Fire up a random public account on Instagram and you’ll probably see a string of titles in the person’s bio: writer, founder, cosplayer, podcaster, tech geek, ambassador, advocate, etc. That’s the world our generation lives in. We are no longer defined by a single career path. Instead, we are all “slashies.” A slashie is someone who pursues one or multiple side-hustles alongside a full-time career, not-so-secretly hoping to transform these non-traditional side-hustles into full-time jobs.
For South Asian millennials, redefining success means redefining stereotypes. Remember what our parents would tell us growing up? Get good grades, get a good job, then get married and settle down. But our generation is not about settling down. We are more than just doctors and engineers—we are comedians, musicians, astronauts, wrestlers, news anchors, and so much more.
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I’m not a comedian or a wrestler, but I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker. Movies were a seminal part of growing up. On Friday nights, my dad and I would go to Blockbuster and usually pick up an action flick. My mom was never into those, so she and I watch Bollywood movies together. And whenever that summer’s big Hollywood blockbuster hit the theaters, my dad made sure I didn’t miss it. But I could never really imagine a career in film. I just didn’t see enough people who looked like me on the big screen.
It’s been three years since I graduated from college, and although I’ve secured a steady job as a software developer, the itch for cinema has never left me. So two months ago, I made the leap and started a film production company, Null Pointer Films. I penned a script, auditioned some local actors, and shot my first short film, “Luna.”
This isn’t new advice. It isn’t particularly mindblowing. I’ve heard it enough for it to be cliche. But it’s still worth repeating. If you don’t write a couple of pages, there’s nothing to proofread. If you don’t take a couple of photos, there’s nothing to edit. No matter what it is you’re looking to do, you have to start with something.
Although my eventual goal is to make a full-length movie, that’s way too big a task to take on alone right now. So I had to start small with a short. But even the first couple drafts were too complicated. The story had too many characters and too many locations. So I went back to the drawing board until I had a script that all took place in one location with just three characters. That was a start. More importantly, it was a manageable and realistic goal that I was able to hit.
This one is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s comforting to know that there is a community of other creatives and entrepreneurs out there trying to make a splash in the water like you. On the other hand, it can be intimidating. You’re already a small fish in a big pond. And if you’re more introverted like me, that feeling just gets amplified. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, so it’s important to be prepared.
For me, that preparation came in the form of celebrating the small victories. When I finished writing the first draft of my script or when I finished filming all of my scenes, I took a moment to enjoy it. There’s no shame in needing the motivation to take the next step. On top of that, I completely took a break from anything movie-related when I wrapped filming. I didn’t look at any footage for a week. Instead, I caught up on some reading and just hung out with friends and family so I could come back to it with a refreshed perspective without feeling burnt out.
If there’s something I was surprised to find joy in, it’s making a to-do list. There’s a very special kind of dopamine rush you feel when you complete a task and cross it off the list. It can be tempting to make a to-do list more detailed than it has to be, just so you can cross items off more quickly. It provides a sense of being productive. But you can only become so granular with your tasks until they become meaningless.
After I wrapped filming, it was time to edit. “Editing” itself is a giant umbrella term for all sorts of tasks—cutting the film together, coloring the raw video, sound design, etc. I added all of those items to my list, but I thought some of the items, like sound design, were worthy of their own list. So I added, “Make Sound Design To-Do List” as a task. When the new list was made, I marked the task complete and sat back, quite content with myself. But had I actually made any progress with the sound design? Not really. So what was the point?
To fight this urge, I basically adopted a lite version of the Agile workflow. I’d keep the things that immediately needed my attention on my to-do list and throw everything else in a “backlog.” As I completed tasks, I’d pull in new ones from the backlog. The backlog could be as specific or general as I wanted, but I would not touch those tasks until I had the capacity to pull them in.
All Rhythm, No Blues
Being is a slashie is an exciting lifestyle. But sometimes, you can get so enthralled with it that you get overzealous with how productive you can be in a day. Then the day ends and you find yourself with items still incomplete on your to-do list. Suddenly, you feel like you aren’t doing enough, and that can be stressful.
To make up for days when I didn’t cross everything off of my list, I would stay up late trying to overcompensate. That would just end up burning me out for the next day, which meant I was less likely to get through everything I wanted to do. Then I would stay up late the next night and the whole cycle would begin again.
Being hyper-productive does not mean making progress. Part of being a slashie is learning about your rhythm. We all work at our own schedule, and every successful slashie I know is comfortable with their pace. It can be a trial and error process, but what’s important is giving yourself the time to go through it.
Everything I mentioned above can be boiled down to a single, overarching statement: Give yourself time. When you’re new to being a slashie, everything from deciding when and how often you respond to emails to how curated you want your social media feed to be is a learning experience. So give yourself that time to learn. Give yourself the time to practice. And give yourself the time to define what being a slashie means to you.
We are a generation of entrepreneurs with hyphenated identities defined by not sticking to definitions. If we can handle a hyphen, then what’s another slash?
“Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a meditation on the new moon and guilt. I wrote it when I was living in Dallas and was driving back from a dusk prayer. The new moon terrified me on that drive. I was diseased by the knowledge that my partner, at the time, had seen the worst parts of me. There’s immense shame in this piece—it seized my self-image. If the moon could become brand new, then I could start over.
I often ponder on the moon’s reflective nature and pairs of eyes. I’m hyper-fixated on how I am seen by others. Unfortunately, the brilliance of seeing your reflection in another person leads to negativity. After all, those who are too keen on their own reflection are the same people who suffer from it. It is possible to use shame to fuel one’s retribution and personal growth, without becoming consumed by it.
We can look to Shah Rukh Khan succumbing to alcoholism in his own sorrow and then later imbibing his sadness in Chandramukhi. “Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a lesson for us: Don’t be Shah Rukh Khan in Devdas, instead embody pre-incarnation Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om!
Sometimes when the moon abandons the sky, I wonder if I drove her away.
If she comes back, will she be the same? How I wish she would come back new, truly new! That way she’d have no memory of the sin I’ve confessed to her. You noxious insect. Sin-loving, ego-imbibing pest. You are no monster, for at least a monster has ideology, it sins with purpose. You sin just to chase ignominy.
But the moon won’t say that, she never does. She’ll just leave the sky and return days later, slowly. And I’ll wonder if she’s new, perhaps she won’t remember my past confessions. What does it matter? Were the moon replaced with one from a different god, I’d drive her away, too.
An exclusive standing-room-only crowd, dressed in dazzling colors and shimmer, packed SONA — an upscale South Asian restaurant in Manhattan — in February to celebrate queer love and allyship in the desi community.
The event, ‘Pyar is Pyar’ (which translates to “Love is Love”), recognized the landmark bipartisan legislation that President Biden signed into law in December: the Respect for Marriage Act. The event raised $168,000 to support Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies, an international nonprofit that provides peer support and resources to LGBTQ+ South Asians and their families.
Maneesh Goyal, founder and partner of SONA, organized the event with Shamina Singh, the founder and president of Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth. Both Goyal and Singh are openly queer South Asian leaders and thanked the crowd that evening for their support of other LGBTQ+ desis.
Opal Vadhan and Gautam Raghavan from the Biden/Harris Administration read a letter from President Biden to commemorate the event.
“Jill and I — and Kamala and Doug — hope you have a wonderful night celebrating our nation at our best,” Biden wrote. “May we all carry forth that American promise of freedom together. May we also know that love is love — and pyar is pyar.”
“The work that you do to become visible and powerful, to form narratives, to change minds, and to make people feel something about a cause for equality — that is incredibly important,” Raghavan added, before introducing Vaibhav Jain and Parag Mehta, a same-sex Indian couple that got married in 2019 in Texas.
“They denied us because we are a same-sex couple,” said Jain, who grew up in New Delhi. “This is a violation of the Indian constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex; so we filed suit.”
“Parag and I are hopeful for a positive verdict. If our case wins, it would bring marriage equality to nearly 1.4 billion people across India,” he continued. “Just to put that in perspective, the total number of people today who live in a country with marriage equality is about 1.4 billion. That means our cases together could double the global population of places who live in a place with marriage equality.”
“We need a mechanism to help build allies in our community and to help provide the support that LGBTQ people need,” Mehta added, encouraging people to donate to Desi Rainbow.
Rayman Kaur Mathoda, Desi Rainbow’s board chair, challenged allies to put their dollars behind their vocal support. Her family announced a $50,000 donation to the organization’s ongoing work.
Founded and led by Aruna Rao, a straight cisgender mother of a transgender adult, the nonprofit has served more than 2,000 LGBTQ+ South Asians and their families since 2020. The goal is to serve 10,000 in three years; a million in the next 10 years.
Mathoda, a wife and mother of four, recalled how painful the lack of family and community support can be.
“For most of us who come out in the desi community…coming out is still a negative experience,” she said. “It is not a moment of pride. It is a moment of shame.”
Mathoda thanked all allies in particular for making the road easier for queer South Asians. To find the love and acceptance they want and need.
January 18, 2023January 18, 2023 5min readBy Arun S.
From receiving his MBA from Harvard business school to being the CEO of Asia’s largest music festival brand Sunburn, Karan Singh combined his interests to push his passion for music! Singh received his bachelor’s degree in management from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He worked as an investment banker for three years at Ambit Corporate Finance before working at Sunburn which is a part of his family’s business. Sunburn started providing the music festival experience starting in the year 2007. The first festival was in Candolim, Goa. The music festival brand has put on over 5,000 events over the past 15 years. In 2022 The Sunburn Festival will be in it’s 16th year. Continue reading to learn more about Karan Singh’s journey with the Sunburn music festival!
What does the Sunburn brand offer and what made you have the festival in Goa as opposed to other parts of India?
We believe that Sunburn offers a really unique experience and is a melting pot of diverse people & cultures from not only across India but around the world. Goa is the ideal setting for this as there is something magical about Goa in the winter-time and truly enables us to tap into that global audience.
Safety at live events has always been a concern among concert goers. Considering recent, events more individuals have asked brands and artists to do more to ensure audience safety. What are you doing to ensure safety for live concerts?
Safety is a huge priority for us. We work with the best-in-class security agencies as well as closely with the police and requisite authorities. For anyone in the crowd a Sunburn safety officer will always be close by and easily visible. We also run an awareness drive on both social media and on ground.
What was the first Sunburn Festival like and what did you learn from this experience?
The first ever Sunburn Festival was in December 2007, and I had actually attended it as a fan, not part of the crew. However, it was absolutely eye-opening as the first proper music festival on Indian shores and opened up our minds to a world of possibilities.
As Sunburn houses so many electronic dance musicians who have been your favorites throughout the years?
It is difficult to pick from the list however the favorites for Sunburn, in no order and because of the amount of love they have shown Indian audiences, are Martin Garrix, DJ Snake, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Hardwell and Armin van Buuren.
Do you plan to expand the festival to add other genres into the mix as well as more activities?
We have already expanded into different formats like Arena, Campus, Club, Reload and things like merchandize & academy. In terms of genres, we have been dabbling with genres like rap, hip-hop and pop, however our focus remains on electronic dance music.
What can someone expect from the festival as first-time goers?
Apart from a state-of-the-art production & line-up, one can expect a special experience, meeting interesting people from all over the world, and embarking on a creative journey of the theme for the year.
How does the festival help local musicians from Goa as well as the surrounding areas in India?
This year we had set up for the first time a special stage and village in the festival only for Goa which gave a platform to local Goan artists. But beyond that a huge focus for us has always been to showcase domestic home-grown talent and indeed 60-70% of the line-up each year is locally sourced.
What was the experience like this year in 2022 and how is it different from previous years?
The biggest difference was that this was the first time the festival was back to its full scale since the pandemic hit after 3 long years. It was a fantastic release for everyone there. Our theme was “the future is now” and this was reflected across the festival experience and particularly in the main stage design – termed “Cyberpunk City” which received rave reviews from all.
What was it like having the legends Black Coffee and Afrojack this year as well as the DJ duo Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike?
Afrojack and DVLM are both Sunburn & India veterans, it was amazing having them back crushing the main stage after very long. Black Coffee for us was something very new and exciting, to have a special artist and a unique sound like that close the main stage on day 2. However it was very well-received and took our experience to the next level.
As you have had the artist Avicii back in December 2011 how do you feel he revolutionized Electronic Dance Music?
Avicii is one of my all-time favorite artists and his show in December 2011 was actually my first one working on Sunburn so will always be extra special. There is no doubt that he revolutionized EDM by taking massive risks and introducing an entirely new sound which a lot of others then followed, but no one as well as he did.
How does it feel to be in charge of one of Asia’s biggest Electronic Dance Music Festivals?
It feels great, we have a very young but ambitious and hard-working team and our primary focus is to continue delivering the best possible experiences for our fans, artists and partners. India is such a vibrant and exciting market that I cannot help but be pumped about what the future holds.
Do you feel Electronic Dance Music is a misunderstood genre?
More so in a country like India possibly yes, where people who are not exposed to these experiences sometimes have preconceived notions about EDM festivals and the like. Oftentimes those people are also in a decision-making capacity and can directly affect the industry. However, things are certainly improving as the industry overall gets bigger and gets more acceptance.
What does music mean to you, Karan Singh?
Music provides a sound-track to life, it is something which is always there!
How do you choose to react when you receive negative comments about the Sunburn Festival?
Well, you have to be able to differentiate between those which are just trolling and those which are constructive or fair criticism. The latter is very important as it helps us to look at ourselves and continually improve, we are still a long way from where we eventually want to be.
Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?
I hope it allows us at Sunburn to reach a wider audience of the desi community around the world and hopefully get some more people to fly down to Goa for Sunburn Festival 2023 which I can promise you all will be the best one yet!
Dimitri Vegas Like Mike
We have had a long connection with India. The first time we played here was more than a decade ago. Going from clubs to being a regular feature at one of Asia’s biggest electronic music festivals which is now an institution in itself. It’s been an exciting evolution to see how Sunburn has grown over the years. The fans at Sunburn are some of the most insane and every show is a special one. We’ve always had an incredible experience at Sunburn.
Honestly, the energy I feel when I am in India is one of the most amazing things. I would say the culture and energy is what keeps me coming back! India is like a second home to me, just like Sunburn. I feel so comfortable and welcomed here. I’m always excited about coming to India and playing at Sunburn, experiencing new cities, meeting more of the people, hearing more of the music, and seeing more of the country that has influenced me so much.
Sunburn has helped dance music artists world over to tour India and connect with their Indian fans and I’m always excited about performing at the festival.
I’ve a long history with the Sunburn team. They are a great team to work with and they also give the fans amazing experiences. As an artist, I want to be a part of providing fans with lifelong memories and so we all share the same vision.
Sunburn is one of the pioneers of the dance music festival scene in India and has been instrumental in creating a truly world class platform that supports the dance music industry and all of its stakeholders. I’m always excited about touring India with Sunburn.