Enlightened conversations about the human experience.

About the show

AwokenWord is a long-form, conversation style podcast hosted by writer, poet, and music composer, Anuj Rastogi. Through nuanced and thoughtful dialogue with an incredible array of guests, Anuj explores the worlds of society, culture, art, music, science, current events and all things that comprise the human experience.

"I want to challenge and evolve ideas, intuitions and convictions. This world, is quite simply, nuts, and often terrifying. Yet, this same world is incredibly beautiful, inspiring and mesmerizing. I want to get to know people who are interesting, who hold varied opinions and have life experiences different than my own.

This podcast is my humble attempt to bring a grain of sand of goodness, conversation and inspiration to the beach of human experience. This podcast is my love letter to the world, and to what it means to be human."

~ Anuj Rastogi

AwokenWord on social media


  • #020: Shree Paradkar - "Casting Light"

    May 10th, 2021  |  Season 2  |  59 mins 24 secs
    canada, conversation, culture, feminism, history, human, humanity, interview, journalism, love, news, politics, race, racism, society, world

    Anuj and Shree Paradkar sit down for an unflinching conversation about race and self refection. Shree is a Toronto Star race and gender columnist, and the 2018-2019 recipient of the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy. Shree's writing takes on charged issues with a critical and unwaivering approach. Shree shares the role of Black feminism in her own journey, and the debt that we all owe to indigenous and black communities. Shree also raises the question of who defines the "norm" in society, and sheds light on how these challenging forces come into her world as a mother.

  • #019: G Yamazawa - "Way of The Shogun"

    June 23rd, 2020  |  Season 2  |  1 hr 12 secs
    art, buddhism, conversation, covid19, culture, hip hop, human, humanity, interview, music, politics, rap, society, world

    Anuj is joined by G Yamazawa, in this conversation deep into the COVID19 pandemic. G Yamazawa is an innovative rapper, spoken word poet and hip hop artist. Originally out of Durham, North Carolina, G is now based in Los Angeles.

    G shares a lot about his life growing up, how hip hop entered his life, and the path that spoken word poetry opened up for him to find his own voice in the world of hip hop. Anuj and G unpack life in the US at the early stages of the COVID19 pandemic, as well as the worlds of artistry, social media, creativity and evolving as an artist. This is a fresh glimpse into the mind of a prolific artist.

  • #018: Jeff Teravainen - "Acting Human"

    March 18th, 2020  |  Season 2  |  1 hr 38 mins
    acting, actor, art, children, conversation, culture, daughter, family, fatherhood, film, hollywood, humanity, love, movies, music, science, society, world

    Today, Anuj sits , Jeff Teravainen for an inspiring, and organic conversation. Jeff is a well-loved actor, Voiceover Artist, and Musician. He's played the role of Lieutenant Anders on SYFY's hit "Dark Matter", as well as roles in SYFY's "12 Monkeys" in Season 2 along with movies such as the 2019 Netflix hit, "Christmas Chronicles". Jeff has also given his likeness and voice to characters in popular animation and video games such as "Far Cry", "Splinter Cell" and "Resident Evil". Most recently, you can find Jeff as the recurring character Gerald on the new HULU / CBC series "Utopia Falls" which debuted in 2020.

  • #017: Sammy Chand - "Genesis Man"

    January 15th, 2020  |  Season 2  |  1 hr 32 mins
    change, children, culture, hip hop, humanity, india, karmacy, music, obama, politics, rap, society, trump, wu tang

    Live from DASH Radio studio in Los Angeles, Anuj Rastogi sits down with Sammy Chand. Sammy is the founder of Rukus Avenue Radio, a rapper, producer, record label exec, entrepreneur and man of the people. In this conversation, Anuj and Sammy explore the impact of Hip Hop, the genesis of Indian Hip Hop and its ties back to Sammy's group KARMACY. The two discuss identity, the evolution of music, fatherhood, the current political climate in the US and what we can do to shape the world for better.

  • #016: Barkha Madan - "Lights, Camera, Introspection!"

    December 11th, 2019  |  Season 2  |  1 hr 35 mins
    barkha madan, bollywood, buddha, buddhism, dalai lama, film, humanity, interview, love, society, spirituality

    Anuj Rastogi is joined by Barkha Madan at the AwokenWord studio. Barkha Madan is a former Indian model, film actress and film producer who has also appeared in television serials and hosted TV shows in India. Barkha had risen to prominence through major film and fashion projects, while undergoing her own inner exploration and journey. In November 2012, Barkha finally made the leap into her self-described "calling" and underwent ordination to become a Buddhist nun and changed her name to Ven. Gyalten Samten. Barkha shares her incredible journey from the runway and silverscreen, and the experience of immersing herself in new characters, before eventually following through on her true spiritual calling. Anuj and Barkha discuss the challenges of a modern life in a modern, materialistic and social media driven world, as well as the joys of travel, meeting people, looking back across her experiences, and the ways in which her path has impacted countless others.

  • #015: Shantanu Pujari - "Hip Hop India"

    November 13th, 2019  |  Season 2  |  1 hr 24 mins
    action, bollywood, fight, film, gully boy, hip hop, history, humanity, india, inspiration, kickboxing, martial arts, mma, muay thai, mumbai, music, politics, spiritual, yoga

    Anuj Rastogi reconnects with Shantanu Pujari, a multi-talented artist and fighter. Shantanu is a professional competitive mixed martial arts fighter, yoga instructor, action director for film, activist, b-boy, beatboxer and hip hop label artist manager. Shantanu is also the host of the "Shakahari Show" on Rukus Avenue Radio. Shantanu shares his incredible personal journey, and a deep respect and knowledge of the history of Hip Hop as well as India. This conversation is an inspiring and exciting journey through the eyes of India's youth which is on course to transform the country and the world in positive ways.

  • #014: Sangita Patel - "Leading Rainbow"

    September 26th, 2019  |  Season 2  |  1 hr 47 mins
    america, brene brown, ceo, culture, education, humanity, leadership, levar burton, politics, race, reading rainbow, society, world

    Live in Los Angeles, California (well, Orange County actually) Anuj Rastogi sits down with Sangita Patel, entrepreneur, tech leader and the CEO of LeVar Burton Kids. Sangita shares her jouney in America, finding a place in a world that was only black or white, and what she's learned in her remarkable life and career. Sangita also shares her journey working with one of the most inspiring men in the world, LeVar Burton, and the journey from Reading Rainbow to LeVar Burton Kids. The conversation wanders through race, society, the American dream, and what we can learn from our kids, as well as what we can do to shape the world through dialogue, books, literature and sharing the human experience through art that reflects the world.

  • #013: Ashwin Srinivasan - "The Airbender"

    August 14th, 2019  |  Season 2  |  1 hr 56 mins
    ar rahman, art, bansuri, culture, flute, humanity, india, indian classical, inspiration, london, mumbai, music, nitin sawhney, singer, story, travel

    Live in Mumbai, Anuj Rastogi sits down with Ashwin Srinivasan, one of the most highly sought-after musicians in India. Ashwin is an acclaimed Indian Classical flautist and vocalist, and long-time collaborator with internationally renowned composer Nitin Sawhney, as well as core member of Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman's band. He has recorded, performed and collaborated with some of the most acclaimed global artists including AR Rahman, Nitin Sawhney, Anoushka Shankar, Hariharan, Javed Akhtar, Joss Stone, and Imogen Heap to name but a few. Ashwin's vocal and instrumental brilliance is well known, and in this conversation, Anuj and Ashwin explore the worlds of music, Ashwin's journey as an artist, and his unique approach to his art. Anuj and Ashwin also discuss the incredible beauty of India, and the experience of exploring the country and its people by road.

  • #012: Ali A. Rizvi - "Of Myth & Legends"

    July 25th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  2 hrs 10 mins
    art, conversation, culture, death, democrats, evolution, fatherhood, history, humanity, joe rogan, love, metoo, politics, religion, science, society, world

    Anuj sits down with Ali A. Rizvi back in the AwokenWord studio. Ali is an author, speaker, and musician who grew up in Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan before moving to the US and eventually Canada at the age of 24. Anuj and Ali discuss his background, life experiences growing up, the insights Ali gleaned in working with the dead, science, and religion. They dive deep into the challenges and questions unanswered by religion, the history and impact of religion on human cultural evolution, and the role that spirituality may or may not play in our lives, as well as the beauty of wonder and fatherhood and everyday life. The conversation turns to the current US Democratic primaries and the role of politics, identity, populism and social forces shaping the world today.

  • #011: Lisa Fitzpatrick - "Open Your Door"

    June 13th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 23 mins
    america, apex youth center, cnn, conversation, culture, darius baxter, david brooks, gangs, gun violence, history, human, humanity, interview, love, new orleans, politics, prison, religion, society, sxsw, sxsw edu, system, world

    Live from SXSW EDU, Anuj Rastogi sits down with Lisa Fitzpatrick, co-founder of the APEX Youth Center based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lisa shared the stage as the opening keynote in SXSW EDU 2019. Lisa's story is a rare glimpse into the mind of a true hero who overcomes incredible trauma and build a life of humanity and compassion. Lisa shares her personal journey from tragically falling victim in a random act of violence to devoting her life and efforts to welcoming the community quite literally into her home. Lisa shares the story behind founding a community organization that has changed the lives for over 1,200 youth to date, and how her experience as a pastor, a business executive, and mother has shaped her incredible contributions to the world.

  • #010: Darius Baxter - "Be The Change"

    April 14th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 3 mins
    america, conversation, culture, david brooks, goodprojects, gun violence, history, human, humanity, interview, lisa fitzpatrick, love, politics, science, society, sxsw, sxsw edu, washington, world

    Live from SXSW EDU, Anuj Rastogi sits down with Darius Baxter, co-founder of GOODProjects based in Washington DC. Darius shared the stage as the opening keynote in SXSW EDU 2019. He is an incredibly inspiring leader, and shares his personal journey from tragically losing his father at age 9, to being raised by a strong mother, and the choices he made between pursuing a Wall Street career and serving the community, modern political life in America, inspiring new generations, and being the change in action.

    one of the country's most prolific event producers, as well as a talented author, speaker and poet. Anuj and Dwayne dive deep into many important territories, from Race, the experience of being black in this world, creating spaces and platforms for others to shine, being a man, fatherhood, sociopolitical polarization, the importance of self love, and paying it forward.

  • #009: Nicki Wells - "The World is Sound"

    March 13th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 14 mins
    andy serkis, dance, film, humanity, indian classical, inspiration, london, matrix, melody, mowgli, music, nicki wells, nitin sawhney, sapiens, singer, story, theatre, travel, turya

    In this episode, Anuj connects with London-based singer, songwriter, composer, producer and multi-genre musical prodigy, Nicki Wells (aka TURYA). Nicki is an internationally acclaimed vocalist, and capable of astonishing fluency across Western classical, pop, and Indian Classical styles of music. A long-time collaborator with leading global artists, Nicki has worked with composer Nitin Sawhney, vocalists Tina Grace, and Joss Stone to name a few. Nicki has performed across many of the globe's most esteemed venues from Australia, the Middle East, South and East Asia, throughout Europe, Canada and the US. Nicki has also performed for, and composed original music for acclaimed film, theatre and dance productions, and he voice is found on soundtracks including the 2018 feature film "Mowgli" directed by Andy Serkis, and streaming on Netflix.