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My Very Own Bully: Indian American teen wins NPR podcast challenge

NRI Pulse Staff Report

Atlanta, GA, May 18, 2021: A 16-year-old Indian American teen from Chicago, Illinois has won the NPR Student Podcast Challenge for her story about her struggle to embrace her identity.

University of Chicago Laboratory School student Kriti Sarav’s entry titled “My very own bully” was the unanimous choice among the judges.

Kriti told NPR she identifies as Indian-American and the hyphen is important. “Her podcast is all about growing up between cultures and how at times she resented the parts of herself that didn’t seem to fit the mold she saw around her,” says the NPR feature on the teen.

“My honey-brown skin contrasted greatly with the peachy whites and olives of my friends. My parents called me raja and beta, not munchkin or cutie-pie. When I opened up my lunchbox, I had a thermos full of daal and rice and chapati and roti — not mac n’ cheese or PB&J,” Kriti says in her podcast.

“I hated the way other kids would look at my grandma and me shopping. I hated the way they would ask if her bindi was a mole. Deep down, I wanted to rip that bindi off her head and cut off her long, thick, dark, braided hair and put a nice dress with a blue cardigan on her.”

After years of internalizing these feelings of otherness, Kriti told NPR, she realized recently that she had become her biggest critic. The podcast was her way of taking back the narrative and finally saying: Enough is enough.

“It really doesn’t matter what you or anyone else, for that matter, says to me. What matters are the words that I whisper, day in and day out, to myself.”

“I am strong. I am powerful. You have such an amazing and vibrant culture. You should just be proud of who you are. Be proud of where you come from.”

Kriti told NPR she hopes her story can provide some comfort to all the other kids out there who’ve felt this kind of isolation and pain.

Listen to Kriti’s award-winning podcast here:


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