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


  • #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.

  • #008: Pardeep Nagra - "The Tiger"

    February 20th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  2 hrs 4 mins
    athetics, boxing, education, equity, film, history, hollywood, humanity, mickey rourke, pardeep nagra, sikh, tiger

    In this episode of the AwokenWord podcast, Anuj Rastogi sits down in studio with Pardeep Singh Nagra, championship boxer, athlete, historian, educator, public speaker and human rights advocate. Pardeep is the Executive Director of the Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada, and a champion of equity within the public school system. In the 1990s Mr. Nagra was barred from competing in a Canadian boxing championship because of his beard, which is a mandatory article of his Sikh faith. These real-life events would go on to become the basis for the Hollywood movie "TIGER", about Pardeep's life, starring Mickey Rourke, Prem Singh, and Janel Parrish

  • #007: Jeff Perera - "Mankind. Kind Men"

    January 19th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  2 hrs 33 mins
    #metoo, #womensmarch, conversation, culture, gentleman, gillette, hip hop, history, human, humanity, interview, love, manhood, masculinity, men, politics, science, society, toxic masculinity, world

    In this episode of the AwokenWord podcast, Anuj Rastogi is joined by Jeff Perera, public speaker, motivator and leading voice in the evolution of our perceptions of manhood, masculinity and empathy. A well-respected voice, TEDx speaker and writer, Jeff has been devoted to the cause long before the #metoo movement, and polarizing ads such as that from Gillette, were in the public consciousness. Anuj and Jeff explore both very personal and collective experiences on issues of self reflection as men, self-love, as well as the related conversations on race, and our current political climate.

  • #006: Dwayne Morgan - "The Race To Pay It Forward"

    December 26th, 2018  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 46 mins
    art, black, civil rights, dwayne morgan, humanity, inspiration, love, manhood, masculinity, music, poetry, politics, race, racism, when brothers speak, when sisters speak

    In this episode of the AwokenWord podcast, Anuj Rastogi sits down with Dwayne Morgan, 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.

  • #005: IF The Poet - "Renaissance Reincarnated"

    November 3rd, 2018  |  Season 1  |  2 hrs 18 mins
    art, education, history, humanity, inspiration, love, masculinity, music, poetry, politics, racism

    In this episode of the AwokenWord podcast, Anuj Rastogi talks to Ian French, popularly known as "IF The Poet" and finalist in the 2015 World Slam Poetry championship in Paris. Ian has been the subject of a CBC documentary, and is a respected performer whose work spans the breadth of our collective, and individual human experiences. Anuj and Ian talk at length about the state of the world today, poetry, the journey of creativity, masculinity in today's world, being honest, the nuances of identity politics and political correctness, self-love and the importance of knowing your own story.

    [*NOTE: Though planned at the time of this recording, Ian ultimately pulled out of present at the 2018 "Men and Masculinity Summit" in Toronto, for specific concerns of his own regarding a decision for this year's sumit. He's continued to be a supporter of the summit, and the cause.]

  • #004: Roger Christian - "Star Wars & The Alchemy of Cinema"

    November 2nd, 2018  |  Season 1  |  2 hrs 36 mins
    alien, film, george lucas, hollywood, humanity, light saber, love, oscar, science fiction, star wars

    In this episode of the AwokenWord podcast, Anuj Rastogi speaks with legendary, Academy award-winning Art Director and Filmmaker, Roger Christian. Roger walks through his incredible life's journey from childhood in the UK, to learning the craft of set direction to the day he was hired personally by George Lucas to lead set design on "Star Wars: A New Hope". Roger explains the process he went through in inventing and designing the light-saber, R2D2, and the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, among many elements in the enduring look of the Star Wars universe.

    Anuj and Roger discuss the evolution of cinema, Roger's inspirations and experiences with some of the greats of Hollywood, today's changing political and social landscape, what it means to be a man today, and the future of his newly resurrected feature film project, "Black Angel".

  • #003: Raheel Raza - "Religion & the Real World"

    November 1st, 2018  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 28 mins
    culture, feminism, humanity, islam, love, multiculturalism, muslim, pakistan, politics, raheel, raza, religion, tolerance, youth

    In this episode of the AwokenWord podcast, Anuj Rastogi speaks with Raheel Raza, author, speaker, and incredibly fierce activist and advocate for reform within the Muslim world. Raheel talks about her experience as a muslim, and a woman pushing for reformation within the community, and for open, honest dialogue. Raheel speaks about her work with youth, with the UN Human Rights Commission, and the crisis of an increasingly polarized world, and how difficult it can be to call a "spade a spade" in a climate where both sides of the political spectrum take issue with one's views without engaging in that dialogue.