Author: Savita Iyer-Ahrestani

Women Who Inspire: Marjane Satrapi

                  NAME: Marjane Satrapi AGE: 44 OCCUPATION: Writer, artist and cartoonist WHO SHE IS: The prolific writer/artist/cartoonist, who is perhaps best known for her the graphic novels Persepolis and Persepolis 2. In 2007, Persepolis was adapted for the big-screen (and won the 2007 Academy Award for best foreign language film). And though Marjane’s second movie Chicken with Plums — a story based on her book about a famous violinist who loses his instrument and with it the will to live — elicited a lukewarm reception at best, she was undaunted, and forged on to make The Voices, a thriller starring Ryan Reynolds that was screened at Sundance in 2014. WHY SHE INSPIRES ME: I cracked up at so many of the brilliant illustrations in Persepolis 2, which I read before its prequel, Persepolis. Her drawings hit home on so many levels for me: from the concrete (being the only girl with thick, dark body hair in the  land of the fair-haired — that was me, an Indian growing up in Switzerland), …

Women Who Inspire: Jhumpa Lahiri

                  NAME: Jhumpa Lahiri AGE: 46 OCCUPATION: Author/novelist WHO SHE IS: Jhumpa Lahir is a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of two short story collections (Unaccustomed Earth and Interpreter of Maladies) as well as two novels (The Namesake: A Novel, and her most recent, The Lowland, which was published in September 2013). Her simplicity of storytelling has earned Lahiri accolade upon accolade. The Lowland was a nominee for The Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award for Fiction, and Lahiri serves on President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. WHY SHE INSPIRES ME: So many other writers — particularly writers of South Asian heritage – lay the metaphors on thick and try to impress with dazzling language and complex turn of phrase, but Lahiri’s work is the writing equivalent of a perfect Picasso; a few strokes of genius on a blank sheet — and voila. Her understated, modest persona is an inspiration to any writer (this one included), published or aspiring.

Before “Bollywood” There Was a Movie Genre That Felt All My Own

When I was growing up, Bollywood didn’t exist. At least, that phrase had not yet been officially coined as the moniker for India’s multi-billion dollar movie industry. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any “Bollywood” movies to watch. Living in Geneva, Switzerland during the 1980s, we watched Hindi movies, as they were known at the time, on a VCR. It wasn’t easy to find the films, of course, and we’d often have to wait for weeks until someone got hold of a latest release. Then, that family would host a weekend viewing at their home where, over sweet, milky tea and hot, savory snacks, a bunch of us would sit together for three hours (the average length of a movie) and lose ourselves in a world far, far away. It was a world that our parents had left behind, but one that we kids longed to belong to; a place that we wanted, more than anything else, to claim as our own. But aside from our once-every-two-years visit to India, we only felt real familiarity …

Manju and Me: Finding Gratitude in an Unlikely Friendship

Her name was Manju and she’d come to us on a rainy afternoon from an employment agency that specialized in hiring out domestic help. She wore a faded orange ‘salwar-kameez,’ the baggy pants and tunic that are the everyday dress of scores of women across India, and she’d covered her head to protect it from the spattering rain with an even more faded ‘dupatta,’ or scarf. She wore chunky-heeled sandals, her toenails were painted red, and although she looked tired, she smiled, her eyes sparkling. It was the summer of 2006 and I was over the moon about moving to India, the country of my birth, to spend two years during which my husband conducted his doctoral research. But I was also terrified. I had visited India many times, but I’d never stayed there for more than six weeks at a stretch, I’d never run my own household or managed — dare I use the common Indian term —“servants.” The word itself made me cringe, but in India, servants are part and parcel of most …