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A movement for equality should not pick and choose who gets to be equal

Living abroad for four years, there were many American cultural moments I inevitably missed out on experiencing firsthand, some defining and others fleeting.

The election of Donald Trump as President. Pepsi’s tone-deaf ad campaign featuring Kendall Jenner. The Kiki Challenge. The second wave of the #MeToo movement, the charging of Harvey Weinstein with rape and sexual assault, and the resignation of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes amidst allegations of sexual harassment, including by controversial former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. …


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Photo Credit: petrenkod

(This article contains numerous spoilers as part of a discussion of the Netflix show only, not the related books)

Like many Americans and Netflix viewers worldwide, I was completely taken with Shonda Rhimes’ reimagining of Regency London’s high society in Bridgerton, based on the novels by Julia Quinn. …


Traditional Burmese milk tea
Traditional Burmese milk tea
Photo credit: Sebastien Boisvert

(Note: I’ve used “Rangoon” and “Burma” in reference to Myanmar’s colonial period under British rule, and “Yangon” and “Myanmar” in reference to before and after the colonial period)

My first time at Rangoon Tea House was magical. So magical, in fact, that I found myself trying to engineer another visit to Yangon just to dine there again. I finally managed to do so around two years later, when I successfully pitched ‘A Very Burmese Christmas’ to my parents — who were visiting me in Kuala Lumpur from California — and packed us onto the two-and-a-half-hour Air Asia flight.

Rangoon Tea…


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The Palais des Nations in Geneva

I still remember distinctly my first time visiting the United Nations headquarters (it was also my first time in New York City and my first time seeing a show on Broadway — Bombay Dreams). It was 2004, and I had just finished my freshman year of college and already had a penchant for social justice, development, and all things international, so of course, the UN was the promised land with its 193 flags and sense of importance you could literally smell in the air.

Fast forward to 2017, and although my rose-tinted glasses had been removed and my unwavering faith…


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The t-shirt I wore every November 2nd to celebrate SRK’s birthday

Like any basic brown girl, my adolescent love for Bollywood was paralleled only by my love for Taco Bell Mexican pizzas. Hold the beef, beans instead.

The year was 1995, the movie DDLJ (or for the uninitiated, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge).

Surprisingly, it wasn’t love at first sight. The only memory I have from sitting through the three-hour-10-minute film at the pre-renovation Naz 8 Cinema in Fremont is the intermission, during which my nani (maternal grandmother) and I stood in the endless line for the restroom and she mistook liquid soap for hand lotion, which caused quite the stir.

It…


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On reading the news about the conclusion of an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct at Presentation High School, and the negligent inaction at best and intentional cover-up at worst by the administration in response to multiple reports by students over several decades, I’ve had many strong feelings. As a lawyer and advocate for women’s and children’s rights, I feel incredibly dismayed and disturbed. As an alumna of the school with countless fond memories interwoven in the blue, gray, and white plaid skirt that I still have stowed away in a drawer 17 years after my graduation, I feel gutted.


A woman sightseeing at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, the main site for celebrating the annual Hindu festival of Thaipusam.
A woman sightseeing at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, the main site for celebrating the annual Hindu festival of Thaipusam.

Sometimes, being an outsider is the best way to gain a better understanding of who you are and where you come from — it forces you to ask questions and peel back layer after layer.

I learned this firsthand when I moved from California to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I ended up spending nearly four years of my life and was introduced to the Malaysian Indian diaspora.

If I’m being honest, before I moved to Malaysia, my own Indian diaspora experience was fairly monolithic. Sure, there were a few things that distinguished my experience from that of most of my…


My first view of Angkor Wat — vast, aged stones overgrown with moss and grass, cows grazing, and what seemed like thousands of butterflies — evoked the feeling of a post-apocalyptic civilization over which nature had continued to run its course — for any gamers reading this, it was much like the scene from “The Last of Us” where Joel and Ellie happen upon a herd of giraffes.

Angkor Wat is one of the most renowned tourist destinations in the world, and yet before going I knew very little about it. Of course, the sheer fact that this structure had…


As with many Americans, my heart has been heavy after the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Shortly after hearing the news, I stumbled across a café in Chiang Mai run by an NGO whose motto is “No one is free while others are oppressed,” and was struck by the irony and appropriateness of encountering those very words at that very moment on the other side of the world.

In the wake of these killings — on the tails of the 240th anniversary of America’s founding based on equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and the…


I recently watched a Youtube video posted by a comedian from Brunei, a small nation enveloped by Malaysia and the South China Sea. The video depicts a scene that to me is quite illustrative of Malaysian culture: the comedian is recording and narrating as another driver struggles to reverse her way into a parking spot. As the driver adjusts and re-adjusts her car, preventing anyone else from passing, the comedian waits rather patiently, punctuating the scene with a pleading “Reverse la, Auntie” every few moments, but is otherwise seemingly unbothered.

As I approached the 20-second mark of the video, I…

Natasha Dandavati

*Women’s rights advocate * Street food aficionado * Former expat putting a South Asian American lens on Social Justice, Travel and other topics

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