What do you get, when you mix creativity, academia, social change and a life of culinary delights? A twenty-one year old.
Buddha said, “No one saves us, but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” This is one of many quotations which Nitika Sachdev weaves into this interview.
Born in Chennai, South India, Nitika has been embarking on a journey across the world. And in 2012, her stop was London, where in her foundation class at Central Saint Martins, we first met. Maybe it were that we were young and trying to establish ourselves, or maybe I were far too engrossed into creating seemingly innovative work, to realise the potential world-changer in the girl who sat in my class for the first three months. Now, three years on, Nitika is currently “freezing cold”, studying in Colgate, Upstate New York, majoring in Studio Art and minoring in Women’s Studies. She’s on a mission, and this is no New York fairytale.
“I was extremely depressed during my first year at Colgate. I was disheartened by the fact that I had decided to come to a university that is predominantly white, upper-class, and conservative.” Despite this caliginous start, avoiding a detrimental journey though depression, Nitika took an enthused step in shifting her concentration inwards: “I realised that i cannot place my happiness or my contentment on external factors as true happiness is internal.” And thus, her realisation impelled her towards meditation and mindfulness, persevering, because Nitika has much bigger plans which have stemmed from her childhood.
Her mother married having no formal education, but turned to business- successfully opening and operating the first Subway in South India, which became the foundation for her husbands flourishing restaurateur career. Her mother had the advantage of class and the willingness of her husband to support her. “Not everybody has access to such privilege”, acknowledges Nitika. The absence of a college education, meant that she instilled in her two daughters, the belief that one may need to rely on oneself in the future. And thus, Nitika saw the positive in her mothers encouragement for education, enforcing the idea of self-reliance and academia in life.
Having since taken a gap-year as well as gaining the ability to quote Buddha and Marjane Satrapi effortlessly, which is endearing, she is currently painting a critical piece based around meritocracy. But withal, she’s most recently taken part in Colgate’s production of The Vagina Monologues; a liberating and advantageous production for openly exploring a myriad of topics. Described on Facebook statues as ‘powerful’ and ‘insightful’, and all with some rather explicitly tempting cupcakes to celebrate their performance!
Novelty treats aside, enveloped in Nitika’s youth, is the mind and determination of someone who identifies imperfections in society which are often embellished with well-structured sentences, political promises and concepts.
“I aspire to be somebody who has an effect on the world,” she says, “I believe that it is our duty to question the ways that systems of class, race [and] gender, function in our society.” Nitika is bold. And she, at the same time as Patricia Arquette made her Oscars speech, shares the realisation to empower women: “We are distracted by fantasies of power provided to us by the media, by the society, by the government, by the patriarchy, that insists that women have full equality. We are fed messages that equality has already been achieved so we should focus on the power that we have when men want you and women want to be you,” explains Nitika. “The media perpetuates the idea that self-worth is directly proportional to the body. It is merely sexism disguised as feminism as it places so much importance on the body as a source of empowerment for women.”
It is because of such identifications, that Nitika wishes to deepen her knowledge of these power structures and aim to challenge and transform them for an equal, better-working society, where women are not tools but wholly emancipated.
Many women fall into the trap of feeling unqualified as a powerful women because women are often told, or assume what we should be doing and by what age. She deplores the idea that “we are taught to fit into a mould, to lean into the system”. Nitika, leans into no system. Success to her, is therefore beyond monetary or society-influenced value. “For me, success doesn’t take the form of a pinnacle or plateau, for instance. I think success is an ever-evolving term. I reach success every day in many different ways, as I keep trying to do better.”
Navigating oneself through your twenties often encompasses pizza over politics and post-graduation is the time for action. Not in Nitika’s case. She describes herself as loving, and content. Others may describe her as empowering and enticing. I describe her as a powerhouse in the making.