Thanks to You I’m on my Way…

Thanks to you, I am on my way The opening of my new art studio, Studio PAUSE, is one day away, and as I get it ready for the public, I can’t forget the wonderful people who made all this happen who will not be there to see the ribbon being cut. The wonderful people from all over the world who loved and supported my idea, sent me encouragement and suggestions, and above all trusted me with their money—the amazing lenders of Kiva Zip.

I wanted to thank you all with a small work of art which I wish I could mail to each of you but I am instead putting it here digitally. It’s an adaptation of the collage I created for the cover of one of my early storybooks, Haathi (elephant, in the Hindi language.) The story is about a Big City Girl who visits a forest reserve in Gorumara National Park, in the state of W. Bengal, India, and sees her first wild elephant towering over their little red car.

Every time I have taken this storybook to a classroom, held it up, and asked the kids what they think the story might be about, the answers have been great. “An adventure!” to some. “A drive through a dark and scary forest!” to others. “A story about the  jungle!” and even “The story of a brave red car!”

I feel like that brave red car today, on an adventure driving through a dark and scary forest of launching a business. But I feel brave because I am not in the car alone, though most people might just see me. I have the support of all the wonderful Kiva members from far and near. And I read their comments often—cut and pasted in to a Word doc stored on my hard drive. 🙂

For Kiva members who might be nearby please email me at and drop me a line. I’d love to see you at the opening tomorrow, 4-7 pm. Details at For everyone else, I will post pictures from tomorrow.

Thanks so much, and here I go…!

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You are Invited to Pause!

studio keysI got the keys to my studio on Friday and I ran home to get a keyring. I picked up the Netflix movie from the mailbox. I had no idea which one it was and I didn’t have time. I had to find the perfect key ring…and I found the one I had bought on Jebel Shams, those gorgeous rocky mountains in Oman.

“You bought that from the guy who owned the goat that followed me into the SUV,” my son remembered. “Yes!” I was thrilled he did. We had gone there six years ago. “And that goat thought I would share my Cadbury Gems!” I felt the wool in my hands. Wool from far far away. Wool with a story…

On Saturday people came to visit. First, it was the pest control technician. Then my friend Kat, who couldn’t believe her eyes. She has the most gorgeous studio I have ever seen—full of her beautiful ceramics, works on wood and fabric—each one a gorgeous story. Yet she liked my empty space.

Then came Colleen who was walking home from the nearby gym. She started telling Kat her idea about stories of recipes she wanted to share at the studio (coming up in Nov-Dec, stay tuned!) and her plans to bake stuff she can never eat. That started Kat off about menus her uncle saved from his time working at the White House and how she and I were going to get all the stories out of her uncle!

Right then, the pest control technician who was getting me to sign the iPad receipt pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of Reagan climbing up the stairs to Air Force One. Then I noticed a young Marine standing nearby. It was him in his youth!

Soon, Lisa stopped in. She was on her 4.5 mile walk and was headed to get coffee at Shirlington. She suggested I do a PAUSE Session for people who don’t have stories and said she was free on Saturday afternoons. So I said “Done! And I will call the class So You Think You Don’t Have a Story?”

There was laughter, a walk, coffee, and suggestions of field trips. Stories about moms and childhood parks. Many memories shared, and a better understanding of the people we call “friends.”

Yesterday the movers came. Young Yuri, a boxer from Ukraine, asked about the different kinds of writings he saw in my art. “When you feel some emotion you can write it out in your language and make it a painting. Then only you know what it is,” he said as I typed it out and emailed his idea to myself. I told him I had learned Russian when I lived in Bombay and he told me to write Fragile on a box full of canvasses. I asked him for the Russian word for Fragile and wrote it in the beautiful Cyrillic script. He made two corrections. I asked him if he liked art. He said he didn’t know the word for it in English but he’d like to learn to make cups, bowls… and he gestured with his hand—he was working with clay. I told him a friend of mine teaches classes in ceramics. Kat does!

When we moved the furniture into the new space the two movers smiled. It was much bigger than the earlier one. “You can teach many classes here! And there is extra space to dance!” Rumba music played on the iPod.

So what art and stories will you bring to Studio PAUSE? The grand opening is on Sept 14, from 4-7 pm and everybody is invited! And the theme at the studio for Sept-Oct is Black And White And… so bring a something along to put on the PAUSE Wall, something that the theme reminds you of. Something that can inspire others who visit. It can be a word, a photo torn from a newspaper, a postcard—anything. There will be a show opening that day, beautiful work by a woman who I have worked with for over a year and I didn’t even know she made art! Black And White And Lines is the title of her show and it will be up all month.

And I  start teaching PAUSE Sessions Monday Sept 16!! So check them all out here and pick something to explore. But most of all, promise yourself some PAUSE and let the creativity and community happen. Can’t wait to see you all soon!!

Address, directions and parking details here.

Oh, and the Netflix movie we watched that night? It was Lawrence of Arabia. I had never seen it before but I bet you have. Now remember those camels and all that colorful wool stuff they were decorated with? The long tassles that swayed when they walked through the desert? Now look at my keychain picture above…

Yup. That’s what I’m talking about! 🙂


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Why do Random Strangers Seem to Love my Idea?

making booksYou know when you think you have a great idea and don’t want to tell people because they will think it’ll be impossible? Well, I thought I would try telling it to strangers first.

After being encouraged and endorsed by an awesome local organization, Empowered Women International, where I did my entrepreneurship training from over five years ago, I put my idea out to a world of people I’ve never met.

People, that is, who are the wonderful micro-lenders at Kiva Zip. I shared my idea of opening an artist’s studio in my community where I would work, where people could come see my work, explore creativity, and celebrate the art and stories in their community. I haven’t found exactly a space like that myself—there are places where I can do art and there are places I can write, and there are places I can meet people but where do we gather to explore art, share our culture, and tell stories all in one place?

A classroom where can we ask a photojournalist why she shoots pictures in black and white or listen to someone tell us how Haitian artists make their art. How about a space where a grown woman can clap and laugh as she tears colorful handmade paper to create a beautiful collage—her first one ever? A venue where a dad and kid can spend some time creating Lego creatures and imagining stories about them. Even, a studio where two boys can get a tube of orange paint, a box of shredded newspaper, and a canvas and see what they make out of it.

Barn book, Senior Art Institute, Falls Church, VA 2013

A community livingroom where we can share stories like the one a senior citizen  shared with me about spending childhood winters playing in a New Hampshire barn, being careful not to step on hidden eggs forgotten in the hayloft; where she can then make a little book that looks just like that barn and put that story inside; and where her friends can gasp that she cut up her broom and glued it into the book just to create that very hayloft!

That is what I hope Studio Pause will be: a space for the community to PAUSE and share all their talent and ideas and stories, so we can understand each other and get a peek into other worlds.

So I put my idea for Studio PAUSE out there.

And I have been simply amazed at the support! From random strangers here at home in Arlington, all the way to Sydney, Australia; from farmers to aspiring poets; from schools to mommies—the Kiva Zip lenders — individuals who want to make a big difference with just a little bit of money — have blown me away with their encouragement. Here are some of their comments:

“I really like your courage to do something so different as well as giving to your community.” – Jeanne, USA

“Sushmita – I too live in Arlington and wish you the best of luck. When you get your studio up and running, I would love to come in and learn from you. I have a very creative side that has been stunted a bit by the hours I spend at my corporate job. Please let me know.” – Susan, USA

“As a fellow Indian-American and an aspiring poet and writer I am ever so grateful to my mentors who encouraged me in the craft. 
Thank you for providing a wonderful opportunity for people to tap into their creative side. 
I wish you all the best as you embark on this adventure.” – Charles, USA

“Maybe you could offer Art Therapy sessions there, too? There are plenty of Art Therapists around that I’m sure would be available to run a group one night a week or something.” – Eric, USA

“I love art and books, so I’m honored to be able to contribute a little to your project.” – Frederic, France

“I absolutely love what you’re doing and I know it’s going to rock. Wish you the best of luck!” – Ana, USA

“I know Sushmita, so when her profile came up in KivaZip I thought I’d explore this loan option supporting someone I know. I tend to choose women artists or those working in agriculture or food, often from countries I have traveled.” – Suzanne, USA

lego creature and book

A creature created out of Lego and a storybook about it!
Youth Arts Festival activity taught by my son, the Lego whiz, and I, Alexandria, VA 2013

Thirty-seven percent of my $5,000 goal has already been funded by random strangers such as these in just a few weeks. But my loan is eligible for invitation-only loan matching too! And I invite you to check it out: 

New lenders who make loans after following the special link above will be matched and will double their impact. You can lend from $5 and up and your money will be returned in the full within a year. And stay tuned for more by joining my mailing list from the sidebar to the right to see what your funds and support can allow me and the community around me to do!

I’m on the verge of finalizing the location of Studio Pause, and filling in the details of my new website, and with just a few more KivaZip lenders, the fun will begin soon. So what do you think? Is it impossible?

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Chai and Stories

Chai and stories go hand in hand where I come from. When you sit down with friends or family it is often with a cup of chai and it often leads to stories. Same thing if you are at a chai stall with strangers. Stories might start with the newspaper and then on to other things…

I came up with the Chai and Stories class because so many people tell me they don’t have stories—that they are not writers. And I find it difficult to explain to them that the two are not connected. Everybody has stories to tell. But nobody has the time. But people will stop when I offer them chai…


My cup of chai, as drawn by my son on a Mother’s Day card in Kindergarten. It came with the question: Why do you drink chai when other moms drink coffee? It led to a poem, and a little book too.

So I had my first Chai with Sush at the Alexandria Black History Museum on July 20 where patrons joined me and Nina Tisara, founder of Living Legends of Alexandria, for chai and a story-writing and book-making workshop. The workshop is one of a series of programs sponsored by Family Legends, an activity of Living Legends of Alexandria. The chai, I was told, was not bad, and then the stories started flowing. Stories about summer trips to the beach, lost towns near New Orleans as found in family histories, and mothers who are terrified of roaches! Then there was the story one woman has heard her grandma tell often—of how she, when she was three years old, woke up in the middle of the night, got dressed, and went out of the building to play at the playground. A neighbor heard the squeaky swing, found her, and brought her back home!

I walked by the playground near where my daughter was going for summer camp and thought what I would do if I heard squeaking swings at night. I would NOT leave my bed!

But I am glad to say, the stories flowed easily. I showed the participants how to make a quick book in which they could write the story and gift it to someone. One person told me she was an artist but had never thought of writing a story and making it into a book. She was going to make many, she said.

Hope I get to read them too!

Chai, the quick and easy way:
Boil water with a few pods of cardamom in it. Soak teabags of black tea in it, approximately 1 teabag per big cup of tea. Take it off the heat. Add warm milk to get the rich brown color, and add sugar to taste. That’s it! Make some, invite some friends over, and share stories! Enjoy!!


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