My first-ever interview with Sneha Jayaprakash, for a newspaper in India in 2014, read something like this: “From Chennai to California, Sneha Jayaprash’s life is a source of inspiration to students. Winner of Microsoft Youth Spark Challenge (2013), Microsoft Imagine Fund (2014), and a summer internship with Microsoft, Sneha Jayprakash is sparking social change…” Sneha is one of the cleverest, wittiest, smartest friends I have on Facebook and her posts are even better than Buzzfeed. There, I said it; sorry puppy videos.
Q1. If there is one stereotype you would want to be remembered to break, which one would it be?
I don’t want to be remembered for breaking a stereotype. I want to be remembered for my own merits, and not because I disprove people’s perceptions of women, or Indian-Americans, or whatever bucket they try to put me into.
I’m a woman of color in a tech field, making me a statistical minority. I know there are certain prevalent perceptions about this group, but purposefully trying to break a stereotype implies that there’s something wrong with the people who don’t. For example, if I dress casually to break a stereotype about women being concerned with their appearances, doesn’t that imply that the women who do dress up for work each day are shallow or inferior in some way?
I shouldn’t be pit against other women or Indian-Americans. I want to be remembered as someone who directly made life better for those who knew me and indirectly impacted those who didn’t. I want to leave this world a better place than when I entered it. Whether or not I break any stereotypes in the process doesn’t matter to me.
Q2. There could be no other family like yours because:
Your dad: My dad is such a powerhouse. I fondly remember childhood evenings spent in a giant pile of cheap plastic beads. I would pick up a random bead, and force him to hunt around for another that matched the exact color, size, and shape. He held one end of the string, while I held the other, and we would both add our beads on at the same time, making perfectly symmetrical necklaces. Now that I work full-time, I can’t imagine coming home from a long, exhausting day of work and then patiently putting up with a child’s obsessive necklace-making. It’s not just his patience and dedication to our family that I admire; he shaped my entire view of the world. In high school, I volunteered at a museum an hour away from home. The entire drive there and back, he would tell me about the latest news in politics or technology or give me history lessons. We would brainstorm business ideas, or discuss ethics. I wouldn’t have even a fraction of my ambition, intelligence, or critical thinking skills without him.
Your mum: While my dad opens my eyes to the world around me, my mom helps me reflect inward. Apparently, when I was very young, I told my mom that when I grow up, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom just like her. She spent the rest of my childhood incepting seeds of encouragement to make me want to stand on my own two feet, be independent, and make a career for myself. She doesn’t just talk the talk though. Despite the fact that she is college-educated, she was raised in a fairly conservative household and was encouraged to start a family instead of a career. After my brother and I grew up, she decided to finally join the workforce. She was more than 40 years old, and age-discrimination in the workforce is still alive and well. Despite those obstacles, she is now a beloved childcare provider and teacher. Her courage in the face of any external obstacles and her own internal insecurities never ceases to amaze me. Also, her ability to read people is just unnatural. After a brief introduction to a new friend of mine, she can predict with uncanny accuracy whether they would eventually break my heart or become one of my lifelong friends. Her understanding of people and her ability to empathize with others taught me about compassion and sacrifice. From her, I learned that ambition must never come at the cost of being unkind to others.
Your siblings: My brother is everything I wish I was when I was younger. When he was in middle school, he was interested in psychology, so he read professional textbooks and online scientific journal articles and had very insightful conversations with me about the material from my college-level classes… as a 13-year-old. He is also a very promising chef and can make killer quiches and crepes from scratch. He is just an all-around interesting person. His passions range from the ever-popular photography to obscure interests like special effects makeup for horror movies. (He once used liquid latex and red paint to trick us into thinking he had stabbed himself with a toothpick.) He plays the clarinet and goes on week-long backpacking trips. I am always impressed by his creativity and his almost-obsessive absorption of knowledge when it comes to his interests. If only those interests included getting good grades… In any case, even if I was a better student, he is undeniably cooler than me, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.
Q3. What doesn’t come easily to you?
I have always wanted to be a good singer, not in a professional, album-making, concert-giving sense, but in a really-good-at-karaoke kind of way. I can hold a tune, but I also get very nervous in front of other people. In high school, I pushed myself to perform publicly in musicals and at a couple school talent shows to try and get over the anxiety, but it never really improved. I still break into a sweat and my voice cracks every time I try to sing in front of anyone.
Q4. A random act of kindness that still brightens up your day?
This is a random act of kindness I witnessed, not one done to me, but it still makes me happy when I remember it. I was riding the bus to class one day, and just as the bus was about to pull away from one of the stops along the route, a man came sprinting up. The bus driver pulled over again and opened the door, waiting for him to board. He said, “I actually don’t need to take this bus, but there’s someone running up the street who does. Would you mind waiting for them?” The bus driver waited for the other person, who boarded the bus and sat down. And that’s the entire story. This may seem like an odd bit of kindness to share, and it’s not because I don’t know of any others; I’m lucky to have wonderful people in my life who will go out of their way to cheer up a friend who has had a bad day, or buy a hot meal for a homeless person they pass by on the street, for example. But this particular encounter really impressed me. It would have been so easy for him to just let the bus go by. Besides, another bus would have come by in 20 minutes anyway, and no one would have faulted him for not going out of his way to help that person. I appreciated that there are people who will go out of their way to make someone’s day nominally better, just because they can.
Q5. One little-known fact about you?
I was born with an extra bone in my foot. I didn’t discover it until I was 16 when I was training for my arangetram (a classical Indian dance graduation performance). During one practice, my foot hurt so much that I couldn’t even stand on it. I had always known something was wrong with my leg, but I had been misdiagnosed with flat feet for years. I had a surgery to remove it later that year, but it’s still fun to tell people I was born with 207 bones.
Born and raised in India, Anisha Dhiman moved to Toronto to study Publishing and then Lifestyle Media at Centennial College. Writer, social media strategist and content creator, Anisha is the founder of Five Question Series, where she profiles people… you guessed it, by asking five questions. In her free time, she enjoys reading and trolling people with puppy GIFs and memes. Her only phobia? Losing her sight, but staring at the screen all day long doesn’t help much.