Sheila Raghavendran

"This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another." — Ellen Page

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Jhumpa Lahiri

Click here to listen to a piece I produced for American Student Radio on Jhumpa Lahiri wannabes.


She was wearing a maroon, comfortable shirt, paired with brown pants that sloshed as she walked and an decadent, teal-stoned necklace. She appeared serious, almost disinterested and stoic.

Is she nervous? Bored?

I contemplated as author Jhumpa Lahiri sat poised on the stage of the Whittenberger Auditorium last Monday. She checked her fingernails, adjusted her ring. As Indiana Unviersity Hutton Honors College Dean Andrea Ciccarelli gave an introduction, Lahiri quietly coughed, the first audible breath of her voice caught on microphone.

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Tina Fey’s role in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is the same as always, and that’s a good thing

Photo from This contains spoilers for “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”:

Tina Fey’s role in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is exactly what we’re used to from her — a working, somewhat unhappy adult, rooted in her ways and heavily concerned with her job and impressing her boss. We saw this with “Baby Mama”, where Fey played the careful, collected woman intimidated of chaos; we saw it again with Liz Lemon in “30 Rock”, who was unhealthily committed to work; and we saw some glimpses through her several stints as Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live” (“somewhat unhappy”, “concerned with impressing her boss”, you get the point). Fey’s role in “WTF” is no WTF — but it’s the jarring portrayal of women that caught me unexpectedly.

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Memorable memories: afraid at age 4

One of my earliest memories of life is about death.

It’s difficult to gauge what my first memory is because young ages are a blur of emotions and recollections from others. I’ve pieced my early memories into a timeline (with my mom’s help with chronology, thanks mom), and one of those memories is most significant because it introduced me to pain, death and fear.

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Where I’m a Local

People frequently ask me, “Where are you from?” When I reply with the unsatisfactory, “Cincinnati”, they shake their heads and further and ask, “Oh, I mean, where are your parents from?” Reluctantly, I give them the answer they want.

I find it frustrating because it allows others to define me by my ancestry and the preconceived notions that are associated with it.  Taiye Selasi tackled this topic in her recent Ted Talk called “Don’t Ask Where I’m From, Ask Where I’m a Local.”

She explained that there is a three-step test in determining where someone is a local: through rituals, relationships and restrictions. Continue reading

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There’s nothing ‘mock’ about the impact of Mock Crash

I feel like all my experiences in theatre thus far were leading up to Mock Crash: the opportunity to inform the school about the devastating consequences of drinking and driving and urging everyone to think first and drive safely.

The Chronicle and MBC teamed up to put together this fantastic coverage of Mock Crash on

As an actor in the demonstration, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve never been in that kind of situation, never lost someone close in a car accident. I made the 911 call in the simulation and we prerecorded it a week before.

It’s hard to imagine what it’s like pretending that your friends just got into a car crash, that one of them was drinking and driving, and that one of them is most likely dead. Continue reading

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Lucky: an ode to high school journalism

I recently talked to a friend of mine who attends Kings High School — which is the school 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn attended for some time before switching to the Ohio Virtual Academy.

Leelah, a transgender girl, committed suicide on December 28, 2014 because she felt like she could never truly be who she wanted to be because of the surrounding environment and people, including transgender conversion therapy.

You’d think that, after this tragic event, Kings School District would have implemented some policies for tolerance, for anti-LGBTQ bullying or creating safer spaces for LGBTQ youth. According to my friend who is a junior at KHS, there hasn’t been much of a change, though a quick search on WCPO let me know that counselors were made available by phone and the basketball teams held a moment of silence. KHS also held a candlelight vigil shortly after her death. I didn’t find any information regarding policies or programs advocating for LGBTQ safe spaces or against LGBTQ bullying.

I asked my friend if someone who we know at Kings who is gay is taking his boyfriend to prom. He replied that no, he didn’t think it wasn’t allowed. I don’t have information about whether or not gay couples are allowed at Kings’ proms, but my friend said most of the gay students at his school weren’t out. He said he could only think of five openly gay students, whereas at Mason High School the list never ends.

We both thought it was a little ridiculous that gay couples weren’t allowed at Kings’ prom, or at least that their appearances weren’t common, and that gay students felt uncomfortable or unsafe bringing a same-sex date.

I asked him if his school had a newspaper and he nearly laughed at the question. He pulled up an online news site on his phone, populated with quick tidbits of news, but it doesn’t have an opinion section or any kind of forum for student opinions. So students who feel strongly about Leelah’s call to “fix society. Please” or who may have known her personally can only sit idly by watching as their friends stay hidden in the closet, at prom or elsewhere.

It’s times like these when I notice how lucky I am to be attending MHS and to be working as editor of the newspaper. Our opinion section thrives, thanks especially to the incredible work of Jessica Sommerville, Madison Krell and our columnist staff. Our staff editorials consistently take an intelligent perspective on light and heavy topics alike — ranging from our generation’s desensitization of terrorism to bathroom graffiti. We have Tweets to the Editor which allow MHS students to use social media to voice their opinions on our hot-button questions like how far is too far when directing social-media angst toward the superintendent.

The Chronicle is also fortunate enough to have Emily Culberson, the Business Manager, and Ashton Nichols who is diligently learning how to take Emily’s place next year when she graduates. Through advertising with various businesses, Emily and Ashton supply all of the money to print the newspaper. We receive no additional funding from the school — because we don’t really need it. Emily and Ashton do such a great job that we are able to operate completely self-sufficiently.

Some other schools, like Steinmetz College Prep high school in Chicago, didn’t have enough money to support its printing. Luckily, Hugh Hefner, a graduate from Steinmetz, pitched in money to keep the newspaper running for five years.

But not every school has an Emily or an Ashton or a Hugh Hefner — many school newspapers have been forced to fold because their staff cannot support the funds.

According to The Chicago Tribune:

In 1991, nearly 100 percent of Chicago public high schools surveyed in a study byRoosevelt University‘s College of Communication had newspapers. By 2006, the number had dropped to 60 percent, according to Linda Jones, associate professor of journalism at Roosevelt.

This can be attributed to a bigger interest in social media, teachers’ focus on standardized testing and diminishing interest in the news media in general.

Further in the same article from The Chicago Tribune:

At Morgan Park High School, English teacher Keith Majeske used to have to hide stacks of newspapers in the school’s main office so students wouldn’t grab them before they were ready for distribution. Today, stacks go untouched for days — unless it’s an issue with prom pictures or Valentine’s Day personal ads.

This is particularly interesting to me — especially since we spend so much time working the kinks of our cover page. We try to make something appealing to a huge demographic, hoping that everyone will be eager to pick up our paper. But lack of interest is lack of interest, and we’re very fortunate that our student body (on the whole) thinks highly of The Chronicle.

Journalism has the potential to make change. At Kings High School, it could allow gay couples to safely attend prom together, or for the school to implement anti-bullying policies. And I hope it does. High school journalism in particular is crucial because it provides a forum for students to be heard.

We’re lucky.


Beautiful twenty-somethings: Friends vs. How I Met Your Mother



Disclaimer: this post contains spoilers.

In Tina Fey’s brilliant Bossypants, she gives insight about the worn-down paths countless shows insist upon taking:

For years networks have tried to re-create the success of Friends by making pilot after pilot about beautiful twenty-somethings living together in New York. Beautiful twenty-somethings living in Los Angeles. Beautiful twenty-somethings investigating sexy child murders in Miami.

This template never works, because executives refuse to realize that Friends was the exception, not the rule. The stars of beloved shows like Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Newhart, and The Dick Van Dyke Show had normal human faces.

CBS’ How I Met Your Mother (affectionately nicknamed HIMYM) is guilty of succumbing to this offense. It draws excruciatingly close parallels to the hit NBC sticom that have raised many an eyebrow. Here are 8 of those most prominent parallels:

1. Same City, AKA: The Greatest Place On Earth or We Ran Out of Ideas


Monica (and sometimes Rachel or Chandler)’s apartment from Friends.


Marshall and Lily (and sometimes Ted)’s apartment from HIMYM.

In 1994, Monica’s apartment in New York City became everyone’s favorite hang-out spot. Not only was it questionably spacious, but it thrived in the heart of NYC, the greatest place on earth, right? Eleven years later, HIMYM tried to replicate that cozy relationship between viewers and the show through — you guessed it — a questionably spacious New York City apartment.

2. Similar Characters Pt. I: Rachel and Robin

Rachel Green (played by Jennifer Aniston) from Friends.

Rachel Green (played by Jennifer Aniston) from Friends.

Robin Scherbatsky (played by Cobie Smulders) from How I Met Your Mother.

Robin Scherbatsky (played by Cobie Smulders) from HIMYM.

Rachel Green was the fresh addition to the gang (Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Ross and Joey) during the pilot episode of Friends, rekindling an old friendship with Monica. Similarly, Robin Scherbatsky was Ted’s love interest introduced in the first episode and quickly earned her spot in the gang (Lily, Marshall, Ted and Barney). Both Rachel and Robin go through rocky romances — some eerily similar, like Rachel’s relationship with the Italian Paolo and Robin’s with the Argentinian Gael — with Rachel always seeming to fall back to Ross, and Robin to Ted. Their careers line up even more: Rachel works in fashion, Robin in broadcast TV, both ladies desperately aspiring for promotions. They both make the decision to quit their jobs, struggle to find work, scrape by with the help of their friends — of course — and are conflicted when receiving offers in other cities.

3. Similar Characters Pt. II: Ross and Ted

Ross Geller (played by David Schwimmer) from Friends.

Ross Geller (played by David Schwimmer) from Friends.

Ted Mosby (played by Josh Radnor) from How I Met Your Mother.

Ted Mosby (played by Josh Radnor) from HIMYM.

Ross Geller and Ted Mosby are more alike than they’d like to admit. They’re both very average, plain, beautiful twenty-somethings who have really unfortunate things happen to them. They’re both in love with their best friends but hardly ever get the timing right. They’re both extremely nerdy about their occupations — Ross a paleontologist and Ted an architect — often boring their friends (though that joke is only so funny after ten years).

4. Similar Characters Pt. III: Monica and Lily

Monica Geller (played by Courteney Cox) from Friends.

Monica Geller (played by Courteney Cox) from Friends.

Lily Aldrin (played by Alyson Hannigan) from How I Met Your Mother.

Lily Aldrin (played by Alyson Hannigan) from HIMYM.

Monica and Lily are another pair of weirdly similar characters. Monica is a fabulous chef, Lily a less-fabulous artist, and both are extremely dedicated to their passions. Both marry another member of the gang, in near-perfect relationships. Both are obsessed with becoming mothers. Both are very best friends with the Rachel/Robin character. They’re essentially one in the same — down to way-too-alike plot lines (see below).

5. Similar Characters Pt. IV: Chandler and Barney

Chandler Bing (played by Matthew Perry) from Friends.

Chandler Bing (played by Matthew Perry) from Friends.

Barney Stinson (played by Neil Patrick Harris) from How I Met Your Mother.

Barney Stinson (played by Neil Patrick Harris) from HIMYM.

Chandler and Barney are the characters to look forward to in both shows. They bring the best comedy, look best in suits and make the most money. But more specifically — no one knows the careers of either character. And though it’s questioned a few times, it doesn’t really matter. They just bring home fat checks and deliver the punchiest catch phrases.

6. Punchy Catch Phrases

Chandler’s famous catch phrase: “Could it be any more…”
Barney’s favorite word, “legendary.” Chandler and Barney wouldn’t be themselves without their killer one-liners.

7. Déjà Vu

Three strikingly familiar scenes:

Ice hits Monica's eye and leaves her wearing an eye patch on Thanksgiving.

Ice hits Monica’s eye and leaves her wearing an eye patch during one of Friends‘ Thanksgiving episodes.

Lily wears an eye patch after a champagne cork hits her in the eye.

Lily wears an eye patch after a champagne cork hits her in the eye in the pilot of HIMYM.

Same injury, same pirate-wear.

– – –

Rachel gets off the plane to Paris to confess her love to Ross and they get back together in the last episode of the series, finally.

Rachel gets off the plane to Paris to confess her love to Ross and they get back together in the Friends series finale, finally.

Ted and Robin get back together during the final episode, finally.

Ted and Robin get back together during the final episode of HIMYM, finally.

Identical characters, identical endings. All four characters share a sort of victory in the last minutes of the series when they realize that they finally got the timing right with each other.

– – –

College Chandler and Ross from Friends.

College Chandler and Ross from Friends.

College Ted and Marshall from HIMYM.

College Ted and Marshall from HIMYM.

In college, Chandler and Ross roomed together and became best friends, just like how Marshall and Ted roomed together and became best friends. Coincidence? (Note: Ross and Ted are even sporting the same hairstyles…about a decade apart).

8. Couch vs. Booth

The HIMYM gang's booth at Maclaren's pub.

The HIMYM gang’s booth at MacLaren’s pub.

The couch at Central Perk, the coffee shop where the gang from Friends hangs out.

The couch at Central Perk, the coffee shop where the gang from Friends hangs out.

Probably the strongest similarity lies with the groups’ typical hangout spot: for the 1994 New Yorkers, Central Perk, a homey coffee shop that draws their attention, and for the 2005 twenty-somethings, MacLaren’s Pub is their favorite place to be. The Central Perk couch is a symbol of Friends, and the booth at MacLaren’s follows suit. Much of both shows are filmed in these spots, which, if you ask me, is a little too closely tied.


Like Tina Fey said, Friends is the rule-breaker, not the rule. So please, network television, drop the twenty-somethings-big-city template.

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First Amendment, second chance

Last night I watched “Inherit the Wind” performed by Gallatin County High School. The play is a fictionalized version of the Scopes Monkey Trial, which brought John T. Scopes to court because he taught evolution in a Tennessee high school, which was against the law in 1925.

I critiqued the show for the Greater Cincinnati Cappies program, a group of high school theatre students who review plays and musicals in the area. During our pre-show discussion, our discussion mentor explained the background of the play and said something along the lines of, “If you don’t think this theme is relevant today, think about it this way: this debate over creationism and evolution is a matter of free speech. Controversies over free speech still exist — just take a look at the news around the nation of high school newspapers being restricted on what they can print because of administrative concerns.”


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After 85 years

Preface: My 85-year old grandmother has been voluntarily yet reluctantly relocated from her home in Dharwad, India — a calm, familiar town — to the fast-speaking, -moving, -paced worlds of Boston, Cincinnati and San Francisco, which she looks at through her critical eyes. She cycles through those three cities and the homes of my family and my mom’s two siblings. At each of her stops, she tries to make conversation to stay busy.

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Leap of Faith

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 7.15.51 PMMy mom and dad performing in their wedding ceremonies.

My parents’ marriage began with a leap of faith.

My mom and dad could have unknowingly passed each other dozens of times in the streets of Madras, India before formally meeting in May of 1988. But the two never met in Madras, both of their hometowns, and instead in Los Angeles, as planned.

Let me back up a little bit. My maternal grandpa worked in America for many years, cherished his time here and often told my mom and her siblings about the great opportunities America offers. My mom’s siblings moved to America to start their new lives, and my mom made the 20-hour trip to see what all the fuss was about…and wasn’t impressed. She spent the next two years back in India, bored without her siblings and willing to go back to America to be closer to them. When my grandparents on my dad’s side met my mom and suggested she go to California to meet my dad, she took a leap.

My mom first stopped in New Jersey where her sister was living, and together they flew to California and met with my aunt’s friends. It was at the friends’ house that my mom and dad first met. He introduced himself with the same name as my mom’s brother, sparking years of muddled confusion. But that’s another story.

The group paid a visit to San Francisco, my aunt and her friends driving in one car, and my mom and dad driving in my dad’s all-too-classy white Nissan Sentra. He sure knew how to impress a girl.

I imagine my mom sitting far back into the seat, resting her hands in her lap, as she always does, and my dad constantly checking his mirrors and sides as he always does. They spent the day driving to the sound of their small talk, which was probably strangely comfortable.

“When did you both decide you’d get married?” I asked my dad recently.

“A few days after the San Francisco trip, I asked her,” he said. “She said yes.”

Three months later: my mom and dad were married in (simplified) Indian style. And they’ve been together for those 26 and a half years.

Arranged marriages do not always go so smoothly, as I have seen in a few extended family members’ situations. My parents are lucky, to say the least, for finding mutual companionship.

My mom could have said no — the worst misconception about arranged marriages is the notion that parents force marriage upon their children, offering them no choice but to obey.

That couldn’t be further from the truth, at least for my parents. When my mom came over to the States, her parents and siblings undoubtedly had hope that she would meet my dad and want to spend her life with him, but they didn’t have any expectations. Her ticket wasn’t one-way. It was just a leap of faith.

So no, they weren’t high school sweethearts, and no, they didn’t meet serendipitously in a big city or on top of the Empire State building. Their love story won’t be replicated on a Hollywood screen (though Bollywood has made many fair attempts).

Their marriage captures the kind of love that stems from trust and commitment. So when people (often) ask me, “Do your parents even like each other?” the answer is yes, they are in love, their own definition of love – even though their meeting isn’t the same as Harry and Sally’s.

It all started with a leap.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 7.32.05 PM

Left: My parents exchanging garlands as part of Indian ritual; center: My mom cheesin’ on her big day; right: My parents throwing rice as part of the wedding ceremony.

This column was originally posted on

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The plane truth

Airports are rampant with a sense of urgency. Rushing between terminals. Speed-stripping at security. Hurrying through Starbucks lines.

So it makes sense, then, that the only real time to breathe is on the airplane itself. After the take-off, of course, when the oh-my-god-how-is-this-going-to-fly panic is overridden. We sit with our belts fastened, our seat backs in the upright position, our tray tables folded — and in this wifi-less atmosphere, we are finally allowed a moment of distraction-free thinking. For the duration of the flight, we have nothing to do, which gives us endless freedom.

On Sunday as I flew back from my Thanksgiving-weekend trip, I occupied myself with Beyoncé streaming through my right earbud, a book in my lap and a magazine underneath. The girl next to me, indecisive between sleeping or reading, flashed her seat light on and off, occasionally leaving me in the dark and feeling like turning my own light on would be unfair to her. I looked at my parents, already asleep (before the plane left the runway), my dad undoubtedly hoping his heavy congestion wouldn’t lead to in-flight snoring. I was slightly annoyed by the people speaking loudly in German behind me.

But then I stopped, listened to the loud purr of the engine, and brushed away my irritation. I realized that all of us on that plane were in some sort of harmony with each other. Whether we acknowledged it or not, we were all packed together in this time capsule of a vehicle, pummeling us 30,000 feet into the air — and for that hour and 38 minutes, we were all alone with our thoughts.

We use the time to breathe on a plane as a getaway from our daily obligations and find time to compensate for everything we’ve missed. The books we never got to reading, the sleep our alarms prohibited, the conversations we failed to speak.

So the next time I’m on a plane, forgive me for flashing my seat light, or snoring or speaking too loudly — I’m just making up for everything missed.