by Priya Chhaya
I have a morning ritual. Every day before I leave my apartment I pull out my phone and open my podcast app for the latest episodes of shows I love. My interests are varied – from The West Wing Weekly, to Backstory (a history podcast), and of late a podcast about Star Wars, other nerdery things… and Bollywood.
That show is called Desi Geek Girls.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “Desi” refers collectively to people from the Indian subcontinent and diaspora. Hosted by two women – Swapna Krishna and Preeti Chhibber – Desi Geek Girls consists of conversations that they have on a regular basis for all the world to hear. Swapna (@skrishna) is a space science and tech writer at Engadget who also writes a weekly column on spaceflight and space science for Paste Magazine. Preeti (@runwithskizzers) works as a book-slinger for Scholastic Reading Clubs where she gets to read Young Adult novels as part of her daily job. Both of them bring their awesome jobs and experience with them as they mix their dominant love of Star Wars with healthy, honest discussions about the fandoms they admire. In one show you can hear about The Last Jedi news and Shah Rukh Kahn. In short, I’ve never felt more at home.
After listening to the show for a few weeks I interviewed Swapna and Preeti about their work as writers (and readers) and their love for a galaxy far, far, away.
Tell me about your entry into being a “geek girl.” Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were a geek?
SK: Honestly, there isn’t a time I remember not being a geek. It’s been a lifelong thing for me. I’ve always identified as a nerd.
PC: To me, the idea of “geek” is just loving something wholeheartedly. I’ve always thrown myself headfirst into things I like, I don’t really know how to like things just a little bit. I can’t really remember a specific moment, in terms of realizing my affinity for geekdom. As a kid, it was needing to own every single Backstreet Boys CD that existed, or all the Leonardo DiCaprio movies I could get my hands on, or watching the bootleg of the behind the scenes action on the [Bollywood movie] Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (DDLJ) set fifteen times. If Tumblr had existed when I was 13, I would literally never have gotten off the computer.[Interviewer Note: I just watched DDLJ for the first time in a long time with a group of non-Indian friends. It was epically nostalgic and wonderful.]
We are in a golden age of podcasting. What drove you to start Desi Geek Girls? What perspective are you trying to present in each of your episodes? (In other words, why should folks listen?)
SK: We started Desi Geek Girls because we’ve been good friends for a long time, and we both enjoy talking to each other. We love discussing our mutual fandoms, like Star Wars, but we also like introducing each other to new things. For example, there are things that Preeti loves that I don’t necessarily – not that I hate them, but just I don’t have the love for them that she does. But I love talking to her about why she loves those things because her enthusiasm is infectious. It’s a lot of fun. We’re pretty honest and clear about our perspectives when it comes to Desi Geek Girls: It’s in the title. We’re two Indian women who are geeks. We generally stay positive on our show; if something is terrible, we’ll often opt not to discuss it rather than spending our time tearing something apart. Basically, we both love things really hard and aren’t afraid to be enthusiastic about them. But we also try to honestly recognize the flaws in the things we like and discuss them without bashing. All our faves are problematic – we like to talk about it.
PC: I think Swapna answered this this really well, so I’ll defer to her. I’ll only add that one of my great joys on the internet has been finding a community of desi women. This show is an extension of that safe space.
What’s your favorite line from Star Wars?
SK: “But I was going to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!”
It’s probably “Do or do not. There is no try.” A lot of people take issue with this line because they feel like Yoda is saying that trying isn’t good enough. I think the message is more about believing in yourself – don’t try to do the thing, just do the thing. If you fail, you fail, but if you don’t believe you can do it, you won’t succeed at it.
PC: “I’ll never turn to the dark side. You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” – Luke Skywalker
I’m a sucker for a good family tragedy with moments of hope. This quote from Luke gives me goosebumps every time I think about it.
Both of you work as freelance writers for a wide variety of magazines and publications – what inspired you to becoming professional writers (or more generally to work in the publishing/writing industry)?
SK: Writing is something that’s always naturally come easily to me, but it’s not really something I aspired to be. I fell into writing professionally when I was in graduate school for something completely unrelated to what I do now. I was lucky enough to find success with it, and it’s spiraled from there to a place I never imagined.
PC: I’m basically only good at consuming content, so this was a perfect place for me. I get to talk about the things I like, and I get paid to do it… it’s a dream job.
In your writing jobs you often spend time thinking about storytelling – what, in your opinion, makes a good story?
SK: For me, it’s emotional pull first and foremost. I can forgive a lot in a story, but if I’m not invested in a character (even if I hate a character – that’s still emotional engagement) or where a story is going, then it’s not a good story.
PC: This may sound obvious, but a good story is one that uses specifics to build universal truths.
In your experience, what are some of the strongest storytelling (generally, or from a inclusion perspective) that you’ve seen recently. Any medium.
SK: It seems like a cop out because we haven’t seen it yet, but Star Trek: Discovery is really exciting to me. The casting is excellent, and I’m really excited to see what they do with the storytelling. I’m currently reading the last installment of N.K. Jemisin’s fantasy trilogy called The Stone Sky and it’s some of the best storytelling out there, in my opinion.
PC: I have to say, I recently started THE BOLD TYPE (a show on Freeform) about three women who work at a women’s magazine, and we’re only a few episodes in, but I have been so pleasantly surprised by their consistent subversion of tropes. Also, they’ve been great about keeping the narrative focused on the female gaze. It’s been a real joy to watch.
Why is it that you think Star Wars continues to resonate with you?
SK: It has timeless themes; I mean, there’s a reason it’s still around after all these years. It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing that resonates because so much of it does. Part of it is nostalgia for sure, but it’s a lot more than that.
PC: The story is ageless. I’m not sure what more I can say… I get the same feeling watching Star Wars now as I did when I was 5. And that the story continues to grow and get more and more inclusive with each pass is just so wonderful.
Finally what is the one thing you are hoping for from The Last Jedi?
PC: I want Force lore! I want a recognition that the Jedi were not perfect!
SK: I’d say more Luke, but that’s pretty obvious if you know me at all. So instead, I’ll say a follow up that is worthy of The Force Awakens and the franchise. Even if it doesn’t go where I want story-wise, I’ll be satisfied if it’s a movie that’s equal in quality to TFA.