Ever since my younger sister was born nineteen years ago, I saw her grow from an innocent, naive little girl into the strong, confident young woman that she is today. She had the privilege of growing up in a family and a society that encouraged her to pursue her dreams. Unfortunately, young girls around the world are often not born into such circumstances.
Enter Patti Tripathi, a former reporter for CNN Headline News who is now the founder and president of TriPath Media. Tripathi is launching a bold endeavor this year called Saris to Suits, a calendar that will feature twelve outstanding women of Indian origin in various fields-business, politics, entertainment-in an effort to motivate young girls by showing them that positions of power and leadership are not reserved solely for men.
“There’s more to a woman than her outer beauty,” said Tripathi, via email, regarding how the initial idea forSaris to Suits came to be. “I wanted to feature role models rather than models. They are the complete package. Looks are inherited-education, drive and accomplishments are earned.”
Troubled by the recent surge in violence against women around the world, particularly in India, Tripathi hopes that the calendar will also lead to women standing up for themselves.
“When I traveled to India in the past, I recall that someone kissed me on my face while I was walking with my relatives on a crowded street, and then ran away. Men would stare at me and follow me through New Delhi shops. You have to ask why India topped the list of the ten most dangerous countries for a woman to travel alone. What is happening is horrifying, and I am glad it is being discussed and debated.”
Born in Uttar Pradesh, India, Tripathi emigrated from the country when she was ten, and has spent most of her life living in the United States and England. Tripathi’s parents supported her career choice to go into journalism, despite having reservations about her pursuing a non-technical field.
Her father, a physicist, clashed with Tripathi over whether or not she should have an arranged marriage. But although Tripathi says she dealt with “verbally and emotionally abusive situations” regarding the arranged marriage, tensions have long since been settled and she now enjoys a warm relationship with her father.
After graduating from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Maryland, she worked in print journalism for several years. Then, she accepted a lead anchor position at CNN Headline News, where she covered some of the biggest news stories that occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as the Bush-Gore elections.
She was the first South Asian anchor in the channel’s history.
“It was my American dream come true,” she says about her time at CNN. “I was very young and felt like a kid in a candy store. Every day I was in awe, rubbing elbows with the amazing journalists and newsmakers I met and the amazing stories that we covered from around the world.”
Tripathi’s life took a detour when her mother passed away in 2004. It began a particularly difficult period in Tripathi’s life, one that ultimately ended in her leaving her job at CNN.
“Life threw me some curve balls and took me out of the game that I loved so much.”
But those curve balls could only slow Tripathi down, not stop her completely. Currently, she is the founder and president of TriPath Media, a multifaceted company whose work involves media relations, event planning, and marketing for businesses. It’s during her time at TriPath Media that Tripathi got the idea and inspiration for Saris to Suits.
“The concept came to me because I was chosen to be one of the originalWomen of Notre Dame [a calendar]. Their criteria were good grades, service, and extracurricular activities. The proceeds from the calendar went to help battered women.”
But can a calendar really make a huge difference? Inequality between men and women has been around practically as long as there has been a human species.
“Unfortunately, in the immigrant community, women often don’t seek help because of their immigration status, cultural stigma, language barriers, an inability to maneuver through the justice system, or a combination of those factors. I hope the role models featured in the Saris to Suits calendar are invited to speak at events about topics concerning women.”
Tripathi is aiming to knock down stereotypes with regards to women’s issues around the world. To echo a line from Batman Begins, people need dramatic examples to shake them out of their apathy, and few people understand this better than Tripathi.
“Maybe next year I’ll feature dark-complexioned women to get rid of the notion [that] fair-complexioned women are prettier,” she speculates, which would putSaris to Suits alongside other popular skin color campaigns like Dark is Beautiful.
Although unsure of what exactly her future may hold for her-she leaves open the possibility of returning to television in some capacity down the road, perhaps even in a Saris to Suits program. She does know that her fight for women’s equality is far from over.
“I am in the process of writing a book with the proceeds going to help abused women. Would you believe Saudi Arabia just now made it a crime to hit women and children? Until now, physical abuse was considered a private, family matter.”
And it all comes back to family, and the ideal of living in a world where families give their daughters the encouragement, respect, and strength to be whatever they want to be, regardless of how impossible that may seem.
Deepak Chitnis is a staff writer for American Bazaar Online and a Writer/Producer for Global India Newswire.