What Matters to Ria Shah

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

Ria Shah is an Indian brand strategist and designer now based in Brooklyn, New York. By the day, she brings her knack for translating facts, cultures, and experiences into compelling stories at Interbrand. By night, her love for cooking, discovering new recipes, and binge-watching food shows like it’s a sport takes center stage.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

It’s nearly impossible for me to single out just one thing. I adore taking long, aimless walks and just having a conversation. I live for the feeling of nostalgia when I go through my 30,000 photos collection built over the last 10 years, reminiscing about every detail. Seeing families, friends, and people being happy on the train. I love watching sports fans being their true whole selves. But if I had to pick just one thing, it’s talking to my mum, sister, dad and friends, in India every day, even when there’s not much to say. And, of course, cooking.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

My earliest memory takes me back to the Diwali Break of 2004/2005. It was a time when Nani (grandma) brought out diyas (earthen pots) for my cousins and me to paint. We spent countless hours mixing gold, silver, and every other metallic color, and highlight every piece with Nani’s beads and embellishments from Nani’s meticulously organized collection which were reserved exclusively for Diwali.

What is your biggest regret?

Not coming out of my shell soon-enough.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

Heartbreak, to me, is feeling powerless, unable to change the situation for myself or others. In those moments, I seek solace in spending time alone, reflecting, and expressing my emotions to those closest to me.

What makes you cry?

I cried when a friend tied my shoelaces for me, I cried when I got a job rejection, I cried when I had to leave home, I cried when I had to go back home, I cried when I got a job. I cry, easy and fast (and I would have it no other way).

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

Lately, I’ve noticed a change in how I handle my achievements. Before, I’d hit a goal, feel the rush, then quickly move on. But now, I’m lingering in those moments. I’m deliberately taking time to soak it in, to really appreciate where I’m at. However, the best part isn’t just achieving something—it’s sharing it with my dad. His excitement and pride make everything feel so much more meaningful.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I don’t believe so much in afterlife, as much as I do in going to a better place.

What do you hate most about yourself?

I find myself saying this more often than I’d like, but there’s one thing I really dislike (not hate). I often wish I could just keep my brain outside for a day, and exist without the constant stream of thoughts. It’s tough to pause, and take a moment.

What do you love most about yourself?

I love that I care deeply about everything, want to make everything work all the time.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

I couldn’t settle on just one thing, so I did a whole 100-day project in search of this answer. More than getting an answer, I realized I loved a lot of dishes, and now I feel like I’m offending my other favorite dishes by choosing just one. It’s a delicious dilemma, to say the least!

(I think it’s green moong dal and rice with papad that mum makes after a long day).

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