NEW YORK – The 2020 iteration of the Saris to Suits ‘Pose for a Purpose’ calendar, a nonprofit founded by Patti Tripathi – the former CNN International anchor and award winning broadcast journalist, features 14 highly accomplished South Asian-origin women ranging in age from 18 to 97.
The 8′ x 11′ inch, 36-page glossy calendar (priced $17.50), the proceeds of which go to advance women’s empowerment, cultural awareness and social justice through select nonprofits in the United States, has featured some of the most recognized and decorated immigrant women of South Asian-origin over the years, since its inception in 2012.
Over the years the proceeds from the calendar has helped organizations like Raksha in Atlanta, Apna Ghar in Chicago, Chicago chapter of Room to Read, Sakhi for South Asian Women in New York, SPARCC in Florida, SMART Girls of Boys and Girls Clubs in Florida, and to help victims of sex trade and trafficking.
The calendar, apart from marking traditional national holidays and significant days in the US, also highlights festivals of major religions and South Asian communities, and important birthdays of women in history, including personalities like Rosa Parks, Virginia Woolf, Oprah Winfrey, Kalpana Chawla, Maya Angelou, Golda Meir, Benazir Bhutto, JK Rowling, Priyanka Chopra, Melinda Gates, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Serena Williams, Indira Gandhi, Indra Nooyi, and Rani Lakshmibai. It also has empowerment quotes, and description of the personalities featured.
The previous four signature calendar campaigns featured trailblazers like Houston University President /Chancellor Dr. Renu Khator, human rights activist and youngest Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, cancer researcher, MIT professor and biotech entrepreneur Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia, India’s award winning shooter who’s now settled in New York City, Roopa Unnikrishnan; and Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, who redefined perceptions of dark complexion and beauty among South Asians.
“Saris to Suits focuses on building awareness and supporting key organizations in a concerted effort to break down the barriers that constrain the advancement of women and girls,” said Tripathi, on this year’s calendar. “We seek to shine an illuminating light on factors that can advance women’s empowerment, cultural awareness, and social justice. These exceptional women and their compelling stories are living proof that where there is a will, there is a way, whether that be through education, hard work, perseverance, or a combination of all three.”
Tripathi, who founded TriPath Media, was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, and emigrated with her family at a young age to the UK, and later when she was 12, to the US.
In an earlier interview to the University of Notre Dame, her alma mater, Tripathi revealed that she joined CNN International in 1996 at its world headquarters in Atlanta as a writer and anchor for CNN Radio and CNN Headline News.
Here are excerpts from that interview, where Tripathi spoke about fallout from being forced into an arranged marriage:
“Indian parents fear that divorces are too common in American society and it is better to marry within your own community. Eventually I broke off my engagement and instead succumbed to the expectation of marrying an Indian-American ophthalmologist—someone I didn’t date—for my father’s approval and blessings. There is so much pressure on girls of South Asian origin to oblige by their parents’ wishes that many feel obligated to give up on love for an arrangement. I was very well educated and had my dream career, but the three-year “marriage” (which a court ruled was legally invalid because there was no marriage license) was abusive, and I had to get out.
“In 2007, I married a man I had been introduced to two decades earlier, after college. I loaned him money to help him buy into his medical practice, but the marriage didn’t last long, and when it ended, I literally had nothing. It felt like the courts had failed me again because of a lack of cultural awareness. I was living out of two suitcases in a hotel where I watched women prostitute themselves. As bad as it was for me, I couldn’t get my mind around whatever circumstances they were going through that made them feel like selling themselves was their only choice.
“I have an American education, resources, and a family to cushion my fall, yet I felt utterly helpless because of the injustice. Just imagine what torture many in the immigrant community endure because of cultural, legal, and language barriers. After reflecting on my personal travails and a highly publicized gang rape in India, I felt it my calling to raise awareness about these issues. The Saris to Suits concept, inviting women to pose for a purpose, was a way for me to be intentional about trying to make a difference,” Tripathi added.
The 2020 calendar features among others, Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Dr. Nina Radcliff, an anesthesiologist based in New Jersey with lineage from the former royal family of Udaipur in Rajasthan, teenage tennis sensation Natasha Subhash, 18, who’s now a freshman at the University of Virginia; Dr. Sujatha Reddy, an Emmy Award-winning medical journalist, Priya Yadav, a Bharatanatyam dancer and a sophomore at Emory University, who was adopted from a Pune orphanage when she was two years old, and lawyer-activist Abha Singh.
The oldest woman featured in the 2020 edition of the calendar is Frances West, 97, who founded the Ogbomosho School for the Blind.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)