This summer was undeniably a great challenge for everyone; however, many people found an opportunity within the abundant time to explore unique interests or begin new passion projects. In the midst of quarantine blues, Suditi Rahematpura (E ‘21) and Suhita Kodali (C ‘21) decided to do just that, so they came together to create a podcast.
Suditi and Suhita have been close friends for much of their time at Penn, bonding over a shared interest in wellness, mental health, and self–care. Earlier this year, a mutual friend reached out to them about a problem she was having, mentioning that the pair is good at giving advice. Following that conversation, Suditi—an avid podcast listener—texted Suhita with the idea to start a podcast together. Thus, Silent Lotus was born.
“We are very close friends and we have a lot of fun together but a lot of the time I think we are each other’s go to when it comes to those kinds of conversations,” Suhita says. “For me, whenever we record an episode it just feels like I’m sitting there having a conversation with my friend in one of our living rooms as if we’re back in school. Like a perfect way to just feel like there’s a sense of normalcy.”
Because they often return to these topics in their daily lives, they decided to create a podcast centered around self–care. Their goal is to construct a space in which listeners can ask questions and feel comfortable with topics related to wellness, working to break down stigmas that may exist.
Suditi, having listened to many podcasts, realized that a lot of popular projects which discuss similar topics do not necessarily cater to everyone. Knowing that the genre tends to be white–dominated and geared towards older women, the two decided to broaden the area for those interested in self–care. This is reflected in the name they chose: Silent Lotus.
“Since this podcast kind of sits on the intersection between like South Asianness and self–care and being a woman, and kind of at the intersection of all those things, my mind immediately went to the lotus. It’s a symbol in many South Asian cultures, including Indian culture, of femininity and purity and all these ideas about what a woman should be,” Suditi says. “We kind of tried to take like a paradoxical twist on it and call it Silent Lotus, when the entire point of it is that we aren’t being silent and we’re talking about all these things, giving these conversations a space.”
As they decided to take on the project, they began to prepare. They recall their first trial run, noting that one of them was using a karaoke microphone to record and the other, headphones with an attached mic. After the first mock recording on Zoom, they decided it was worth it to invest in professional microphones to improve the audio quality.
With so much information available regarding podcasting as well as feedback from friends, the project came to life. Suditi also had the opportunity to attend virtual “office hours” with the hosts of one of her favorite podcasts, Forever35.
“[The hosts] specifically aim to support underrepresented voices in podcasting; it’s like an office hours where they just literally talk to you on FaceTime for 30 minutes and you get to pick their brains,” Suditi says. “That was so cool, I was fangirling a little bit—it was so cool. I got a lot of really useful tips from there, so we’ve relied on a lot of help from other people.”
Silent Lotus is structured around listeners’ questions to make the experience more interactive and cater to topics the audience wants to discuss. The episodes begin with casual conversation about how Suditi's and Suhita's weeks are going before progressing to answering submitted questions that are sent in anonymously. Even though some of the themes discussed may be heavier, Suditi and Suhita aim to open and close their episodes on a positive note.
“I think the idea behind the podcast originally was that, in terms of that positivity, it’s like even in the worst week of your life, there is always something with at least one positive aspect to it. And so we want to kind of demonstrate that practice of, even in the worst week, finding at least one positive thing that happened and encouraging our listeners to try to do that as well,” Suhita says.
In terms of their audience, Suditi and Suhita want to ensure that they build a community of members who are passionate about self–care and wellness, regardless of their individual backgrounds. Even though Suditi and Suhita are both young South Asian women, and do discuss some topics related to this, they don’t want to limit themselves to only addressing themes within this demographic.
“We tried really hard to find other podcasts about similar topics created by South Asian women, and we found that almost every single podcast that we found by South Asian women was about South Asian topics specifically,” Suditi says. “And, you know, honestly it’s like so many of our South Asian representations have become famous or gotten traction by only making jokes or talking about South Asian people, and so we wanted to get away from this idea that if you’re a person of color you can only really talk about being a person of color.”
Currently, Suhita and Suditi are experimenting with different ideas in terms of the podcast, such as social media activism and the potential to feature guests; however, their central focus is on creating a safe space to discuss these important topics with a community eager to listen.
“It’s a cool time for us to be doing this, because college is a cool phase in our lives to be sharing. College is an immense period when you grow and you change a lot and I think that’s what this idea of self–care is about, just putting yourself first and getting in touch with who you are and what you want,” Suditi says.
Suhita adds, “Let’s say this continues going for another year, two years, three years, however long we are able to sustain it and grow it. Thinking about how different we’re going to sound two years from now versus right now, and how this podcast can really be a way of tracking our own growth over time in the same way that some people might use a journal. I think that’s really exciting.”