Five Indian-Americans Who Make a Difference
The Lassi Awards?!! No, no, I would never be so presumptuous! I’m not exactly giving out the Oscars but it’s a humble recognition of five people who are special, people whom you’d definitely want to have a beer with, or at least a lassi. They have all the wonderful qualities that we wish we had, have overcome difficulties to succeed in a complex world, and in turn made it a more humane world.
At the end of 2013, browsing through profiles of people I’d interviewed, I wondered who were the most innovative and courageous. People who took risks and faced challenges and have made their contribution to forging a more liveable world.
Well, here are five of these special people – Sheena Iyengar, Jasmin Sethi, Eboo Patel, Pratima Dharm and Leila Janah. As the year ends, it’s worth revisiting their inspirational stories and realizing that even with just the power of one, each one of us can make a difference.
The Trailblazers: Sheena Iyengar & Jasmin Sethi…
Imagine blindfolding yourself and trying to do your daily chores in a dark world. Now imagine blindfolding yourself and managing to get a perfect SAT score, going on to Harvard and Stanford to get an MA, JD and a Ph D, becoming a lawyer in a topnotch law firm, a business professor in an Ivy League school, traveling all over the world, becoming an accomplished researcher and writing a critically acclaimed book. All while blindfolded.
Meet Sheena Iyengar and Jasmine Sethi – read more
Love in the Time of Violence: Eboo Patel & the Interfaith Youth Core
Dr. Eboo Patel is a man of peace in a time of violence. At a time when a Muslim name automatically gets equated with terrorism and Islam itself is misunderstood, this young Muslim Indian American shows the power of interfaith dialogue. He has been successful in propagating the very commonsense yet outrageous idea that given a choice, young people of different religions will prefer love over hate, peace over violence.
He was honored in New York with the 2012 Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize, established by Hofstra University with a gift by the Bindras, a prominent Sikh American family in New York. This award has earlier been given to the Dalai Lama, Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Religions for Peace. Patel has been successful in propagating the very commonsense yet outrageous idea that given a choice, young people of different religions will prefer love over hate, peace over violence.
Meet Eboo Patel – read more.
Eboo Patel- Interfaith Youth Core
Chaplain Pratima Dharm: Spiritual Strength in Tough Situations
She’s a captain in the US Military, has served in the war-torn hell-hole of Iraq and been awarded several honors, including the Bronze Star – but she has never fired a shot. She was in the combat zones of Northern Iraq for 12 months, surrounded by the cacophony of bombs and mortar attacks – yet she has never carried a gun. She says simply, “My defense is God.”
Pratima Dharm, 42, is the first-ever Hindu Chaplain in the US Army. She has served five years in the US army, has been deployed in Iraq and gone wherever her soldiers have gone. While they have safeguarded the country, she has safeguarded their souls, offering them spiritual strength in tough situations.
She won the Bronze Star for running ten humanitarian aid missions in Iraq for the Iraqi people, especially the Kurdish population. The training she received is the same as other soldiers get but it stops at carrying weapons. Here the soldiers take over and as she says they are very, very protective of her.
Meet Pratima Dharm – Read more:
Leila Janah’s Samasource: A World of Equals
Leila Chirayath Janah at the age of 29 bagged a whopping $ 1. 25 million in funding from Google for her company, Samasource. Add that in, and this small, non-profit has got close to $ 5 million from several major giant corporations including Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, Ebay, Cisco, Facebook, LinkedIn and even the US State Department.
Why have so many blue chip organizations put their faith in this little-known non-profit?
The idea behind Samasource is audacious – that the poorest of the poor are equal to the larger world community and quite capable of doing good work when they are entrusted with it, rather than just being given handouts and pity. In fact, Sama means equal in Sanskrit and it is Leila’s way of bringing the poor into the hi-tech world.
Meet Leila Janah – read more.