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On the Road Again

Jul/08/2023 / by Team Seema

SAADA’s Road Trips Project aims to showcase and archive untold stories 

With its vast land mass and sprawling interstate system, the United States has hosted countless road trips. But the images and stories of the cross-country journey in the pop culture imagination haven’t always reflected a cross-cultural reality. The South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) has aimed to change that, by starting a unique Road Trips project to help document and share the stories of South Asian Americans who have driven across the nation. We interviewed Executive Director Samip Mallick to learn more about the project. 

Where did the idea for the Road Trips project come from? 

We started the Road Trips Project in 2017. Just months prior, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian immigrant in Olathe, Kansas was shot dead in a bar where he was having a drink with a friend after work. The gunman reportedly yelled “go back to your country” right before opening fire. This was a time of heightened tension for all immigrant communities in the U.S., when our contributions to American society and our very lives were being questioned and devalued. It is in that environment that the Road Trips Project was born, to ensure that South Asian American experiences were recognized as a fundamental part of the American story.

What’s the ultimate goal of the project?

The goal of the Road Trips Project is to reframe an American tradition through the eyes of the South Asian community and ensure that our community’s voices and experiences are included. There are millions of miles of roads across the United States, and traveling them has long been seen as a rite of passage for Americans. From Jack Kerouac novels to Hollywood movies, American culture is steeped in the mythology of the “open road.” 

Yet, so much of this imagery has long been limited in who it includes. The appeal of the open road is deeply rooted in the freedom to travel—safely and without fear, harassment, or intimidation—a freedom, which many cannot take for granted. SAADA’s Road Trips Project highlights the long and diverse history of South Asians traveling across the country, whether for family vacations, cross-country moves, romantic getaways, or any other reason. These trips include memories both good and bad, humorous and sobering. Taken together they help us redefine what the American road trip looks like, and ultimately who is included in the American story.

Why is it so important to document these stories?

Documenting these stories helps to expand the circle of who is included in the American story. As archival scholar Jeannette Bastian has said: “A community without its records is a community under siege, defending itself, its identity, and its version of history without a firm foundation on which to stand.” Stories like those in the Road Trips Project help our community assert that we were here, we are here, and we belong here.

Any memorable or surprising submissions so far?

One personal favorite is a story submitted by the Indian American novelist Chitra Divakaruni, where she shares about a road trip that she and her husband Murthy took 33 years prior. Their road trip was from Northern California, where she was a student, to Washington State. One highlight for them is visiting Mt. Rainier, where Chitra recalls: “I remember that some of the waterfalls and peaks had been given Indian names by the Transcendentalists, from our Vedas—that was so amazing.” She ends by reflecting on the ways that made her feel that she was living in a culture that embraced many people from many countries, and hoping that wonderful aspect of America’s diversity never changes. What Chitra’s story reminds me is that our memories of years before are not only about what we experienced then, but what we are experiencing now, and what we hope for the future.

Have a road trip worth remembering? Share your own stories at

Pretty in Purple

5 blush picks that make the most of this makeup trend

When Indian makeup artist @vilcreates made a TikTok about an amethyst blush, she inadvertently created the summer’s hottest makeup trend. With its knack for augmenting brown skin tones, purple blushes turn the perfect pink when applied. Here are a few of our favorites worth trying: 

Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush in Faith 

Unlike other liquid blushes, this crowd-pleaser goes on more like a cream, making application easy. Plus, this rich color is a can’t miss. $23,

Kulfi Beauty Mehndi Moment Blush in Lucky Lotus

Named in tribute to the artistry of henna art, the Mehndi Moment blush is similarly long-lasting and comes in a range of beautiful colors to suit every skin type. $28,

Clinique Cheek Pop Blush in Pansy Pop

We love the fun, floral design on this gorgeous compact blush that leaves a creamy glowy look instead of overly powdered. $29,

About Face Cheek Freak Blush Balm in Score

Packed full of moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and meadowfoam seed oil, this fun and funky blush has long-lasting color and is 100% vegan. $18,

Nudestix Nudies Matte Cream Blush in Moodie Blu

The built-in blush applicator on the other end of the eggplant-tinted blush stick makes application and blending a breeze. $35,

[box: The #PurpleBlush tag has more than 22 million views on TikTok.]

A Hair Oil How-To

How to make it more than just a beauty balm

While massaging the hair with soothing oils and botanicals can offer a number of skin- and hair-saving benefits, the benefits of hair oiling go far beyond beauty. Not only is the ritual a meditative stress reliever, for many South Asian families, it can be a bonding experience when carried out at least once per week. 

To get the most out of this long-standing ritual, we spoke to Diipa Büller-Kholsa, a model and philanthropist, and founder of beauty brand indē wild, for her advice. 

Bask in the Benefits. Hair oiling produces shiny, healthier hair, and reduced frizz! A hair oiling ritual also helps with shedding, scalp irritation and can even stimulate hair growth.

Use the Right Oil for Your Needs. Castor Oil and Coconut Oil are commonly used for curbing hair loss. Tea Tree Oil is another and is beneficial for flaky scalps. Neem Oil and Indian Argan Oil are helpful for dry hair.

Make it a Ritual. Commit to a weekly oiling massage. Make it a time of self-care, to fully nourish your hair and scalp, and bring calmness and balance to your mind. Follow a massage focused on acupressure marma points, and even share the experience with someone, like I do with my mother and daughter. Make it a bonding ritual—something you look forward to!

[box] The Perfect PickFor an indulgent blend, we love the indē wild Champi Hair Oil for its 11 active ingredients, including Castor Oil, Hibiscus Flower Extract, Bhringraj Extract, Brahmi Extract, Indian Argan Oil, and Coconut Oil. $59,

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