The Desi Deck o’ Dames

When I attended Google IO this spring, one of the favorite things I took back was The Women Cardsa project featuring illustrations of 15 strong prominent women from American society on a pack of playing cards. I loved having it, but was mildly disappointed to only see representation from the USA, considering it came from an event that has over 8000 attendees from over 70 countries across the world. A mere week later, I found this colorful pack of cards lying around Karthik Balakrishnan’s dining table, and it made me realize that if I was bothered by the lack of representation and easy access to Indian Hero(ines) in popular media, I could change that.


And so I present to you the Desi Deck of Dames — a collection of 54 gorgeously illustrated playing cards featuring women working towards making our country simply a better place to be, from the streams of journalism, law, policy and business.

I want to feature women from these ranks because it feels like they don’t really get as much press as they should. They are also the streams that have the most impact in changing the way we live our everyday lives.

These women are contemporary, because they will be relatable to everyone who picks up a pack of the cards. These women are strong, powerful, and doing groundbreaking work. These women are fighters, because that’s what you need to be to get anything done in this country. And these women are ordinary, because at the end of the day, everyone really is.

I want this pack of cards to be your coffee table book, because you should be able to talk about Policy and Law to people you are interested in. I want this pack of cards to be a casual gift for your niece or nephew, because everyone deserves diversity in the role models that are presented to them. I want this pack of cards to be the thing a friend learns how to do magic tricks from, because there is no greater distraction to the audience than beautiful art that contains purpose.

Here’s the thing though — none of this has happened yet anywhere apart from in my head. I’m currently trying to figure out who I should be featuring, which is hard, considering I’ve spent the last three years just trying to turn pizza into code. I currently have a list of 9 people I absolutely want to be featured, and a lot of enthusiasm. In the 5 hours I spent Googling Various Things I have been informed that custom-printing nice quality cards will cost at least $10 a piece, with a minimum of 500 orders, not including shipping. Obviously, that has led me to decide that I will have finalized a list of featured women and illustrators by the end of July, a crowdfunding campaign out by the end of August, and the cards and other rewards printed and shipped in time for Christmas, because why not?

I’m currently doing most of this by my college-going, 20-year-old, filled-with-confidence-and-no-idea-how-the-world-works self. If you’d like to get involved (Do you have experience running a kickstarter? An economic shipping partner the project could use? General advice and a cookie?) please reach out to me. If you know someone who should be featured on the list or someone who can help with illustrations, please write in here. I can’t wait to be overwhelmed with all of your wonderful, valuable input. And with your help, we’ll see these cards on tabletops before the year’s out!

Nominate someone to be on the list.
Let’s connect: Twitter or email.
General Interest Form.

July 21, 2018: I’ve written a follow up article detailing the selection criteria to be featured on the deck!

October 7, 2019:
I’ve written about work we’ve been doing to make the deck a reality.
The deck is now available for preorder! Get it here.

Open source | Undergrad | Tango. I am one part tech-bro and one part feminist. I collect interesting people for self-discovery purposes. I like pizza.

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