Storytelling is a powerful way to connect with others and make a difference in some of the most vulnerable spaces in our lives. The impact we can have by sharing our voices through various mediums is insurmountable– and can be both cathartic for the artist and their audience. This week, artist Smrita Jain shares the ways in which her art has allowed her to overcome experiences which have kept many women silent, and reminds us how valuable our voices can be for someone in need. Now, she’s writing a book, “Fat Free Samosa,” about her move from India to New York City, and the challenges and triumphs she’s experienced along the way.
Introduce yourself! Tell us who you are and what you do.
Thank you so much for featuring me on Feminist Wednesday! My name is Smrita Jain. I grew up in India and now live and work in NYC. During the day, I’m a designer at The Aquario Group. At night I’m an artist at Surmrit Gallery of Art and Design.
I am addicted to art and design. I have showcased by my work in London, New York and India. I’m hoping to take the world by (an artsy) storm one day! My work ranges from typographic design, paintings of various mediums, drawing and photography. Even though English is not my first language, I love to write.
How do you define feminism and how does that play a part in the work you do?
I know a lot of people have an issue with the word feminism. That shouldn’t stop them from living by values that many of us share. Equality is incredibly important to me. We are all living in a world where gender can be fluid and is a different experience for everyone. Whatever label you choose, I think we all have one thing in common, a desire to be respected as a human being. And that’s what my upcoming book Fat Free Samosa is all about.
To me, all lives are equal and should be treated equally irrespective of sex, race, gender, caste or color.
In my book, I bluntly take on these issues through photography, handwritten drawings, graffiti and storytelling. Growing up, I was constantly told that I couldn’t do certain things because I’m a woman. That I had to fulfill my duties as a woman.
I can do whatever I put my mind to, and that’s my only duty as a woman.
What’s the most challenging part of the work you do? The most rewarding?
The most challenging part, beyond prioritizing, is the process of getting work done. Setting goals is easy. Planning how to make an idea happen, defining a process, that matters a lot to me. That part is the most challenging.
I make agendas for days, weeks (including reminders to cook and clean my house!) or even years. And if I’m able to accomplish these goals despite my crazy work schedule, the satisfaction of doing what I set my mind to is the most rewarding.
I have made it a habit to set goals for myself, both professionally and personally. The best reward is to compare where you had started and what you have achieved at the end of a project. That smallest feeling of success is actually the sweetest one.
Tell us about the process of writing Fat Free Samosa! What compelled you to share your story so vulnerably?
Fat Free Samosa is a written and visual autobiography of my personal experiences. It’s my story of moving to New York City from India and living and surviving here for the past 8 years.
I came from a close-knit family. When I moved to New York, I had to live a solitary life in a completely different continent. These changes presented a lot of challenges, but also showed me how strong I can be.
I started writing a journal when I was 13. I described the best and worst moments in my life. From small accomplishments to being bullied in school and college to living in a fat-shaming society. I wrote about the bewildering environment I lived in.
I moved to New York City in 2007. I continued to catalog my experiences in the ‘city that never sleeps’. I truly think that living here has changed my perspective about life and made me the human I am today. Fat Free Samosa has been in the works for quite a while! Chapters of the book were a gallery exhibition at Surmrit Gallery and I covered the walls in my hand-drawn graffiti. I’m excited to bring these stories to a book format in the coming months.
In terms of vulnerability, I wanted to share my story because I know of many women who cannot speak for themselves. Maybe they’re afraid to do it, maybe they just aren’t able to speak up for other reasons. I’ve seen, experienced, and overcome domestic violence in a personal way, through my art.
Brené Brown says in Daring Greatly, “Even to me the issue of “stay small, sweet, quiet, and modest” sounds like an outdated problem, but the truth is that women still run into those demands whenever we find and use our voices.” “
I know how debilitating it can feel when people are constantly telling you that you can’t do something. How it feels when you are alone, hurt, and afraid. I want my art and my voice to reach out to those who hurt and feel small. I want to show them there is a way out.
How can our readers support you going forward?
If you’re interested, you can pre-order my book here. Other than that, I’d love to hear your stories! I always find inspiration and lessons to learn from other people’s experiences. I’m really active on Instagram and Twitter, so please feel free to reach out. You can find me @surmrit_gallery.