The old one-dimensional female archetypes -- the soccer mom, the starving artist, the successful-but-lonely boss lady -- are dead. Women are creating new, multidimensional archetypes and defying stereotypes. The most fulfilled women are constantly creating in multiple areas of their lives, whereas burnout often happens when we feel like the routine of our day job is all we have time for. The Archetypal Woman Series is a tribute to inspiring women who rearrange time and space to explore and excel in a range of activities. May their stories encourage you to expand into your own uniqueness for the benefit of you and everyone in your orbit.
Editor's note: Have you heard of Noor Khan, who was a Muslim spy in World War II? Or the "Japanese Schindler", Chiune Sugihara, who helped many Jews escape Europe? Screenwriter Ashwini Prasad wants to make sure these and other diverse historical figures are remembered and their stories are told. Ashwini wrote her first screenplay earlier this year. Having earned three different Master's degrees and having spent time in the corporate realm, Ashwini certainly has a well-rounded perspective. She also has some words of wisdom for people who feel they've lost their creativity. ~ Mary Margaret
You have three Master’s degrees. Why did you select the particular programs you completed?
I selected my first Master’s degree, an Interdisciplinary Degree, because I never understood why college students had to select one major. I saw and continue to see intersections between sociology, anthropology, philosophy, etc. The degree was a great fit for me and the way I think.
I really liked Philosophy, especially applied ethics, so I pursued a second Master’s degree. I wanted to do a PhD in Philosophy at that time. However, after getting my Masters degree in Philosophy, I knew that a PhD in the Liberal Arts was not for me. I wanted praxis in my work.
After my realization, I wanted to get a degree outside of the Liberal Arts. I decided to pursue a Masters in Business Administration because many institutions are businesses. An MBA would allow me the flexibility to choose different industries and places to live. I need the aforementioned in my life because many options and paths in my life are important to me.
What drove you to continue pursuing education?
I really enjoy learning. If I could get paid a living wage and go to school, I would. I also
find the ability to teach others as one of my gifts. I really enjoy coaching, guiding, and
mentoring people. As a teen, I remember many peers coming to me for advice. As an adult, friends and co-workers approach me with their personal and career issues and look to me as a confidante. I enjoy being this person for those in my life.
What motivated you to start writing screenplays earlier this year?
The #oscarsowhite hashtag conversation came up again in early 2019 along with conversations about marginalized people in Hollywood. Around that time, I saw a news headline about the only female Director to win an Emmy, Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker.
I was struck by this fact and I wanted to know about the contributions of women and marginalized people in North America. I started researching South Asians in North America and their contributions to the US and Canada. I found out so much information about this group and their contributions in North America and the world. I wanted to tell their stories, which are also my stories, to a large audience.
I started writing my first script in March 2019, “Tapestry,” which is about the South Asian experience today, and a love story between an Indian Nurse and British soldier in World War I. I’m crowdsourcing and getting myself out there with videos about my script and for people to get to know me. In 2020, I will do crowdfunding to get trailers and posters made for my projects. More information about me and my screenwriting is on my YouTube channel.
What stories are you passionate about telling?
I am passionate about stories about those erased from history. I was shocked to find out that 1.3 million soldiers fought for the British Empire in World War I and in subsequent wars. Out of those 1.3 million soldiers, there were 400,000 Muslims who served. Over 73,000 of the soldiers died. The Indian soldiers were in an interesting place where they were fighting for the British and against the British because of colonization.
I also found out about Noor Khan, who was a Muslim spy in World War II. Her father was an Indian Muslim and her mother was American and from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Noor lived as a spy by relaying information and moving from space to space. She was captured by the Germans and executed by Dachau. I also learned about the Japanese Schindler, Chiune Sugihara. He was a Japanese government official who was stationed in Lithuania. He provided many Jewish refugees transit visas across Asia to escape from Europe.
We should know all these people’s names. There is work done in Britain about Asians and their contribution, but their stories are not mainstream like Oscar Schindler. I wrote “Tapestry” so that people would know about the South Asian Indian contributions in World War I.
You were born in Fiji Islands, raised in Calgary and Vancouver, and spent much of your adult life in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. When people ask where you’re “from”, what do you say? Which place feels most like home, and why?
I don’t identify being from anywhere. We are all world citizens. I can’t say that I call any place home. I like the city vibes of Vancouver, BC, New York City, London and Barcelona. These are places I could live for a long period of time.
What advice would you give someone who is frustrated she has no creative outlet and doesn’t know where to begin?
The first action I suggest to people is to write down what brought joy to them as a child.
Then, think about the things they wrote down and what makes them smile now. After that, I suggest to people to take a class or join a group that is doing what makes them smile today. There are cheap classes through community centers or community colleges. Perhaps, a friend of a friend of a friend offers free or reasonably priced classes for an adult first-timer.
In short, think about what brought you joy as a child and explore the options today to be in the spaces that brought you joy.
What’s next for you?
I want to continue my work in diversity and inclusion as a diversity strategic consultant. I am looking to transition to this as my full-time career and any support will be greatly appreciated! Another next step for me is to make a living as a creative in the arts and entertainment. I want to also make my living writing and making movies with historically under-represented people as the leads.
Ashwini is a South Asian Indian immigrant to the United States but her life is more complex. She was born in Fiji Islands, raised in both Calgary, Alberta and Vancouver, British Columbia. She spent her adult life in the United States, mainly in the Pacific Northwest. Her career interests are in diversity and inclusion and strategic consulting while her personal interests are in screenwriting, travel and finding good eats.
You can learn more about Ashwini at www.ashwiniprasadofficial.com as well as at Stage 32, FilmFreeway, and on YouTube. Follow her on Twitter @IntrinsicallyP. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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