. And when the going gets rough I always have music to soothe my soul (smiles).
What are some Indian traditions you still follow? Well, I am anything but traditional (and historically have even been quite rebellious), but I am proud of my Indian heritage and adhere to many of the small customs. I take my shoes off before entering the house, love to cook for people, and am warm and welcoming to my guests. Aren’t we, collectively, a product of all the small things anyway?
I am not religious, but fiercely spiritual, and feel very inspired by the richness of Indian arts, philosophy, language and music. I do yoga and pranayama every day, an extension of my over 20 years of yoga studies with the most amazing teachers from both East and West (people even started asking me to teach workshops on Yoga for Musicians, which I continue to develop today).
Despite my very American accent, I try more and more to speak my mother tongue of Kannada. It lifts me to a different mindset and helps build a bridge to better relate to my family.
Bollywood or Hollywood, and why? I’d rather listen than watch! Some of my favorite artists are Igor Stravinsky, J.S. Bach, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Sam Smith, Joshua Redman, Fiona Apple, Khalid, Anoushka Shankar, Brad Mehldau.
Favorite movie? Probably Latcho Drom, the French documentary about the gypsy migration from Rajasthan to Spain. You can see and hear the Indian influence and cultural fusion through art and music. There is just something so perfect about it. Being a musician and growing up exposed to so much diversity I relate to this so much. And you find common ground, always. Despite our seemingly disparate cultures, religions, and skin color we really do have so many similarities. It is somehow comforting and assures me of my place in the world.
What’s your favorite thing about Indian culture? Well, for one, I LOVE traveling to India. It feels like a cocoon of warmth, gracious hospitality, and endless community spirit. I have been fortunate to visit frequently my parent’s hometown of Bangalore where much of my very large extended family lives. I thank my parents for investing in property there to keep our roots thriving and having a place to call home across the ocean.
What’s one piece of advice your parents have given you that should probably be or are abiding by? Work hard, do your best, and be good to others. Always take the high road.
Good Indian Girl? In my heart, definitely!