Did you know that nearly one in four people in this world have roots from South Asia? This includes the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives and their diaspora worldwide.
South Asians are starting to have a real impact on the world in all fields of endeavor especially business, technology, medicine, and even entertainment.
Below is a list of my top 15 South Asian role models.
I compiled this this for three reasons.
- I would like to educate the broader public about the contributions that South Asian people make to Canada and the world.
- I would like the next generation of South Asian youth to feel proud of their culture, heritage, and accomplishments.
- I would like to challenge the media, which I find has a tendency to portray the worst in everyone and everything regardless of the community all in the name of news and entertainment.
The latter puts visible minorities especially at-risk as it can create a societal backlash and stereotyping.
My list this year includes prominent South Asians mostly from Canada, the USA, and India. I encourage everyone to research and read up more on each person’s background, accomplishments, and ethno-cultural diversity. This will just go to show how diverse South Asia as a subcontinent really is! South Asia is a world onto itself!
The members of this list are listed by alphabetical order by last name. Go and discover the South Asian, or at-least part South Asian, people making a difference in your world every day. Enjoy!
My Top 15 South Asian role models
Waris Ahluwalia is an American designer and actor. He was born in Amritsar, Punjab, India. Waris is currently based in New York City. He hails from a Sikh family.
Aziz Ansari is an American actor and comedian. He was born in Columbia, South Carolina. His family is Tamil Muslim from Tamil Nadu, India.
Shabana Azmi is an Indian actress and social and women’s rights activist. She was born in Hyderabad, India. She hails from a Muslim family.
Mindy Kaling is an American actress, comedian, and writer. She was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mindy has a Tamil father and a Bengali mother who are both Hindus.
Aamir Khan is an Indian actor, producer, director, and screenwriter. He was born in Mumbai, India. Aamir hails from a Muslim family.
Shaun Majumder is a Canadian comedian and actor. He was born in Burlington, Newfoundland. Shaun’s mother is European Canadian from Newfoundland and his father is Bengali Hindu from West Bengal, India.
Manny Malhotra is a Canadian hockey player with the Montreal Canadians. He was born in Mississauga, Ontario. Manny’s father was born in Lahore, British India (Pakistan) and his mother is French Canadian.
Deepa Mehta is a Canadian Oscar-nominated film director and screen writer. She was born in Amritsar, Punjab, India. Deepa was raised in a Hindu family.
Michael Ondaatje is a Canadian novelist and poet. He was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Michael is of Burgher ancestry which is a Eurasian ethnic group in Sri Lanka.
Russell Peters is a Canadian comedian and actor. He was born in Toronto, Ontario. Russell is Catholic and Ango-Indian descent.
Lisa Ray is a Canadian actress, model, and social activist. She was born in Toronto, Ontario. Lisa has a Bengali Hindu father and a Polish mother.
Sugar Sammy is a Canadian comedian, actor, writer, and producer. He is from Montreal, Quebec. Sugar is of Punjabi descent. He often uses English, French, Punjabi, and Hindi in his stand-up routine.
Vandana Shiva is an Indian environmental activist and anti-globalization author. She was born in Dehradun which is the capital city of the state of Uttarakhand in the northern part of India. Vandana is from a Hindu family.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani advocate for female education and the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate. She was born in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Malala is Pashtun Muslim.
Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, and economist. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering microcredit and microfinance for the poor. He was born in the village of Bathua in Bangladesh. Muhammad is Muslim.
Oh yes and honourable mention goes to the British South Asians from across the pond—Salman Rushdie, Sir Ben Kingsley, Jay Sean, and Zayn Malik—and of course the American film director, screen writer, and producer who is breaking down barriers in Hollywood, M. Night Shyamalan.