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Talk Time: Not Sorry for Sari

By Poornima Apte Email By Poornima Apte
June 2016
Talk Time: Not Sorry for Sari

Patti Tripathi was one of the first anchors of South Asian origin on network television and worked for years with CNN before she branched off to pursue other ventures. Her personal and professional experiences have shaped her nonprofit venture, Saris to Suits, a calendar filled with women role models. Sales benefit nonprofits devoted to South Asian women’s causes. Khabar talked to Tripathi about the venture.

When did you launch Saris to Suits and what motivated you to do so?
I was inspired to do so at a very challenging time while plagued with enormous health and other personal problems. I needed to raise awareness about the legal barriers women face that keep them locked into bad situations, so truly this was to help myself. I thought by putting the spotlight on other South Asian women who have succeeded, despite barriers, in achieving their American dream, the calendar would inspire women and girls to get educated and to stand on their own feet. My aim was to raise awareness about the unique nuances of our culture, to empower, protect, and inspire women and girls.

When I had the rug pulled out from beneath me, this was a way to put my energies, frustration, and focus on doing something positive. The inaugural 2014 calendar received a lot of publicity because of CNN. To my surprise, many women wrote to me to share their stories. Indo-American women deserve a platform to speak up.

What kinds of reactions have you had to the endeavor?
Girls love the calendar. Pakistani-American Atlantan Dr. Kulsoom Abdullah, who challenged the rules of weightlifting to compete wearing her hijab, wrote a blog post saying that being in the calendar was the highlight of her year—it gave her a renewed sense to promote athletics for not only Muslim women and girls, but all girls. I loved seeing the photos of girls who have endured the most horrific tragedies smiling, holding up the month of their favorite role model. There are so many great stories.

How was your decision to take up journalism received at home?
My mother cheered me on to accomplish my American dream. It was a strange concept and neither my parents nor I could understand my resolve to want to be like Connie Chung or Oprah Winfrey. My physicist father thought I could always go back to graduate or medical school and there was the backup option of marrying one of the highly educated men he had introduced me to.

The name Saris to Suits seems to imply that one has to drop one’s cultural baggage to be successful. Are you able to elaborate?
Saris to Suits is really how most of us live and travel—one foot in both cultures. I wear my beautiful Indian clothing to events and then wore a suit to anchor the news. Skeptics and people have said it should be “Saris and Suits.” To me the name “Saris to Suits” has a certain symmetrical ring to it—like “East to West” and even the U.N.'s “He for She” campaign.

What made you move from CNN to launch TriPath Media? When did you make the change? What does TriPath Media do now?
I was one of twelve—and the only woman—accepted to an Entrepreneur Mentorship Fellows program at the University of Maryland business school with a requirement of launching a business. As it turns out, 2015 was a great year of closures and new beginnings, with a fantastic trip to India. In 2016, we launched TriPath Cyber Incident Communications. Cyber-breaches and the fear of how the media would respond is keeping many executives up at night. We reorganized TriPath Media with a team of media insiders and cybersecurity experts to help companies preserve brand trust and reputation—the risks beyond technology that erode shareholder equity.


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Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor.  Learn more at WordCumulus.WordPress.com.



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