Neha Tiwari is the only woman of Indian origin that I know of who has made a name for herself in Social Media. She has done it by being a reporter, editor, producer and a vibrant presence on Twitter, on Pownce and on Facebook.
She loves comic books, Bollywood, Indian Idol and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. In other words, if there is any way to be cooler, it hasn't been invented yet.
People talk to Neha a lot about Tech and Social Media. So I decided to ask her about a few entirely different things.
Hi Neha, good to have you with us. You were born not long after your family immigrated to the US. Do you have any early memories of Ma and Pa Tiwari making cultural adjustments?
Neha: I think like any immigrants, they are still assimilating into the American culture without losing their own. Especially when coming from a place with such a strong culture, as India, it is important to them to preserve that. I am very passionate about carrying on the Indian culture as well, So we teach each other.My father still asks me at times what some phrases mean, and my mom seems to talk a lot like me [she says "that's lame"]. And I do the same with them with Hindi phrases and words. We work together to make each grow in either direction. It's a good partnership!
Growing up, were you the aloo paratha types for breakfast or did you nibble on a toast?
Neha: Both. One of my favorite breakfasts is Poha [which is a total Madhya Pradeshi thing], and on a cold day there is nothing like aloo paratha. I do like my cereal & bagels from time to time as well.
On to comic books! Have you read the Indian Spider-man comics? I have all three issues - Peter Parker is Pavitra Prabhakar, Mary Jane is Meera Jain and Spider-man wears a dhoti. And I'm not kidding.
Neha: Yes I have! A friend of mine gifted me a whole stack of them from his trip to India. It's pretty weird to see Mary as Meera, and such.
Your first comic book purchase was Catwoman. Man, was she sexy, stylish and devil-may-care! Did you see the Halle Berry Catwoman movie and feel like slowly killing the director?
Neha: I didn't even see it because it looked like pure garbage from the trailer. I think I made the right choice.
Any super hero movies you've liked?
Neha: Of course. Most recently, I loved The Dark Knight--one of the greatest comic book movies ever. I also liked Ironman and The Hulk which also came out this summer. I loved Spider-man 1& 2, but was very disappointed by Spidey 3.
Let's talk Indian TV! Which one do you like better: Sa Re Ga Ma Pa or Indian Idol?
Neha: That's tough. While I was in India, I managed to watch both. I think I found myself getting into Idol more because I had watched American Idol and it was similar. But, I like the lack of melodrama in SRGMP.
Let's talk Bollywood: any recent movie you absolutely loved?
Neha: Oddly enough, I watched Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar for the first time recently and loved it. I really like how they re-did all the RD Burman hits, and the story was good as well. As far as other recent movies: I haven't liked much since Parineeta!
Any song that is almost always on your playlist?
Neha: Lately with Bollywood, it's been Ajab Si from Om Shanti Om and Thode Badmash from Saawariya. Also the Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar soundtrack, and Adnan Sami's Tera Chehra CD is always in the mix.
You're the first person I've met who likes Rajendra Kumar! You must really like guys in big collars. But seriously, tell us what you found so charming.
Neha: One of my favorite desi films is Mere Mehboob. I believe that is where I fell in love with Rajendra Kumar. There is something essentially manly yet gentle about him. He plays well in romantic roles, including Sangam.
Ok, time for some hypothetical questions so we can deftly learn more about you.
Let's say you just brought a huge smoothie and ran into Shahrukh and Saif. Who would you wave at first with your free hand?
Neha: Shahrukh! He's such a big star with great style--how could I resist saying hello!
Same situation: Esha Deol and Uday Chopra. Who would you wave goodbye to first?
Neha: Ooooh...Esha Deol. At least Uday can be somewhat funny.
You seem to love the Khans. What!? No Hrithik love? Are you just scared of being stabbed by those possessive Roshan fans?
Neha: No, I find Hrithik to be be very charming and attractive. The problem is: He can't act! But boy, he sure can dance :)
Let's say you are on the second date with a guy who may be the one. But he thinks Bollywood is an amusement park started by a busty country music singer. Yet he wants to watch an Indian movie! What would you show him and why?
Neha: Good question. I think I would show him Sholay because it is such a classic with great dialogue. Then maybe Parineeta so he could get a sense of how modern Bollywood explains desi culture.
Recently Saawariya launched a campaign on Twitter that I thought was pretty innovative. Unfortunately the movie was a box office disaster. Regardless, do you think Bollywood could use Social Media to reach a broader audience?
Neha: I think using social media is an ally to any company. These days, viral videos are taking over and if you can launch a successful social media campaign, the youth will be into it. I think many of the people on social networks are open-minded, so it may be a good vein to bring in people to Bollywood.
Finally, humor us - this is a mandatory Drift question. Can you fold a fitted bed sheet properly?
Neha: Nope, I sure can't. But I can make you a full Indian meal, how's that?
Also: Neha's story in words, in pictures