It’s easy to overlook the privilege of feeling comfortable speaking out - to express the thoughts, desires and worries which form part of who we are. Unfortunately, the luxury to speak freely, particularly around certain topics, is not a universal experience. Someone who understands this within their own community is Rahul Puri - founder of The Apne Project.
Being The Unmistakables, we’re so here for opening conversations up to those who need a platform. That’s why we have no choice but to introduce Rahul as this week’s Unmistakable Character. Check out our interview with Rahul to hear how his new project is blowing open the conversational doors of South Asian diaspora communities.
What's your name and what do you do? Tell us about the project you're working on.
Hello! My name is Rahul Puri and I am a Pharmacist, fashion photographer and founder of The Apne Project. The Apne Project aims to celebrate the inspirational and empowering members of the South Asian community through discussions of topics to open the door to authentic conversations. I want to celebrate our amazing community and at the same time start to talk about topics which we may not often openly engage about. The way I see it, imagine if we can openly discuss anything with anyone, what would the world look like? We're creating a range of thought-provoking videos and looking to publish a book which we hope will inspire the current and future generations. The project was inspired by all those who are striving for transformation in the world.
How does your identity affect your work and your life in general?
Despite working across two very different industries, my life and work is centered around people, whether it be working with the community and patients within the NHS or creating art and photography, my identity and stand for the world is about inspiration, empowerment and transformation. I really think this helps create who I am, by being the same individual and having the same identity across all my social circles and communities. A background within healthcare has definitely created aspects of my identity which I'm very proud of.
Who have been your role models and why?
I've been inspired and empowered by so many incredible people who I have either had the pleasure of meeting or are aware of their work. As a photographer, the work of the 'pioneer of colour street-photography' Raghubir Singh still amazes me and made me fall further in love with India. Portrait photography by Nadav Kander inspired me to be bold and creative, and I can't not add that it was my dad's passion hobby of photography that led me to pick up my first ever camera. As a health professional, my parents' passion towards pharmacy and supporting the health and well-being of others has inspired me.
Do you think other people see you differently to how you see yourself?
Funnily enough, I've asked a lot of people this question, and the answers always surprise me! I think as people, we can tend to not acknowledge how incredible we all are and beat ourselves up because we don't see our greatness. I have struggled in the past with Imposter Syndrome and this has in the past made me more reluctant to express myself as I haven't thought that people would care. What surprises me, is that being so, it's a great disservice to my identity and me, and people tend to think the opposite. By seeing what others see me as, it's been so powerful for my growth and transformations.
Do you ever see yourself in the advertising and marketing industry?
Not really! My background is in clinical pharmacy and photography and all things creative, which has come over time! I would love to do some work and develop skills within the advertising and marketing industry. There has been such a shift towards responsible and ethical advertising, and there is so much potential to make great strides in the world through ethical means.
Are you tired of hearing about Diversity & Inclusion?
No, no, no! Diversity and Inclusion for me is all about what makes that person themselves. It is more than just the colour of your skin or your gender. I think it is a really exciting time and we should look at diversity and inclusion from a view point of celebration and creating an environment and society to allow people to flourish wherever they are because they are accepted for who they are. With The Apne Project, we are exploring themes which can impact and affect anyone, the topics are universal, however we're creating something that is inclusive of our community, so that we have a voice and platform and others can learn more from it too!
What one thing would you say to your younger self?
Go for it and believe in yourself. I like to think that if you can dream of something, then you can go and create it Okay, I want to say another thing...
You'll make loads of errors kid. However, see them as learning curves and opportunities for transformation. Doubt and fear of failure will never go, but you'll learn along the way.