A Conversation with Archna Eniasivam | See previous interviews

Archna Eniasivam
Assistant Clinical Professor

Archna Eniasivam

From where do you get your energy?

I get my energy from people and am definitely an extrovert. When I was young, my mom took me on an airplane and, as all parents do, warned me not to talk with strangers. So I went up and down the aisles and introduced myself to passengers so then they weren't strangers anymore! I very much get that from my father, who is very boisterous and jovial and is very sociable. My younger brother is the complete opposite and the joke in our family is that, because he didn't speak until later, I took all his words. My brother and I are complete and opposite halves of each parent. I have my father's outgoing personality but my mother's approach to things. My brother is a dreamer like my father and more introverted like my mother.

Tell me more about your parents and family. Are you more like one parent or the other?

I am very close with my family and I have much of both of their personalities and try to manifest their generosity in my life. Growing up, we always had people staying at our house, friends and relatives and people new to the country. We are a stubborn family, all four of us, which proves interesting when discussing world events. We love to travel and I think we are not the typical Indian family in that we do road trips, rough it in different countries, and stay at hostels instead of hotels. We just returned from Indonesia and India, to celebrate my brother's graduation from med school, and I feel so lucky because as we get older, it may become more difficult to travel regularly with my family.


Your name, I believe, means "worship" in Hindi. Does it reflect a part of who you are on a more personal level?

My name means the final blessing or offering to God at the end of a puja, the act of worship. I've never really thought about if it reflects my personal beliefs or how I approach life. I am not religious per se but the culture of Hinduism is important to me, and I appreciate what it lends to my daily life. I tend to put the full force of myself towards what I do, towards a greater good, and I hope that that reflects the meaning of my name.

Which room was where everyone congregated and what do you most recall about it?

The kitchen was where everything happened. My parents are both phenomenal cooks known for their dosa, paper-thin crepes made of a fermented batter. They had a small catering business, on top of full-time jobs, and during the week, we all got involved in food prep, and on weekends we traveled near and far to cook for parties. They cooked for congressmen and Bollywood superstars, and many of my memories are of cutting up carrots or kneading dough. For Indian festivals, our dosa stand had the longest lines! My dad was the face and personality of the dosa stand, but my mom was the more creative cook, who really enjoyed the effort of mastering techniques; she made us typical Indian dinners with two or more vegetable dishes every night. Food is obviously important in our family and we live to eat.

What was your last favorite artsy-fartsy project?

I love arts and crafts but haven't had time to do much since my last candle-making effort for a friend's bridal shower. I enjoy repurposing things and finding new ways to utilize otherwise forgotten or discarded items. When I lived in Milwaukee, I was a thrift store queen and haunted all of the Goodwill and thrift stores for pieces to upholster, like chairs or an ottoman. One of my favorite projects was getting old wine crates that merchants would have thrown away, and mounting fabric on poster board in the interior to create bookshelves. I bought an inexpensive bookshelf from Target, put scrap wallpaper on the bottom before I assembled it, and ended up with a unique piece. I like doing things just a little bit differently.

Wine Crate

Have you ever studied photography or is it a talent that you've cultivated? When you pick up a camera, are you aiming for the image or its story?

Photography is an interest I got from my father. Around the time of my early residency, he gave me a Sony Alpha A65 DSLR so, if my photos are decent, it is reflective of the quality of my camera. When I aim the camera, it's a combination of things that intrigue me. I don't necessarily know what the story is, just my assumptions. I love candid images of people in terms of what they represent about the places that I am exploring—I try to capture a sense of place. I often wander off by myself when traveling and shoot whatever catches my fancy. I try to give importance to small details that might otherwise be overlooked. I attempt to recreate the mental pictures in my mind so that I can share the experience of being there with others.

You seem to have a need to not only express but to create. What other artistic expression is important to you?

The creativity comes from my mother who used to paint and we have several of her pieces in our house. She is also very much a re-purposer as well. I studied Bharatanatyam, Indian Classical Dance, for 13 years and had my graduation performance before I went to college; it is said that it is the second most important event other than one's wedding. I performed a 3-hour solo for 300 guests and family who flew in from all over the world (my family also catered the event). Bharatanatyam tells a story using primarily your eyes and very specific, codified hand gestures. I also danced Bhangra, from the state of Punjab, which is more reflective of my personality in that it is more energetic, uses large movement, and is fun to dance.


Of what are you inexplicably terrified?

I have an irrational and deep fear of driving off of a bridge into deep water. It doesn't prevent me from crossing bridges, but it's always in the back of my mind. It apparently originated with a Reader's Digest article I read at my aunt and uncle's house that told you how to escape from a car submerged underwater. That night I had a vivid dream in which I was underwater—I woke up and ran to my parents' room, totally freaked out, and it's since been a very irrational fear. I used to be afraid of heights but I am better since skydiving and bungee jumping.

Who makes up the best company of an evening around the dinner table? What makes a get together with these people special?

Being an extrovert, I enjoy the company of others and I consider my friends as family. I like people who are fun loving, have great senses of humor, and are generous and passionate about something, whether career or a hobby. They bring something new to the table and I've learned so much about what others do in tech, journalism, or fields other than medicine. I love to host and to cook but I don't know how to cook for less than a family of four. I often experiment with recipes from the internet that I try to make my own, like a Moroccan chicken dish with apricots, tons of spices with pilaf on the side.

Thank you, Archna. You are delightful.

- by Oralia Schatzman

View Archna's professional bio | See previous faculty interviews