“My professional journey is one many are aware of, but my personal life is not known by many.
My childhood was a tough experience for a misfit like myself. I grew up with a learning disability that no one could diagnose until I started college in the United States. Early on, I encountered failure after failure, becoming an outcast and a target for bullies. I remember being a really happy child before age eight. However, from that point on, my life changed drastically and I suffered on many levels both physically and mentally. The one silver lining was becoming the Rasna Boy- the one who said “I love you Rasna” at the end of the commercial. However, I was a fat kid who drank a whole jug of juice, which led to bullying. The joy was short-lived as I struggled with my weight, coupled with poor academic performance. I went to some of the best schools in Chennai, but was not able to keep pace with the other students. This left me feeling isolated and often ostracized by the teachers and my classmates.
My parents didn’t give up on me and allowed me to go the distance. They stood by me through thick and thin, allowing me to learn from my failures. My mom kept telling me, “If blood is thicker than water, then the only thing that is thicker than blood is love.” This love is what shaped my life in making the impossible, possible.
ADHD, coupled with obesity, influenced my worldview and taught me how to relate to people with compassion and global resilience. I began to suffer a great deal academically, in relationships and with my body. By the time I was 15 years old, I weighed over 150 kilos, which made me morbidly obese and according to many doctors, my life was at risk.
In a radical shift, I moved away from home at the young age of 15 and travelled to Singapore and New Zealand to complete high school, where I dedicated majority of my time to transforming myself. I lost all the weight and came down to half my original body mass, weighing 70 kilos. When I returned to Chennai, everyone was extremely impressed by my physical transformation– that took close to three years of blood, sweat and tears to build.
Given this new identity, I attended Parsons School of Design in New York at 20 years old, where I entered the fashion world. For the first time I could express my creative potential. This allowed me to follow my passion and dive deeply into integrative health and wellbeing. I designed and created an integrated model of wellbeing using yoga, Ayurveda and martial arts in tandem with Western medicine to bring about a whole new way in which we would receive holistic health care. I worked with Dr. Cherian, India’s first cardiologist, who served as a father figure in my life. He invited me to be his apprentice at Chennai Kaliappa Hospital and I was honored to have the opportunity to work by his side. It was joyful to help people achieve their health and wellness goals with regards to feeling better or losing weight.
Eventually this ended in tragedy, when without any signs or warning, I lost my doctor to suicide. I had never experienced death and had moved back to Chennai in hope of fulfilling my duty in the family iron business by day and contributing to my community by night. When Dr. Cherian died, I felt a great loss in my heart and began to question my life’s true meaning and purpose.
This led me to develop a life-long love for learning and I went on to pursue 5 degrees from some of the biggest institutions of the world. Following this, my life was completely transformed, leading me to serve as a global health scientist in the slums of Mumbai with Harvard. This led me to curate my first TEDx at the United Nations, which I dedicated to Dr. Cherian’s memory and work. Dr. Cherian instilled in me the moral courage and compassion to live a life that is true to myself and in service of others. I have learned that the right community – along with the right value set – can spark the action that needed to bring about real world impact.
My life’s journey and work is best embodied in this quote “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear; like love and compassion. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.” – David Roberts
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