Solo Show ‘Undercover Indian’ Explores the Trauma of Reverse Culture Shock

Ankita Kumar Ratta

by Amrita Kumar-RattaFollow @browngirlmag 

“I always thought that going to India was the gift.  But then, I realized, so was coming back.”

What do we really know about reverse culture shock? How do we honestly talk about the everyday confusions and contradictions of feeling a sense of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ at a time when these concepts are hotly contested and when so many of us have roots in more than one place?  “Undercover Indian” is a new solo show, written and performed by Ankita Kumar-Ratta. The performance delicately explores the trauma of reverse culture shock and unpacks the meaning of ‘home’ in a manner that is both heartfelt and humorous.

The show’s protagonist is Ankita herself, a fiery young woman born and raised in Canada, embodying the polite, bureaucratic and over-scheduled Canadian persona but confused by her constant association with India by those around her.  With little knowledge about the country of her roots, at 22 years old, Ankita finishes her undergraduate degree and is convinced by her mother to travel to India. Instead of pressuring her to go to Law School, to become a Doctor, or to get married, Ankita’s mother encourages her to spend some quality time learning about her family’s past and reflecting on what she imagines for her future.  This is the starting point for “Undercover Indian,” an autobiographical story that challenges the notion of what it means to be civilized and modern, it explores what it is like to be in-between a country that is often referred to as the third world or developing and another known for its ice-cold climate and excessively polite disposition.

[Read Related: #WeDoBelongHere: Why I Celebrate Both Sides of My Culture]

This immersive and site-specific show takes place in a yoga studio, where audience members are invited to meditate on yoga mats and chairs, experience the sounds of Om and the light of burning candles, and take in the magic of Ankita’s movement and dialogue. 

Ankita Kumar Ratta[Photo Credit/Ameel Mohammed, Soul Goodness, Inc.]

Indeed, the ritual of yoga purposefully frames the story of “Undercover Indian.” Throughout the show, Ankita takes the audience on a yogic journey between Canada, her birthplace, and India, the country of her roots. Each asana represents a different chapter of her story, providing delicate but deeply existential commentary on civilization, resilience, love, environmentalism, and connection. 

Throughout her performance, Ankita brilliantly portrays more than 10 different characters, each with their own body language, vocabulary, and tone of voice.  She flows seamlessly from being her bubbly but confused self to being the wise and hilarious yoga teacher who sports a thick Indian accent while taking audience members through various postures.

Additionally, at different points in her story, she transforms into her calm and universally connected Kathak dancer mother, her animated older sister, her rugged Indian love interest, her prophetic nani, her bookish nana and her stern-but-dedicated British boss at a waste management NGO in North India.  Ankita embodies each character with such ease that audience members are fully transported into the colorful and paradoxical world that she has developed on stage.

Ankita Kumar Ratta[Photo Credit/Ameel Mohammed, Soul Goodness, Inc.]

The show’s director, Tracey Erin-Smith, deserves a notable mention for inspiring Ankita to bring “Undercover Indian” to life. An award-winning performer, writer, teacher, and the founder and artistic director of Soulo Theatre Company, Erin-Smith has dedicated her life to supporting individuals as they transform their raw experiences into a story fit for the stage that is both entertaining and healing, where the personal and the universal merge on stage.

“Undercover Indian” is Ankita’s deeply personal story about learning to look at Canadian culture through a new lens, and ultimately, about the beauty of finding a home in two different parts of the world. Ankita and Erin-Smith have come together to create a show that is thought-provoking, hilarious and witty —a piece of theatre that invites audience members to take risks, breathe, and come out of the show feeling a little more connected to home—however, they may define it.

[Read Related: Dear Everyone: My Culture is Not a Costume For You]

The show ran as part of the Shen Development Festival on November 19, 2017. It will also be performed at Indian Institute of Technology’s Mood Indigo Festival in Mumbai, India in December 2017. The playwright and performer, Ankita, is a theatre artist, dancer, and arts educator based in Toronto.

“Undercover Indian” is her artistic debut as a young, emerging voice in Toronto’s theatre scene. For more information about Undercover Indian, please visit the show’s Facebook page.


Amrita Kumar-Ratta is a lifelong learner, a passionate traveler and a self-proclaimed transnational feminist activist. She holds a Master’s Degree in Global Affairs from the University of Toronto and works at the nexus of human rights and social inclusion. She adores social policy research, loves to ask hard questions and is a firm believer in “thinking globally, acting locally”. She finds her self-expression in dance, literature and theater. She is Ankita’s animated older sister and is extremely proud of Undercover Indian, which she describes as a window into her younger sister’s soul.

By Brown Girl Magazine

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Deepa Prashad: Meet the Breakout Indo Caribbean Host Conquering Media and Sexism

Deepa Prashad
Deepa Prashad | Photo Credit: Talha Tabish

The expansion of digital content across radio, television and the internet has allowed audiences to engage with media rapidly. As technology advances, the entertainment industry has grown exponentially and people have a wealth of information at their fingertips in the blink of an eye. Since high school, Deepa Prashad was fascinated by this power of media and aspired to be an on-air personality who could interact with viewers through creative content whilst representing her Indo Caribbean heritage. After navigating the competitiveness of Canadian broadcast hosting for seven years, Prashad continues to push herself into various modalities of media and add to her growing successes, while championing others to share their own authentic content.


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A post shared by Deepa Prashad (@deepaprashad1)

[Read Related: Nancy Jay: Meet the Indo Caribbean Influencer Breaking the Mold]

Self-confidence and the desire to show a different perspective on entertainment prompted Prashad to be interested in broadcasting. While initially nervous about her family’s reaction to a nontraditional career path for Indo Caribbean women, Prashad received her parents’ full support and became the first person in her family to study broadcasting at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

She began applying for television-hosting positions in her first year despite not having any experience or a finished degree, affirming, “I totally believed in myself and my capabilities.” 

In an interview with Prashad, we delve into her career path, diverse representation in media and her courage to create and promote content that reflects her individuality.

How did you begin your career in hosting and digital content production?

The kids channel I watched growing up, The Family Channel, was doing a nationwide casting call for their new TV host. The host would host interstitials between shows, digital series, and do TV show and movie interviews. I didn’t have an agent at the time so I applied on my own. I was called in for my first audition ever and it was quite shocking. A room full of 10 to 15 people just observing me as I delivered lines and did mock interviews for fake shows. Two months later, I was officially cast as the host of The Family Channel!

While ecstatic about her first job, Prashad was met with racism. She stated, 

Someone else, who applied for the position, made it a point to come up to me in person to say that they hoped I knew the only reason I got the job was because I was brown and the company obviously just needed to fill a quota.

Brushing the words aside, she continued hosting on The Family Channel for five years. She has also worked as an entertainment and food reporter on Canadian shows, Breakfast Television and Cityline. By advocating for herself as capable, personable and multifaceted, she did not shy away from new opportunities to advance her career and showcased herself as a leader who could resonate with broad audiences. 


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A post shared by Deepa Prashad (@deepaprashad1)

Wanting to explore new horizons, Prashad approached the social media company blogTO and pitched herself to be their first full-time video host focusing on Toronto food hotspots. After being hired, she visited multiple restaurants daily to host, film and edit her own content and curated personalized food videos for viewers to immerse themselves in. Prashad later forayed into the world of radio, one she never thought she would join but quickly fell in love with. She was most recently the first female voice on Toronto’s KISS 92.5 channels, The Roz and Mocha Show. Prashad enjoyed the greater flexibility of being on the radio compared to television and video hosting,

All I had to present was me. It became such a personal experience for me getting on that mic, sharing stories with listeners about the way I was raised, coming from a Guyanese household, being part of an (interfaiths marriage), [etc…] That created an incredibly strong bond between myself, our listeners and our friends that I’m so grateful for.

Tell us about your current position.

“I’m moving onto new adventures now and adding sports reporting under my belt. I will be joining BarDown | TSN to cover Formula 1, this includes doing content for TSN in the digital and TV space. I’ve never dabbled in the world of sports, so this is going to be an interesting new road for me.”

What topics are you most passionate about when creating digital content and why?

Food has to be my number one passion when it comes to digital content. Obviously I love eating and trying new things, but food is such a universal language. It connects people, it excites people and often teaches people about different cultures. I love to see how that content can generate conversations and I love to see when people admit they’ve never tried that particular food or cuisine, but added it to their list.

I also love creating Formula 1 content because Formula 1 is a massive passion of mine! I currently Twitch stream playing the Formula 1 video game F1 22. I’ve been on a pursuit to continuously learn more about the sport and to even get better at the game, because let’s be real, I’m terrible at it but I’m also OK with that!

Prashad is not immune to online mockery and negative comments about her work. When making the switch to Formula 1, she was ridiculed by some male viewers over her love of the sport and was inundated with comments like “Go back to the dishes” or “Go do laundry where you belong.” Antiquated and sexist notions about being a working woman in the media led to her looks being graded; there were comments regarding her extroverted personality and rampant discussions over her weight. There was a moment in her career where Prashad admits,

I actually wanted to make changes to myself — try to be a little less outgoing, not be so loud, change my hosting style from this incredibly bubbly style to a more laid back informative take.

Drawing on her self-belief, she soon realized that, “This doesn’t work for me. I began to appreciate all my quirks.” 


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A post shared by Deepa Prashad (@deepaprashad1)

Is there an area of hosting or content production that you believe you’re better at? 

I really love to host digital content in particular because there’s a certain freedom that comes with it. I don’t always have to be prim and proper like sometimes I do need to do for TV. I can be me — loud, goofy, and incredibly dorky. I never want to have two different personas — one for the public eye, and then a private. On social media, what you see is exactly what you get. Digital content has allowed me to love myself even more.

Prashad plans to continue in the industry for the foreseeable future. She recognizes the impact of being an Indo Caribbean woman at the forefront of media and defines her success as “…I can continue to represent my culture and how I make others feel.” Her best moments are connecting with others through their lived experiences and offering a different lens on growing up in Canada. 

How did you feel breaking into the industry as a woman of color? 

What a great feeling that was, and even better, being an Indo Caribbean woman. I went through my fair share of hardships. I’ve faced racism, sexism and bullying throughout my journey of getting to where I am today. But, I have stood up for myself every single time. I will never allow myself to be walked all over.  And believe me, people have attempted MANY times. But I pick myself back up and continue along my way. 

I think it really hit me that I was making an impact when I started to hear from people how much they related to my childhood stories, the way I was brought up, the movies I watched as a kid. It’s those moments that made me realize I accomplished my goal.


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A post shared by Deepa Prashad (@deepaprashad1)

How has your background influenced your interest in hosting and digital content production?

I never saw people like me in the media growing up. I always wanted to change that. I didn’t feel that I had anyone I could personally connect with when I watched TV. And to me that was always so mind blowing because the media, although so broad, is such a personal industry. 

I have always been proud to say on air that I’m a Guyanese woman. I have made it a point to fight for more Caribbean content on air. I’ve made it a point to share stories about my family, where they came from, and even the experiences I’ve had growing up in a Guyanese family. Promoting Caribbean culture in general has always been important to me. And progress has been made! At my previous radio job, I pushed incredibly hard to start interviewing Caribbean artists and to highlight them. I had the opportunity to interview artists like Sean Paul, Kes and Konshens and those interviews aired nationally which was massive.


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A post shared by Deepa Prashad (@deepaprashad1)

Prashad often infuses cultural content into her work by showcasing Indian and Caribbean food, offering Bollywood movie recommendations, detailing her trips to Guyana, talking about new music and sharing information about Caribbean events in Toronto. She does not believe that cultural content needs to be pared down for the masses but instead advocates for aspiring Indo Caribbean creators to keep releasing diverse and authentic content that is representative of themselves.

She notes that the Indo Caribbean experience is not a monolith and that,

We need more representation! What feels most authentic to you can be vastly different from other content creators. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way of creating content, but the best version of content you’re going to create is when you’re being true to who you are, and having fun.

At only 27 years old, Prashad’s journey has taken her across multiple forms of media. From interviewing Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities to hosting various television shows and being an online and radio voice, she continues to explore different mediums as a means of storytelling and connection. Hardships were plenty during Prashad’s rise to fame, but a steady belief in herself and a willingness to take on new endeavors with authenticity have provided her the grit to overcome challenges. 

Prashad is eagerly awaiting to leap into her next digital venture and is actively commending more Indo Caribbean content creators to step into the spotlight with their own personal stories.  

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