A Series on The Love Between Friends
Photographer: Cynthia Edorh
On this supposed night of romantic love, one frequently marked with ambivalence by singles, disgust by anti-consumerists, and disappointment by the coupled, we at Bhoomki wish to wrestle Valentine’s Day from the embrace of the romantics. You’ve likely seen recent efforts on Valentine’s Day to celebrate the love between friends (Palentine’s) and more specifically female friends (Galentine’s) and we are here for it! As a women-owned business dedicated to celebrating the work of women, our relationships with women form the foundation of our business, and we bet your friendships are nothing short of a lifeline over the past few years.
In this spirit, it’s a delight to launch on this day of love and friendship, Bhoomki BBs a series of portraits and conversations between friends who inspire us with their wit, work and what they wear.
It’s an honor to introduce two of my dear friends Iva Dixit and Mallika Rao , extraordinary women and writers. Iva is a Staff Editor at New York Times Magazine writing on style, food and culture and Mallika Rao is an award-winning journalist writing for The Atlantic, Vulture, T Magazine among others. When I moved to NYC over twenty years, I hoped to meet kindred creative South Asian women to share a cultural vocabulary I was unable to find as a teenager in the American South. My friendships with these two are a dream realized.
Mallika is wearing a top we named after her called the Mallika top and Iva is wearing our Slip dress dyed in a custom fuchsia we could only call Iva Pink.
How I met Iva:
I met Iva thanks to the good ol' internet. At some point I realized this person with way more prowess than me on the socials followed me on Twitter and so I followed her and then the same thing happened on Instagram and I just kind of deep dove her Insta and saw the funniest posts indicative of a truly clever mind. Anyway, I wound up sliding into this stranger's DMs (I join/lead a long line of reply people but I don't want to think of myself that way), and asked if she'd be interested in being my date for a screening of the Merchant Ivory classic Shakespeare Wallah. I'd been assigned to write about the film and interview the great Madhur Jaffery for the Village Voice. Iva, to my delight, said absolutely yes and so began a truly romantic friendship.
We met at the entrance of the legendary Quad Cinema and I just saw this gleaming, elegantly jacketed person with a big smile who immediately enveloped me in a hug, and I don't know how else to explain it but I felt at home. New York until then had felt a little inadequate, especially when it came to any hope of integration of my American self and my Indian self, my professional writerly self and my private, my self who wanted to be cozy with the one needing stimulus. With Iva, I felt wholly myself. We had dinner after the screening and she analyzed the movie so expertly, with such speed and wit, an intuitive insight born from a childhood in India devouring all forms of media that I felt the wrongness of our roles right then. Probably she should be writing this piece. I remember looking over the bread in awe at this dinner companion, whom I knew I wanted to be close to for life. And now I just sort of watch in awe as she writes pieces of her own and everyone gets to feel the way I did.
How I met Mallika:
Mallika came into my life (or my dms) during the year that I stopped talking. It was a year when the insipidity of the people around me had reached such monstrous lows, I decided that verbal communication beyond the bare minimum was entirely unnecessary. The words I wouldn’t speak in real life I would just spit out online, almost daring some higher power (my then-employer, most likely) to come and punish me for it. Somehow, the worst streak of self-destructiveness I have ever lived through also brought me one of the deepest friendships I have ever known.
I had been a reader of hers long before I became her friend. When I was still trying to familiarize myself with the industry I was trying to enter, but didn’t respect at all, it was the era when making writers publish garbled nonsense out of their personal lives was an entire business model. But in an ocean clogged with the debris of bad writing, something about the unsentimental, almost severe manner of her words I found so enchanting for years. But the grotesque gestures of overfamiliarity encouraged by today’s internet writing economy repulse me, so my deep and sustained simping for her work was a very private thing that I’d never actually expressed ever. So when in November of 2017 I got a DM from asking me if I wanted to go watch Shakespeare Wallah, I, in a very out of character move for me, I said yes without overthinking (I never say yes to anything without overthinking.) Normally I would have spent at least a day steeped in suspicion wondering why would this deeply cerebral thinker and critic want to talk to me, a person who tweets about Shah Rukh’s Khan’s thighs in the Baazigar title song? At the time however, I simply lol’ed at her request to not write about it, saying something along the lines of “Ma’am, my writerly ambitions died a very long time ago,” and showed up at the Quad Cinema to watch a movie with someone I’d never met before.
My favorite memory of Iva:
Probably this one night: Iva showed up to a party I had. It was summer. She opened the door and the temperature in the room totally changed. It was like a celeb had arrived. Everyone was interested in her, but you could tell they didn't want to make it too obvious. She just has that effect on people. And on that evening in particular she really had it -- maybe it was her summer tan, maybe her outfit, maybe her mood.
Somehow soon after, it came up -- not by her own doing -- that she'd recently become a viral sensation, somewhat accidentally. She'd been trapped in the MTA for hours and tweeted about it. If you don't follow her on Twitter, btw, you should, and of course the tweet became a headline somewhere. So she got to explaining the background and at this point, people were hanging on every word and she was fully the celebrity, because at a party in Brooklyn, a tweet becoming a headline is kind of understood to be a symptom of a deeper ability to tap into the zeitgeist and just use words well.
I hope I don't sound like I'm obsessed with celebrities by the way. But whatever that magic quality is that makes people pay attention, stop what they're doing and become glued to a screen or a page in a book or the movements of a living breathing person, Iva has that. I just remember looking over at her that night and seeing these beautiful limbs and feeling the energy that was so palpable just filling the whole room in light and I felt full of that pure admiration and love that comes from feeling lucky to simply be in someone's enchanting orbit.
My favorite memory of Mallika:
The only memory I have of that evening is that after eleven months of self-imposed silence, words, hundreds of them, came bubbling out of me with such a frenetic inelegance. I relentlessly mocked the badly-dressed crowd at the screening to her. Afterwards at dinner, I talked at her for 30 minutes straight about the sublime beauty of Shashi Kapoor’s face and then went into a monologue about how he was the most fuckable Kapoor, and how his character in the film could give our local media fuckboys some serious competition. I am not a hugger, and have never quite gotten over my discomfort with physical affection, and yet at the end of the dinner when we parted, I remember engulfing her slight, delicate frame in a hug so tight I think I may have crushed her bones a little bit. I had been my worst self — loud and the ugliest kind of garrulous. But somehow, somehow, what I now think should have made her flee far far away from my lunacy, instead became a friendship that has given me more romance than any of the men I've encountered.
I knew Iva and I were friends...
The very first time we met...sitting across from her at dinner. I've had that feeling a handful of times in my life. I've just known: this is a forever friend. And I knew that sitting across from Iva discussing how Shashi Kapoor's character Sanju is really kind of a little shit.
I knew Mallika and I were friends when...
I saw her in person and proceeded to unleash a year’s worth of my cooped-up brain’s nonsense on her, it was just as simple as, this person is now in my life and everything inside of me belongs to them. I do have this memory of us though, at the MoMa in February of 2018, when she told me something very private about her love life with a lot of hesitation and I reacted with all the juvenile enthusiasm of a 14-year-old (I may or may not have thumped her on her back and whooped very loudly). Then I proceeded to tell her, without even blinking, that her idea for something she was planning was very stupid and she shouldn’t do it. There was no such moment of profound realization for me. I decided she was my friend and she just had to go along with it.
What it feels like to hang out with Iva:
Like an intoxicating mix of being young and adult. I feel as if some childhood dream is enacted. I can't believe this person exists, and that we get to share the world together, right then, right there, wherever we are. We might be driving with the windows down to go to a beach or drinking a glass of wine at a restaurant that feels surreally lovely...but things feel too good to be real. And then I realize no, this is real. Life has been good to me and I'm hanging with friend Iva and reality is pretty nice.
What it feels like to hang out with Mallika:
I have always loathed being young and being saddled with an immaturity I never asked for and yet could not shake away. But being around Mallika, from the moment we entered each other’s lives, was like this long-evasive realization that oh, this is what an adult life looks like, one that is dedicated to the pursuit of thinking, without succumbing to the joylessness that plagues so many. I spend the majority of my days caught up in the turbulence of my own hyper-fixated brain, so to have someone in my life with such discipline in theirs is like living in the presence of a civilization-sustaining river. She has such immense conviction, stillness, depth and forcefulness — but without the flashy tumultuousness of an ocean and its angry waves (that’s more my territory),
My hopes for Iva:
It's such a joy to watch Iva blossom and become the person in the world who I get to see in those safe, secure, private friendship times. I wish more of that for her -- integration of all her selves, the satisfaction of her primal needs such that she can reach way far out of the soil and express her strongest, fiercest, most generous and brilliant self, make the world better as a person who is fully at home in the world can.
My hopes for you, Mallika:
They’re not that deep and they’re not that complicated: I simply want the whole world to simp for you the way I do, for your mind, your work and your discipline. And I know they will.
Iva's style/aesthetic in five words:
Romantic, ornate, dangerous, aspirational, alive
(Iva wearing the Iva Pink Silk Crepe Slip Dress)
Mallika's style/aesthetic in five words:
Ruthless (that dramatic streak of silver hair ooooooooof), so full of purpose, self-assurance of a kind the rest of us can only play-act at emulating.
(Mallika wearing The Mallika Top in Cameo)