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Meera Gandhi – Losing herself in Service / The privilege of giving

Jul/08/2023 / by Abhijit Masih

She is a philanthropist, a businesswoman, a mental wellness advocate and she is also the founder and CEO of The Giving Back Foundation. Meera Gandhi, who has also authored two books, has dedicated her life to enhance the lives of others. She spoke to SEEMA about her time spent with Mother Teresa and the heavy influence she had in her life and also talked about her latest book – 3 Tips: The Essentials for Peace, Joy and Success. 

The instinct to adapt to different places

The daughter of a naval officer in India, meant going from one city to another, Gandhi soon mastered the art of making friends quickly. “As a kid of someone who moved so much, you learn very quickly to walk into a space and make friends, because you’re always going to be the new kid in the new school in the new Town. I think that childhood instinct and training has served me very well for someone who’s lived in London, Hong Kong, New York, Washington, Long Island, Dubai and Bombay.” 

The saintly inspiration

While in High School, Gandhi had a chance to volunteer at the Missionaries of Charity organization run by Mother Teresa. She met the iconic nun on numerous occasions and had a lasting impression on the young volunteer. She recalls an incident which she also mentions in her first book, “On one occasion I had finished feeding this child and Mother Teresa walked in, she took the baby from me and the baby threw up all over her white saree and she just started laughing, saying ‘All good. Now the food will be digested.” The sixteen year old high schooler was greatly moved by the compassion with which Mother Teresa treated everyone who came to her. She continues, “I think what I learned subconsciously from mother was that she was always happy. She was always unfazed.”

The Giving Back Foundation

For someone who is so driven, she didn’t really a career path planned for herself. The primary focus after finishing college was to get married to her high school sweetheart and have kids. “My mother was a great mother and a role model, and I wanted to be like my mother, to raise incredible kids and to enjoy their childhood and enjoy my life,” Though along the way, Gandhi got involved in philanthropy quite by accident in New York City. She moved to Hong Kong in 2008 and while her children were off to college she felt a vacuum in her life. “I missed the bustle of New York City and that’s when I decided to start the Giving Back Foundation,” she said. A career path that has evolved over time, Gandhi found her passion and mission in the organization that she founded in 2010. “The Giving Back foundation has three clear pillars,” she explains. “The first is to be a catalyst for education. We give grants, run a school in India and have been involved with several educational institutions in the past. The second mission is to be a force for positive dialogue and content. We sponsored the Woodstock Film Festival for 5 years, where a film or a script with positive social impact is awarded. Mark Ruffalo has received it. The third is the mental wellness component. The idea is to address mental wellness and spirituality for people that may need it.”  

Life lessons through her latest book

The book – 3 Tips: The Essentials for Peace, Joy and Success is Gandhi’s second book and contains simple methods that can easily be incorporated in one’s life. “This will be on your bed bedside and answer to your everyday problems. We have these answers within us, but sometimes we just need to be shifted. We just want that bit of inspiration, and my book provides that,” she gives a preview of the contents. Gandhi considers the book to be full of advice which she wished she could turn to in early years. 

Go hard at career also retain the unique culture

Gandhi wants young South Asian women to aggressively follow their choice of career but also wants them not to let go of their unique cultural identity. “My first advice would be just be yourself, as South Asians we are well educated, we are centered, we are bright, we are hard working. Your time has arrived. The second is your dreams and your passion. I think the next generation is a position in a position where they can really show leadership. The third is work hard and listen to your conscience. My serious advice would be. Listen to yourself. Listen to yourself. Listen to yourself.”

Useful and humane tips 

Having three grown up children who are doing remarkable things in varied careers, Gandhi shares some terrific and simple tips on raising children. “The first is to always trust your children. The second is to listen to them carefully as to what they are really saying. The third is to hug them often.” She also encourages everyone to create healthy emotional relationships with people and to really listen to your inner voice, do the right thing. “Be kind to people. Treat people the way you want to be treated and to be that leader in the moment. Whether you’re leading teams or you’re talking to people, each of us has the ability to shift people with our words, with our inner voice.”

PQs

“As South Asians we are well educated, we are centered, we are bright, we are hard working. Your time has arrived.”

“Listen to yourself. Listen to yourself. Listen to yourself.”

“Be kind to people. Treat people the way you want to be treated and to be that leader in the moment.”

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