Alumni Profile: Priyanka Sivaramakrishnan MALS ’17

Everyone is quiet when the food is served. They were a chatty bunch moments ago, as old and new friends are at dinner parties. But now they curl over their plates allowing the spice-scented steam to warm and caress their smiles. They tenderly take up food with their fingers or forks. Slowly, they begin to speak again. Hushed, reverent compliments are directed near what feels like the center of the room—the oven—by which Priyanka Sivaramakrishnan MALS ’17 sits. Priyanka is the orchestrator of this evening. Bringing old and new friends into her home, she introduces everyone, feeds them, and sends them off happy and with leftovers.

Seeing Priyanka move deftly about her kitchen, guests would never guess that just a few years ago Priyanka was working nights, weekends, and everything in-between as a corporate lawyer in Bangalore, India. Priyanka wanted a different life. This desire led her to a new passion—storytelling. “I didn't want to go through life dragging myself to the office,” Priyanka said. “I wanted to wake up in the morning and jump up excited about going to work. That's when my friend told me about his storytelling company. From the first minute, I was hooked.”

Priyanka became a storyteller working for a start-up literacy company; this position allowed her to engage in creative writing and storytelling. As Priyanka honed her storytelling skills, she had the idea of pursuing a Master’s degree. Ultimately, this desire led her to Dartmouth’s Master of Liberal Studies program where she studied creative writing.

Excited to start her Master’s degree, Priyanka arrived at Dartmouth in the fall of 2015—alone. However, she wasn’t alone for long. Living in North Park, she soon gathered her neighbors around her to cook dinner each night. Cooking together soon became a regular ritual for Priyanka and her neighbors-turned-friends. They experimented—trying new recipes and exploring new flavors. But they also cooked to remember. They each made family recipes for one another and told stories about their families, lives, and themselves. Nihal Velpanur, a member of the North Park cooking group, said: “Priyanka has the unique talent of being able to hear you pine for the most eclectic of dishes from back home, and recreating it to perfection. It's impressive how she can go from imagination to plate in such little time.”

Priyanka’s passion for cooking coalesced with her creative writing when she wrote a cookbook for her Master’s thesis. In her thesis, Priyanka offers a variety of delicious recipes accompanied by personal essays and short stories. After graduating, Priyanka’s love for creating stories and new recipes led her to establish a blog, Passive Aggressive Kitchen, featuring stories of her gastronomical adventures. Priyanka has also been expanding the local culinary culture by bringing new recipes to the Upper Valley through the DailyUV.

Recently, a graduate student asked me if I knew Priyanka. He told me that she taught him how to make egg puff, which are sold by street vendors in his home state in India. He said that eating egg puff was like having a bit of home with him, even from far away. Bit by bit—or rather bite by bite, Priyanka, in her kitchen, listens to the stories of those around her, cooks them pieces of their past, and helps them discover new homes.

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