At BHAV, we believe in empowering women to find unique ways to embrace their cultural heritage. We started 'The Culture Connection' to explore the impact (both good and bad) of heritage on a variety of incredible women, and understand how it continues to play an influential role in their lives. We invite you to join us on this journey, with the hope that you find value in these conversations.
Leela is a Child Psychologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry in Philadelphia. She's also a proud mother of 3 (including a 10-month old!), and loves dancing, art and traveling. Read on to learn about Leela's South Asian heritage, her blended family, and her go-to drink when she needs to kick back.
On Her Heritage & Multicultural Family:
What's your background?
I'm South Asian American, specifically Bengali!
How has, or currently does your heritage play a role in your life?
I take great pride in identifying as a woman of color, which informs my conversations, relationships, and parenting. I feel strongly about incorporating the South Asian values and traditions I grew up with into my immediate family. Along with a group of friends, it was important to us to expose our daughters to classical Indian dance. We were all fortunate to find a parent who had experience teaching Kathak to adults and was willing to volunteer her time each Sunday to teach our daughters (which isn't always easy to find depending upon where you live).
Overall, I feel like I've really solidified my cultural identity over time, and come to fully appreciate and understand the importance of community and a sense of belonging.
Can you speak on your experience being in two multicultural marriages?
I'm married to a Caucasian man and have two children from a prior marriage. My ex-husband is African-American, so our household is quite the blended family. We intentionally decided to live in a neighborhood in Philadelphia where our children would feel accepted. We often go to the neighborhood school playground, and there are certainly curious neighbors wondering who the childrens' father is and if I'm the nanny of my half-white, 10-month old daughter.
Within our families, our parents fully embrace all their grandchildren. My husband treats his step-children as if they are his own. We certainly have discussions around the dinner table about race, culture, and privilege. It’s honestly amazing to see our eldest children (9 and 6 years old) talk about these topics and hear how they view the world!
How has your heritage influenced your career as a child psychologist?
I believe my diverse background has served me well in my career by allowing me to inform cultural humility in my interactions with colleagues, patients and their families. I am very passionate about recruiting and retaining women of color in pediatric psychology. To this point, I currently serve as a co-leader of our department’s Diversity and Inclusion committee, and I'm very proud of that. Our entire department and clinical team benefits from the diverse perspectives we're able to share with each other.
What do you love most about South Asian fashion?
I love the vibrant colors of Indian clothing! The material makes our clothing look so fancy compared to some Western clothing. When I dress up for an Indian event, I truly feel like a princess!
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
Hennessy with a splash of cranberry juice and lime ;)
What are you currently watching?
Taylor Swift’s documentary, 'Miss Americana'.
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
Hands down, Michelle Obama’s book, 'Becoming'.
Morning person or night owl?
I’ve become a morning person now since I have three children who have changed my physiology to not allow me to sleep in even if I tried!
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?
My morning cup of coffee!