roughly edged ideas about building stuff

some stories are never told…because no one asks

Posted by suneelgupta on April 21, 2009

Tonight, Sanjay and I launch the Kahani Movement, a social network aimed at capturing stories from South Asians that immigrated to the United States, and giving these stories a platform to be heard.

After fleeing the bloodshed of India and Pakistan’s partition, my mom, as a child refugee, decided she would one day be an engineer for Ford Motor Company. She worked her way from impoverished areas of Gujurat to Frankfurt, Germany, where she eventually saved enough for the journey to Detroit in 1963. After being turned away several times, she finally convinced a hiring manager at Ford to give her 15 minutes. He began the conversation by saying “We don’t have any female engineers on staff,” to which she replied: “If you don’t begin with me, you may never have that benefit.”And that is how Damyanti “Rani” Gupta became Ford’s first female engineer.

Every family has a story that is worth preserving. This is why tonight my brother Sanjay and I are launching the Kahani Movement, an open-source film project focused on telling stories from South Asians that immigrated to the United States, during the opening ceremony of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. We began Kahani, which means “story” in Hindi, with three goals in mind:

1. Assemble a well-organized archive of content that helps current and future generations better understand the South Asian immigration experience. I believe that second-generation immigrants reach a point in their lives when they begin to truly appreciate their parents’ story. When that switch flips, we want people to document their discoveries. Specifically, we want second-generation South Asians to pick up camera, interview their parents, and upload these stories to

2. Empower the Kahani community to collaborative creatively. Simon Beaufoy was inspired to write Slumdog Millionaire after reading the novel, Q&A. Similarly, Kahani Movement inspires community members to add their content under a Creative Commons license and remix the community’s content to tell the the South Asian immigration story in new, imaginative ways.

3. Inspire others outside of the South Asian community to create their own Kahani Movement. Every community has powerful stories that are worth preserving. An important goal for Kahani is to lower the barrier to capturing these stories by creating a digital model that is easy to replicate.

In about an hour, Sanjay, Leena, and I will be driving to the Arclight Cinema to unveil the Kahani Movement vision to an audience of over 500 people. I’m anxious for a few reasons. Kahani is special to me personally on different levels. Kahani has changed the way I look at storytelling and made me realize the amount of influence a well-told story can have. It has given me the opportunity to blend my interest in tech with a longstanding passion for film, which never quite left me since the day I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch “the Graduate”. It has brought me closer to my parents, and given me the opportunity to collaborate with my big brother, my best friend and greatest mentor. If my mother were here with me in L.A., she’d sense my anxiousness. She would sit me down and tell me a story about how she was nervous walking into an all-boys engineering school in India. I miss that story.


One Response to “some stories are never told…because no one asks”

  1. Shiraz said

    Suneel, that’s great. These stories need to be told – we need to be reminded of where we came from so that we can be inspired for our future. My dad is one of those people – born into poverty in a small town in Pakistan, climbing his way out to be the first in his family to go to medical school, making it here to the US and constantly defying the odds to follow his dream of becoming a plastic surgeon. He still gives back constantly – he was actually in Haiti with your brother and never stops trying to give back. I believe there are hundreds of amazing and inspiring stories out there; I’m excited to hear them.

    Thanks again for sharing 🙂

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