Tanushree, the founder of The Desi Condition, believes that it’s essential to find your community. A space to be authentically, unapologetically yourself. It seems like a straightforward thought, but for many, it can look like a daring feat. That’s why the Desi Condition’s resources and mission are so important.
Tanushree hosts The Desi Condition podcast, which focuses on increasing awareness about mental health in the South Asian community. She has interviewed guests from across the South Asian Diaspora and seeks to understand the conflicts at the heart of mental health issues. Her approach explores the impact of cultural and sociological factors that often contribute to the development of these issues. She describes the name of the Desi Condition as not only the focus on a desi perspective, but also a reflection of the health of the desi community.
Her own experiences informed the approach to analyzing the experiences of her guests and listeners. When Tanushree first experienced mental health symptoms, she didn’t have as much knowledge about them. “Looking back,” she says, “I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about [them] and why they had developed.”
This very lack of knowledge inspired her to create The Desi Condition. “I thought, I know I can’t be alone in this,” she explained. The stigma surrounding mental health issues in South Asian communities can be pervasive, and can unfortunately create or exacerbate existing health issues. Tanushree recognizes that the stigma has deep roots, and many of us are just now recognizing the trauma and seeking healing.
Most of us, Tanushree commented, are programmed to live in the future not the present, “which is a more western way of thinking.”
We discussed why pursuing an M.D. degree is the most well-known career goal for South Asians. Many immigrant families emphasize celebrating accomplishments and possessions. While this can be supportive, it can be harmful when those achievements become a competition between unwilling participants, and parents compare their children to others. Some children also struggle when pressured to pursue a particular career, which can negatively affect their mental health.
“But [we] don’t talk about the struggle to get to that place. No one has ever asked me if I wanted to pursue my career, and I wonder if things would have been different if I had known about other professions.”
In beginning non-traditional pursuits, it’s important to find community.
“You are never truly alone,” Tanushree emphasized. The Desi Condition strives to promote this supportive message. The Desi Condition’s podcast guests and social media posts affirm and encourage South Asians experiencing mental health issues. Many featured guests are candid about their mental health experiences, including struggles with eating disorders, depression, and bipolar disorder.
In traditional South Asian communities, however, fulfilling connections may be missing.
“For a culture that’s so loud and colorful, so vociferous we don’t talk a lot,” Tanushree noted. “We’re not loud about things going on inside…we don’t talk about things that speak to our character. ”
For example, the immigrant experience is an important part of the South Asian community’s history, but we agreed that many of us don’t hear a whole lot about the topic. This is one part of the sociological and historical issues that Tanushree explores.
“It would only add to heightened connection if we talked more about that experience and its associated emotions,” Tanushree commented. When I shared that I learned about the concept of pain traveling through generations, Tanushree responded that healing also travels that way. The amount of resources that may not have been available just a few years ago are helping many young South Asians now, The Desi Condition podcast included.
Tanushree is also the founder of The Desi Collective: “a new directory that aims to help South Asian creative professionals connect with each other to support and collaborate on South Asian inspired art.”
The Desi Collective is a unique way to support South Asian artists and creators and to collaborate to put out more South Asian inspired content. Tanushree also believes that creative expression can be an outlet for mental health. And the subcontinent, she says, “is brimming with talent.”
As an industrial designer, Tanushree worked in consumer product design. She was previously a mechanical engineer, and it was through discovering industrial design that Tanushree realized how much support and representation South Asians need in the arts.
“The directory was created as a way for people to connect with each other. I wanted to show that you can be a professional in a creative field and don’t have to give up any of your pursuits.”
I asked Tanushree how she would respond to someone having doubts about pursuing a career in the creative arts.
“You know who you are, your values and know what’s in your heart and important to you. I don’t want you to look back one day and think I cheated myself because I did what was expected of me.”
“Even if you get no as an answer,” she continued, you don’t lose anything. “We get caught up in the what if. But what if we look in the past, we think about all the things in life that led [you] to pursue this. Those are things that matter.”
It’s been a year since Tanushree started The Desi Condition podcast, and she has many goals on the horizon, including collaborating for charitable pursuits, building a larger team, and interviewing Hasan Minhaj one day: “He’s just so likeable. I would love to have him on the podcast.” She encourages South Asian writers, artists, and other creatives to submit their work to be featured on the website, even if they don’t consider themselves professionals in those fields. The goal of advocating for mental health and wellness through the cultural lens of the Asian diaspora is so relatable that even non-Desi Asians have reached out to Tanushree to comment that her content has resonated with them.
If you’d like to reach out and contribute to the conversation about mental health, there are many ways to get involved with The Desi Condition, such as submitting your work, joining their team, or being a guest on the podcast. Tanushree is open to collaborations and other artistic endeavors. Listen to The Desi Condition on your chosen medium.