Searching for the Divine with Anjali Kumar

Mar/01/2019 / by Isabel Evans

Anjali Kumar is a total power woman. Some of her multiple roles over her wide-ranging career include senior counsel at Google, founding head of social innovation and founding general counsel at Warby Parker, founding chief people officer and founding general counsel at Cheddar, and of course published author. She’s also a mom and an expert multitasker. Even while being interviewed for this story, she juggled a friend’s arrival at her home and her daughter’s Hindi lesson in the background.

While her professional choices may seem distinct from each other, there is a uniting theme behind Anjali’s interests. One of her major goals has been to help companies incorporate social good into the DNA of its business model, rather than allowing it to simply be a feel-good buzzword for the marketing department. She believes earnestly that powerful companies have a duty to use that power in a positive way.

“I’ve taken a lot of twists and turns in my career, but the common thread is doing good in the world and figuring out how to untangle the spaghetti in whatever role I’m doing … I’m thrown into new issues and have to figure it all out.”

Her urge to “untangle spaghetti” has led her to seek answers to some of life’s hardest questions–ones that can’t just be found in a Google search. While most people are content to stare numbly at the TV and eat cheese on their weekends (or at least, I am speaking from personal experience), Anjali’s boundless curiosity has recently pushed her to spend her free time trying to find answers to perennially impossible questions, like: Why are we here, and is there a God? This quest culminated in her book, published this year, called Stalking God: My Unorthodox Search for Something to Believe In.

“I was raised with all these different religious and spiritual traditions around me … I was raised Jain but culturally Hindu because of all our family friends [were] Hindu, but I went to Catholic school as a kid. I never really thought much about my religious upbringing, or what I really believed about what happens when you die, or is there a God and how do you find happiness—all these big existential questions—until I had a child.”

With the birth of her daughter, Anjali realized she wanted to discover answers to these questions before she got older. That quest led her to a myriad of spiritual experiences, from Mexican sweat lodges in Tulum to Vipassana meditation as well as SoulCycle in Tribeca and Burning Man in Nevada. (Her takeaway from SoulCycle: it’s “like going to church while being at the gym.”).

What she found from writing her book: There’s no catch-all answer that works for everyone. It may be a hard reality for a lawyer who likes results, but she’s also learned to be comfortable with shades of gray while taking in the big picture.

“Everyone’s looking for the same thing, and we all focus way too much on the things that divide us rather than the things that bind us together. Especially when it comes to religious beliefs, but even when it comes to political, social, anything. There is no clear answer to these big questions.”

Her curiosity will not be quenched anytime soon. Within the next year, she’s looking at potential talks to option her story for production, and even maybe writing another book. All in, it seems the only project Anjali Kumar is not pursuing is more sleep.

Photographer:  Delphine Diallo. Stylist: Danny Morales. Hair: Naoko Suzuki. Makeup: Chi Chi Saito. Creative Director: Khirma Eliazov.


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