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.
Priya is the Founder and Executive Director of 'The Simple Good' (@thesimplegood), a wonderful charitable org that aims to empower at-risk youth through social/emotional learning, and mindfulness-based art programming. Donations are incredibly valuable to supporting youth programs in Chicago (especially right now), and they can be made by visiting thesimplegood.org.
Outside of her non-profit, Priya is an artist, lover of discovery, and avid world traveler. Read on to learn about her heritage, mission with 'The Simple Good', and travel-inspired wardrobe!
On Her South Asian Heritage:
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I'm Indian American and a creative at heart. As an artist, I have experience with painting, mixed media, charcoal and pencil. I also love traveling and learning about new cultures, philosophies, history and food. Oh, and I'm pretty passionate about basketball - I can get kind of competitive!
How has, or currently does your South Asian heritage play a role in your life?
Like most children of immigrants, it can be hard to manage being connected to two cultures with seemingly opposite values. After visiting India, I began to better understand the rich wisdom of our culture (which is sometimes overseen, misconstrued or politicized as with many parts of the world), and how many of the understandings we seek have already been set before us.
As I got deeper into Indian philosophy, it started to impact how I viewed the world. It really influenced how I navigated my life and my decision to prioritize meaningful work. I'm more spiritual than religious, but I do feel I have been practicing my Dharma through my work with 'The Simple Good'. Overall, I'm really grateful for the privilege to be able to do this.
Art is at the heart of your mission with the 'The Simple Good'. Why do you believe art therapy can be so impactful?
More than just art therapy, our art program broadly supports emotional development by fostering social/emotional learning and mindfulness through the practice of art. I'm really passionate about art because it's at the core of being human - it's how we express ourselves, how we celebrate, how we grieve, and how we gather. To not participate in the arts deprives us of our ability to evolve and further our understanding of the breadth of the human experience. My mission with 'The Simple Good' is to bring positivity into underprivileged communities through art and discussion.
You have traveled a ton in your life. What have your experiences taught you about the similarities between people of different backgrounds and cultures?
My travels have strongly reinforced how similar and connected we are as humans. I've always been fascinated by how intertwined cultures and languages are throughout history. I'm the type of person that loves listening to people speak in other languages, simply so I can see if I can figure out any similar words or patterns across the languages I'm already familiar with (and I usually do!). For example, the word for 'key' is 'chavee' in Hindi. 'Chavee' means the same thing in not just Gujarati and Tamil, but even Portuguese, which could hint at a historical connection between these diverse cultures.
Most importantly, my travels have revealed that no matter where you go in the world, good means the same to all of us – and that is what connects us as human beings. That's the essence of what 'The Simple Good' stands for.
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now?
Whenever I travel, I buy a dress from the country I visit. I love mixing cultures with my personal style, and I feel proud to represent the different cultures around the world I feel connected to. Each article of clothing and jewelry I wear has a story, so pretty much everything I have holds a lot of meaning to me because it reminds me of where I've been. That's the powerful thing about travel for me: when you return, everything around you is the mostly the same, but your mind and soul are forever changed.
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
I'm a big wine fan, but I also enjoy a whiskey or mezcal cocktail :-)
What are you currently watching?
I just finished Marvelous Ms. Maisal - I loved it! So now I'm looking for some more shows that can make me laugh!
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
I just started 'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It is beautifully written and I'm excited to finish it. I recommend it already :-)
Morning person or night owl?
Depends on the day. I'm not really a morning person, but I do love it when I'm up early to enjoy the quietness before the day starts. My days get so long that sometimes my 'me time' ends up being late at night.
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?
I started making homemade shea butter for my skin and now I'm obsessed! I love how good it is for my skin and I just feel like it's been a great self-care practice which my body is benefitting from. I highly recommend moving towards all natural wellness whenever you can :-) Also, cookies... I just love cookies so can't give those up either!