5SR - February 22, 2024

Hitha on cozy TV shows, a critical look at Putin, and Princess Gulbadan

Today’s curator is the founder of #5SmartReads, Hitha Palepu. She’s a consummate multihyphenate - CEO of Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals, author of WE’RE SPEAKING: The Life Lessons of Kamala Harris and How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip, and professional speaker. Hitha is an unabashed fan of Taco Bell, Philadelphia sports teams & F1, romance novels, and is a mediocre crafter. She lives in NYC with her husband and two sons.

Splashy startups love to talk about how they’re disrupting the status quo.But in this case, Thrive Market accepting SNAP payments is disruptive in the best way possible.

A significant number of families enrolled in the SNAP program live in communities that don’t have a traditional grocery store or access to fresh food. Being able to order healthy groceries online (Thrive also works with nonprofits and shelters to help facilitate delivery to those in need).

I still think it’s unconscionable that people go hungry and don’t have access to nutritious food every day, and a partnership like this one took nearly a decade of advocating the USDA and multiple pilot programs.

The means testing was completed and progress has been made - but I hope we scale initiatives like this faster and with more investment.

Mughal history is an area I’ve been fascinated by since I read The Twentieth Wife decades ago (highly recommend the whole series, by the way).

That historian Ruby Lal had searched for Princess Gulabadan’s handwritten manuscript for over 20 years. Vagabond Princess is her translation of this work (along with Lal’s own journey to track it down), and it’s a book I cannot wait to dive into.

Gulabadan was the daughter of Emperor Babur, sister of Emperor Humayun, and aunt of Emperor Akbar who documented every detail of her extraordinary life in this extraordinary period in history.

There’s an old adage - history is written by the winners - and too often, those winners were wealthy men who often sought to preserve their power than to actually lead. To have this piece of history preserved and presented in the present day by a stellar historian is really special.

I’ve already ordered two copies - one to read immediately on my Kindle, and one to display in my royals section of my bookshelf.

“There is the constant glorification of what Russians call “the great patriotic war.” The repeated reminders to the world that Russia fought the Second World War and won it for the universe. That message is unambiguous. The message is that because Russia won the war, it has the right to at least share in world dominance. It earned that right by winning World War II. It earned the right to be a superpower. But the saber-rattling that was involved in this unceasing celebration of the victory in World War II was also a message to both self and the world that we can repeat the big war.

The logic of totalitarianism is imperial. It is expansive. You can only fully mobilize a population if you have a big war to mobilize behind. There was a cheap version of that mobilization when Putin annexed Crimea in 2014. Most Russians were elated and gave a level of totalitarian support for the non-military victory. But that effect wore off after a while, and now you have to have a bloody version of the big war.”

Masha Gessen is someone I look to when I’m trying to make sense of Putin’s actions and aggressions. I highly, highly recommend you take the time to read this piece.

My parents have just returned from India, and I have some beautiful bottles of red wine and an entire queue of Hallmark Channel films to enjoy with them.

We are big cozy show & film fans in this house. Huge. Especially right now, when everything feels so awful and we need something calm, sweet, and rooted in reality without being our reality.

I can attest that many of these shows fit the bill, and the rest are in my watch queue. And while it’s not as cozy as the shows listed (it’s more like Veronica Mars in early twentieth century London), I highly recommend Miss Scarlet and the Duke - absolutely brilliant.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We keep repeating this horrifically fatal, tragic cycle as outlined in this in-depth interview.

I want peace, safety, and dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians in equal measure. And it’s never felt further than it does right now.

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