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Amrit Kapai keeps up with the Family Karma
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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There's a new eight part docuseries called Family Karma that follows the lives of seven Indian-American friends living in Miami. The Bravo show has already made TV history by being the first United States docuseries to feature an all Indian cast

Star of the show, Amrit Kapai, splits his time between Chicago and Miami these days while being an attorney. He talked about his connection with Chicago and his boyfriend Nicholas on a recent visit to the Windy City.

Windy City Times: Does your name Amrit mean something in English?

Amrit Kapai: My parents tell me it means, "Sweet nectar."

WCT: Wow! What are your thoughts on having Family Karma on TV?

AK: This is the first all Indian cast that's been on television. It's also the first time that viewers can see into the Indian community in this way. It's been a long time coming and it's finally here!

WCT: What has been the reaction since the first episode aired?

AK: People have loved it. It is nice to watch TV for entertainment, but learning something while you watch it is the perfect recipe for a successful show.

We have fans that have trying to figure out what will happen in the group. It's been positive so far…

WCT: The show is focused on the parents, which we don't often see in media.

AK: That was one of the things that Bravo loved about the show. They show the interactions between the families and generations. You see my parents as well as many of the other cast member's parents.

WCT: What a special moment with your mom about you being gay on episode one.

AK: That was fantastic. I really tried to keep it together. I was losing it. It was a very emotional raw moment. It was the first time I heard how she felt about me coming out and what she had to go through.

WCT: She could possibly have opposition from the Indian community, couldn't she?

AK: Yes. For her to not only accept it, but embrace it, is just fantastic. I'm very fortunate and blessed.

I was a little nervous because this was the first time she had told many people about me. She has been so confident and proud. She is sticking by me, through thick and thin.

WCT: How did you come out to your family?

AK: It revolved around drinking, which was scary. I was only able to come to terms with it personally after a few drinks. I knew that wasn't healthy and could see relationships deteriorating around me. I would drink, then somewhat come out and be cryptic about it. The next day I would pretend it didn't happen. I had one step out of the closet, but one foot in.

I was planning on going to see a movie with my mother and I was sitting on the couch at their home. I blurted it out. I came out as bisexual, then I told them I was gay later. It was a bomb to drop and my mom just thought we were going to the movies!

I wish I had done it differently, but I can't change the past. A few months later we sat down for a serious conversation. I studied abroad, so I strategically planned on being out of the country for six months. I wanted the news to settle with us both. It was a new beginning for me.

They tried to have me talk to spiritual masters, but the more they did that the more they pushed me away. That was counterproductive. The purpose of me coming out was to be closer to them about my life and who I was. They finally came to terms with it.

WCT: Will we see your boyfriend on the show?

AK: Yes, you will see him. He's a Midwestern boy, born in a small town in Michigan. We are different and complete opposites.

WCT: Talk about the LGBT community and the Indian culture.

AK: Unfortunately, there aren't very many of us that are known. I think there are a few reasons for that.

One, the Indian culture tends to be more conservative.

Two, reputation and the way people appear is everything. I know that's the case in many cultures, but with Indian culture we strive to look perfect. Being gay myself, I don't look at it as an imperfection, but at the same time it's not the traditional woman and man relationship.

Three, it's still taboo. It keeps South Asians and Indians not able to come out, sometimes for their entire life.

WCT: Have you gone to the Chicago gay bar Big Chicks when they have Indian themed nights?

AK: Yes, I have been there a couple of times for that. It's always a ton of fun!

WCT: How did you wind up in Chicago?

AK: I moved to Chicago in 2011 and took the Illinois Bar. I worked here when I was in college for two summers when I was at Northwestern. I fell head over heels in love with the city. I wanted to live in a big city when I came out after law school. Chicago was the perfect fit.

WCT: Do you live in Miami now?

AK: I split my time back and forth between Miami and Chicago. I was tasked with building out our Miami office at the law firm. Our main office is still in Chicago.

WCT: Is there a big presence of Indian people in Miami?

AK: There is. It might not be as concentrated as Chicago on Devon Avenue with all of the stores and restaurants. We don't have a neighborhood like that in Miami and we are more spread out.

WCT: Have you ever had snakes in your chakra before?

AK: [laughs] Maybe I have. I will have to call Anisha Ramakrishna and see who she used to have them removed!

Parents can be very superstitious. Certain letters will have a good vibe and they say to have your child named starting with that letter at birth. They will tell you to be vegetarian on Thursdays. We go with it to make our parents happy.

WCT: Who's the richest person in the Karma cast?

AK: Our parents have done very well for themselves. They came to this country with nothing. They had to work from the ground up to build their worth and establish their presence.

WCT: There are more six packs than Jersey Shore. Are you competitive with each other?

AK: No. Sometimes Vishal Parvani will do pull-ups when we are out. We could be at a restaurant or a gala and he will find a way to do a pull-up.

WCT: Who is your favorite Bravo Housewife?

AK: NeNe Leakes. She is fantastic. I am a huge fan of Shahs of Sunset.

WCT: Favorite Indian restaurant in Chicago?

AK: There's a couple. Besides everything on Devon, there's Raj Darbar and Royal Indian Grill.

WCT: What do you want audiences to take away from Family Karma?

AK: I want people to learn about us. Up until this point, Indians on TV have been stereotypical, like on The Simpsons where he owns a 7-Eleven or that we all drive taxis. That's not the case. Sometimes our families do well for themselves, we are well traveled and cultured.

I want viewers to see the struggles we have had growing up in this country, just being different. Specifically to me, I hope they see that Indian parents can be accepting of a different lifestyle. I hope the youth that are dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity crisis can see me and hear my story. They will see that positivity can come out of it when you simply be who you are.

Follow the Family Karma Sundays on Bravo at 8 p.m. central.

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