Page 1

Issue 4

December 2019

YJPerspectives A Young Jain Professionals (YJP) Magazine

EVERYDAY

WELLNESS POETRY CORNER

SPACE IN THE CITY

BI-CULTURAL IDENTITY CRISIS AN INTERVIEW WITH:

AJAITA SHAH SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR

MENTAL HEALTH

AWARENESS

DISCOVER

A DEEP DIVE ON GROWTH THROUGH SELF-DISCOVERY

RESULTS FROM YJP

SHARK TANK


YJPerspectives December 2019 | Issue 4 TABLE OF CONTENTS

FEATURED ARTICLES:

08

PROFESSIONAL SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: AJAITA SHAH

12

FINDING GOOD IN AN INTERCONNECTED SOCIETY

18

EVERYDAY WELLNESS

BY: VARUSKA PATNI

21

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

BY: VATSAL GANDHI

BY: MONIKA KOTHARI

DISCLOSURE: The YJPerspectives Editorial Team (Editorial Team) endeavors to publish all submitted materials. The Editorial Team reserves the right to reduce, edit or reject any submission for clarity, layout, and / or policy reasons. The views expressed within the content of this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Editorial Team. These articles are published with the authors’ names. This overall publication, including content contributed by the current Young Jain Professionals (YJP) executive board, does not necessarily represent the views of its parent organization, the Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA).

2 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

04

26

LEADERSHIP REMARKS Letters from the Editor & Co-Chairs

RECENT EVENTS YJP National Conference 2019 Highlights

16

27

MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS: Self-Discovery in the Throes of Mental Illness

20

POETRY CORNER “Space in the City”

24

YJP SHARK TANK COMPETITION RESULTS Overview of top business concepts pitched

28

FOLLOW YJP Learn how you can stay connected with YJP through its many social media platforms!

BI-CULTURAL CRISIS Bi-Cultural crisis background, tips, and resources to help

YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 3


A LETTER Jai Jinendra,

From the Editor

Welcome to the final 2019 issue of YJPerspectives, and my last as the Editor. It has been a true pleasure to serve in this role. As I reflect on our experience creating, growing, and learning through the YJPerspectives platform together this past year, I am in awe of our community and what we are able to accomplish as a collective. Along with YJPerspectives writers and readers like you, I have discovered new perspectives and insights on Jainism, both in theory and in practice. I have discovered the strength and warmth that lies within this community. Finally, as a biomedical engineer by training, I have discovered a new set of skills through the production of each issue. In the spirit of discovery, the theme of this issue is “discover.”

DISCOVER “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” -Galileo Galilei

• • • •

This issue opens with an interview with our Q4-2019 YJP Professional Spotlight award winner, Ajaita Shah. Ajaita is the founder and CEO of Frontier Markets, a rural marketing, sales, and service distribution company focused on providing access to affordable and quality consumer durables to low-income households in emerging markets. Within this interview, Ajaita describes how she discovered her calling and profession as a social entrepreneur. Under her leadership, Frontier Markets has built a network of 3,500 rural entrepreneurs who have served as economic drivers for 700,000 households in India impacting nearly 5 million lives!

Later in this issue, young Jain professionals take a deep dive on the idea of growth through self-discovery. Monika Kothari details a creative and insightful analysis on Jainism backed by the popular NBC TV Show, The Good Place. Through this analysis, Monika reveals how she has personally discovered an angle to account for Jain fundamentals while navigating through today’s complex and highly interconnected world. Varuska Patni explores the concept of wellness, where she believes effectively achieving wellness demands creativity in our approach towards maintaining our overall well-being. After years of studying and experimenting with various approaches, Varuska has discovered several tips and techniques for everyday wellness outlined within this article. Anvita Jain shares her story of self-discovery in the throes of mental illness. After having the opportunity to live in both India and the US, Vatsal Gandhi shares how he has come to appreciate the best of both worlds. Vatsal has discovered what Jainism means to him through “both sides of the same coin,” extracting the best parts of each. Following this account, Dr. Aparna Sagaram discusses the bi-cultural crisis and shares tips & resources available to help. Finally, we are very fortunate to have Preeti Shah, a Brooklyn Poets 2019 Fall Fellowship Finalist, author our Poetry Corner section featuring a very special piece, “Space in the City.”

As I sign-off on this final letter, I would like to again sincerely thank JAINA; Jain Digest Editorial Team; Jaina Education Committee; Young Jains of America; Young Jain Professionals Advisory Board and Leaders; YJPerspectives volunteers; YJPerspectives sponsors; American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME); Minute Man Presses of Newtown, PA and Ewing, NJ; Preeti Shah, Associate Director of Communications, YJP; and my personal friends and family for their unwavering support throughout the 2019 YJPerspectives journey. This publication can only be as good as its content, and I thank our authors and YJP Professional Spotlight program participants for taking time to the “tell their story” and share their personal perspectives with us. Last but certainly not least, I thank our readers around the world for giving this new publication a chance and taking time to read. I wish the incoming 2020 YJPerspectives Editorial Team the best of luck and look forward to seeing where they take this publication next! Sincerely, Priyanka P. Shah Editor-in-Chief, YJPerspectives Director of Communications 2019 Young Jain Professionals (YJP)

4 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


A LETTER Jai Jinendra,

From the Co-Chairs

As we wrap up another incredible year and pass the torch to the next cohort of leaders for the organization, we would like to personally take a moment to thank all of you for your support and involvement with YJP over this past year. In 2019, our organization pushed boundaries and reached new levels through the collective efforts of our Executive Board, our local representatives, and our members. Whether it was inspiring productive self-reflection through YJPerspectives or creating new opportunities for career advancement through workshops and networking events across the nation, we are simply overwhelmed and humbled by the positive responses to our efforts. As we close one chapter and begin another, what lies before us is the opportunity to cultivate a culture of togetherness through transparency and communication. We sincerely believe that this starts with us as a demonstration of what is possible - a platform that develops and facilitates connections among Jain professionals across North America. Finally, as our journey comes to an end, we cannot forget those who helped make it possible. With our sincerest gratitude, we would like to thank all of our volunteers, members, donors, and well-wishers for helping us promote the values of our organization and making us who we are today. In the spirit of Jainism, if we have ever, intentionally or unintentionally, caused harm through our words, thoughts, or actions, we ask for your forgiveness - Micchami Dukkadam! We wish the incoming YJP Executive Board the best of luck and look forward to what is to come for this organization! Sincerely, Sagar Khona & Sunny Jain Co-Chairs 2019 Young Jain Professionals (YJP)

Sagar Khona (left), Syosset, NY Sunny Jain (right), Richmond, TX

“

As we close one chapter and begin another, what lies before us is the opportunity to cultivate a culture of togetherness through transparency and communication.

YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 5


2019 YOUNG JAIN PROFESSION

SAGAR KHONA Co-Chair Sagar Khona is a Clinical Data Analyst at Northwell Health in Bayshore, NY. Outside of completing his Masters in Applied Health Informatics Sagar has worked closely with all the Jain Programs and Organizations. He is very passionate about YJP and has lots of new ideas to bring the younger generation closer to Jainism.

SUNNY JAIN Co-Chair Sunny Jain is a first year MBA candidate at Texas A&M, and prior to business school, he worked as a Business Analyst at NRG in Houston, Texas. As a proud lifetime member of the Jain Society of Houston, Sunny attests his spiritual growth and development through the practice of Jainism. His passions include writing, fitness, and animal rights activism.

VAISHAKI DOSHI Finance Director Vaishakhi Doshi is a CPA working in a consulting role. She is a vegan for 12 years and truly passionate about animal rights and girl’s education. She loves her numbers, but also enjoys reading documentaries and business/strategy books. This is her first time being on the board and she is looking forward to contributing to the community.

RONAK Projects Ronak Shah is origin (and he doesn’t m He is currently an General for the and practices C Privacy law. He Thai food, and from the latest th

RACHIT JAIN Northeast Regional Coordinator Rachit Jain is an Analyst at RBC Capital Markets in New York City. With certified experience in financial modeling, strategic initatives, and business analysis, Rachit hopes to bring his knowledge and experience to the 2019 YJP Board and help build the Jain community.

ARPAN PAREKH Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator Arpan Parekh is a Research Analyst at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation where he is currently working on reducing low-acuity admissions to the emergency department. In his spare time he likes climbing mountains and listening to 90’s Hindi music. Though he is new to YJP, he has found a wonderful community within and is excited to serve as your Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator.

ARPIT MEHTA Southeast Regional Coordinator Arpit Mehta is a Bioinformatics Research Scientist at Miami Cancer Institute, who works with machine learning and artificial intelligence to build models to detect cancer and discover bio-markers for drug design. His passions include desert dirt biking, gardening, and mentorship.

AAYUSH Midwest Region Aayushi Pasad is a N works at Visionwo Kentucky. In her enjoys watching mo time with her Gra excited to serve as a Coordinator for YJ see what is in store

6 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


NALS (YJP) EXECUTIVE BOARD

K SHAH Director inally from Chicago mean Schaumburg). Assistant Attorney State of Illinois Cybersecurity and enjoys traveling, defending Kanye hing he just said.

PRIYANKA SHAH Communications Director Priyanka Shah works in strategy at Integra LifeSciences. She is passionate about orthopedic and regenerative technologies. Outside of work, she enjoys working out, traveling, baking, and socializing. She is a proud member of the Cherry Hill Jain Sangh, and she is very excited to serve as the Communications Director for YJP.

ANCHAL UDANI Public Relations Director Anchal Udani is a GIA Certified Diamond grader and wholesaler and a freelance graphic designer. Outside of her professional role, she loves to sing and dance. She has been dancing since she was a toddler. She is very excited to be a part of YJP as the Public Relations Director.

MOKSH SHAH Technology Director Moksh Shah is an Application Developer at Kinder Morgan in Houston, Texas. With certified experience in software engineering, user interface design, and app development, Moksh is excited to be on the 2019 YJP Board to serve the Jain community.

HI PASAD nal Coordinator Nursing student who orks in Owensboro, free time, Aayushi ovies and spending randmother. She is a Midwest Regional JP and is excited to e for the new year!

VIVEK SANGHVI Southwest Regional Coordinator Vivek Sanghvi works as a Machine Learning Engineer at Callbox, DTX. He graduated with a Computer Engineering degree from Mumbai University and then pursued a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Southern Methodist University. Prior to YJP, he has worked with Terapanth Professional Forum, Mumbai; along with several other organisations. Outside of work, his passion lies in food, dancing, education and technology.

PRIYA NAGDA West Regional Coordinator Priya Nagda currently works as a Digital Marketing Professional at The Men’s Wearhouse corporate HQ. She loves fashion, dance, weekend getaways, frequenting California’s beautiful beaches and is an avid traveller. #wanderlust #fashionista #digitalmarketer

AVANI SHAH Canada Regional Coordinator Avani Shah is a CA & ICWA from India + MBA in Canada and works with Royal Bank of Canada. Outside of work, she is an avid globetrotter and an admirer of art, culture and music. Her main purpose of joining YJP Canada is to establish a network, of Jain Professionals, that provides invaluable opportunities for its members to achieve their professional and personal dreams.

YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 7


Q4-2019 YJP PROFESSIONAL SPOTLIGHT AWARD:

AJAITA SHAH A YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONAL, SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

MODERATED BY: PRIYANKA SHAH Ajaita Shah is the founder and CEO of Frontier Markets. Founded in 2011, Frontier Markets is a rural marketing, sales, and service distribution company focused on providing access to affordable and quality consumer durables to low-income households in emerging markets. In line with its mission to create “Saral Jeevan” or an “Easy Life” for rural customers, Frontier Markets has delivered a range of high social impact products including clean energy, agriculture, health, and water sanitation to 4.9M people and over 700,000 rural households in India. This has been facilitated through a unique distribution model where a network of over 3,500 digitized rural entrepreneurs help educate, relate, and reach these households. Prior to Frontier Markets, Ajaita worked in microfinance with Indian-based organizations including SKS Microfinance and Ujjivan Financial Services. She has worked on numerous development projects in 7 states in India and consulted under the World Bank on microfinance strategies for South Asia and Latin America. She is a Clinton Service Corp, Echoing Green, and Cordes Fellow and has been awarded many accolades including the Most Influential Leader in Microfinance Under 30, Business Week’s 30 Under 30 award, Forbes Top 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs award, and the United Nations Women Transforming India award. Ajaita has a BA in International Relations from Tufts University. Check out this interview to learn more about Ajaita! 8 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


Hi, Ajaita! On behalf of Young Jain Professionals (YJP), I would like to congratulate you for your selection as the Q4–2019 YJP Professional Spotlight Award Winner! To start out, please tell us a little about yourself and your upbringing. My parents are originally from Jaipur, and I grew up in the Jaipur Jain jeweler community in New York. This is a very traditional and conservative community, where preserving our cultural and religious values has always been very important. I learned how to read, write, and speak in Hindi, dance kathak, and make chai. I had access to educational experiences in the US that my parents did not have back in India, and I believe this gave me the exposure that drove me to deeply consider what it truly means to be a global citizen.

resolution. Through this work, I met people coming from a place of conflict for the first time. These were people exposed to genocide in Rwanda and people coming out of the aftermath of fights across Pakistan, India, and Kashmir. Hearing their personal stories, including their stories of resilience, influenced me in a very big way. I realized the reason we see terrorism and jihad in this world may not stem from hatred but rather from people being denied access to equal opportunities. I realized that the world cannot be a better place if we do not fight for better opportunities to create economic equality. Reflecting on this, I took a break to think through my personal mission and place in this world: Where will I make this type of change? How will I make it? And what will be my role in all this?

You are now on a unique and purposedriven career path. Can you tell us more about the formal education and experiences that have led you to this path? I was on the debate team in high school where I participated in policy debates on a national level. This was a great atmosphere to form and ask critical questions about the world and our role within it. It was an open atmosphere to explore the challenges out there – issues such as world hunger and poverty. What always stood out to me was that I come from a place of privilege and opportunity yet the world around me is clearly unequal. This is an interesting notion given today’s commonly held ethos that everyone and every soul is equal and should have access to the same opportunities everywhere. As a Jain, we fundamentally believe in karma; I often questioned how if we come from a place of privilege, how can we help the world get to a more equal platform? These concepts have always resonated with me. From here, I went on to study international relations at Tufts University. During my studies, I had the opportunity to work in mediation and conflict

Taking a break is often easier said than done, even if it is the right and best course of action at the time. How did you and those around you approach the decision to take a full-stop break? As any typical Indian parent would react, my parents encouraged me to go to grad school and move into a stable career. I told myself that I would take a year off and then go back to law school. During this time, I served as a Clinton Service Corp fellow and then went on to gain experience at India-based organizations doing work in microfinance. This was a very new concept at the time; Muhammad Yunus would not have won a Nobel Peace Prize had this not been significant! As part of the microfinance movement, we studied the opportunity that comes with investing in women in India from a true business lens for the first time. The idea that investing in women in poverty can lead to economic gain, backed by a solid thesis, was gaining traction. Through this work, I met so many powerful women. Though they were uneducated and lacked access to basic necessities such as water and electricity, they were real, humble, and hospitable. It was exciting to be part of a new industry bringing big investors

“When you put your skills in a place of impact, your impact can be exponential.”

YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 9


A

B

C

Frontier Markets placing women at the center of the value chain, empowering rural women for income generation A. Driving access to affordable mobile phones B. Demonstrating the Solar Rakshak Plus, the first Indian-made solar powered torch designed to meet the World Bank’s global lighting quality standards C Demonstrating solar lighting portfolio products in a “dark room setting” to create awareness around clean and reliable energy offerings

such as JP Morgan and Citi into the picture. The World Bank and United Nations also took interest, looking for 20-somethingyear-olds looking to make a footprint for themselves. What motivated you to move into social entrepreneurship? When you put your skills in a place of impact, your impact can be exponential. Through my experiences, I found my calling. I wanted to take my work in microfinance to the next level. After living across many rural villages in India, I wanted to play a role in better delivering services to the poor. I wanted to invest and attract investment into the economic development of the poor. In 2011, I started my business, Frontier Markets, with 3 goals in mind. First, I setup Frontier Markets as a for-profit company with the intention of growing it to be the market leader in delivering services to rural houses at scale.

This involves providing access to everything a rural household would need to have a better life: clean energy, water, internet, and cell phones. Second, I wanted Frontier Markets to both serve as well as create opportunities for the poor. If my fundamental driving factor is to create a footprint in my impact, creating opportunities for the poor is just as important as the products I can serve them through my company. With this in mind, Frontier Markets hired locally, trained locally, and invested locally. We have built a network of 5,000 digital rural entrepreneurs who sell our products to rural households. Third, I wanted Frontier Markets to operate through a gender lens. As an Indian woman, we are often pushed into a stereotype of limitations. Rural women in India can be drivers of change and drive significant economic gain; when a rural women has money, she tends to invest into

10 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019

her children’s futures and her village differently from men. Keeping these 3 principles in mind, Frontier Markets is now an established rural sales and marketing access company. We create impact and social value in a commercially viable way. What drives me everyday is that we have touched nearly 5 million people and 700,000 households. At this stage, we are looking to further accelerate our scale and impact. We want to evolve into a model that may be replicated in other parts of the world such as Africa. Have your Jain and personal values influenced your professional decisions and actions? If so, how? I have always applied the values of purpose, humanity, and empathy in every decision I have ever made. There was a point in my company’s journey where we had to choose between making money and helping a community. We were working


with farmers who were literally blocked from moving money by the Indian government. The Indian government was getting rid of cash, where many rural areas only function on cash. We had the choice to serve them the product they needed, yet were also faced with the risk of $400,000 in debt landing on our balance sheet should they not be able to pay us back. Do we save our money or serve our people? My Board held firm on the idea that money will come and go, yet serving our people is paramount, where Frontier Markets is fundamentally committed to service. We are often faced with such real scenarios and decisions that force us to balance our values, and applying these 3 principles is how I approach these. Ajaita, you have had an incredible journey so far. In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently? I’ve thought about other paths. I could have been a banker. There were times I would be meeting investors in Silicon Valley who would ask me how much I make. I’d say, “I’m a social entrepreneur. I make like $10,000.” They would respond, “What if I gave you $300,000 to manage my fund?” I had no idea I would go “all in” and do this. I really thought I’d take a year off, go to India to do some service work, come back to get a law degree, and eventually land a job at a law firm. This is

the path I was expected to take, and I both surprised and scared myself. Sometimes, things just happen and you just go with the flow. This has been a very, very difficult journey. When you start a company and it doesn’t work out; you are forgiven, and the world is still okay. When you setup a company that is responsible for real people who are in a vulnerable place, you and your business are depended upon in a very different way where “hiccups” have real ramifications. There is no excuse to fail given the exponential negative outcomes that come with failure. This is where my passion comes from, and this is also where my fear comes from. On this path, you must be committed. You separate yourself from your purpose and your position in community. If my purpose is to drive impact, then there are times I need to be away from my family and in India, focused on my work. I have made sacrifices in terms of my own life and sanity. Finding a balance is something that I am not very good at and that I have struggled with. Yet, when you see what you have created, you kind of self-justify what you have done. If we start understanding that the achievements we have gained are not for ourselves but for others and what we are able to give others, this can help us exponentially make the world a better place.

Frontier Markets BY THE NUMBERS

4,900,000

Lives Impacted with Clean Stable Energy

700,000

Rural Households in India served

3,500

Rural Micro Entrepreneurs Created

$1,500

Average Annual Income Achieved by Entrepreneurs

$4,000,000

Income generated for rural women 11


FINDING

GOOD

IN AN INTERCONNECTED SOCIETY BY: MONIKA KOTHARI

WARNING

Warning: This article contains major spoilers for The Good Place, the television series starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson as denizens of a utopian afterlife. (But to be clear, if you haven’t been watching the show, at this point you have no one to blame but yourself.) The basic gist is that Ted Danson is a demon masquerading as a celestial being who constructs an illusory paradise called the “Good Place” in which la crème de la crème of humanity enjoys eternal bliss in the form of infinite quantities frozen yoghurt, among other things. But the big reveal at the end of Season 1 is that the humans, including Kristen Bell, are actually in the “Bad Place” and have been, in effect, psychologically torturing each other à la No Exit for the entire season. An NBC sitcom is perhaps an unusual source to mine for lessons about Jainism. But the show has a surprisingly deep cosmology and devotes significant screen time to examining how Enlightenment concepts of ethics play out on a cosmic scale. In subsequent seasons, the writers zero in on the process of sorting souls into the Good Place and the Bad Place. These decisions are based on a “points system” that parodies popular notions of how karma works. Cosmic accountants examine each action a human takes and assign “points” according to how good or bad the deed is. After the human dies, the points are tallied, and the total determines whether her eternal fate is in the Good Place or the Bad Place. We eventually learn that there is a significant flaw in the system: no one has accumulated enough points to be admitted to the Good Place in hundreds of years. The reason is that the increasingly complex and interconnected nature of the modern global economy essentially prevents any individual from earning a spot in the Good Place ever again. As one of the

12 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


“How do we, as Jains, live our values under... conditions imposed by a modern, global economy?” characters explains: “Just buying a tomato at the grocery store means that you are unwittingly supporting toxic pesticides, exploiting labor, and contributing to global warming. Humans think that they’re making one choice, but they’re actually making dozens of choices they don’t even know they’re making.” Or, as another character states more simply: “Earth is a mess, y’all.” There is no realistic way to opt out of these tangled social and economic webs without going to extreme, and often counterproductive, lengths. Even the person in the show whose understanding of the universe comes closest to Jainism – and who goes out of his way to protect snails from being trod upon – is doomed to a miserable afterlife in the Bad Place. Every “good” choice creates a chain reaction of harmful repercussions: life on earth has become too complicated and fraught with moral peril to avoid those results. One of the questions presented by this “points” system is whether one’s karma is ultimately linked to intentions or consequences. Indeed, Jainism suggests that the answer is both: thoughts and motivations matter, as do the emotional, financial, and environmental ramifications of our actions. But where does this leave us from a practical standpoint? Jainism is an ancient religion that arose when most of the milk a person consumed was produced by her family cow, and the most she would ever see of the world were the surrounds of her village, reachable by foot. Today, most of the milk we consume is produced on inhumane factory farms, in which cows are pumped with hormones,

repeatedly impregnated and separated from their calves, and ultimately slaughtered when deemed to have outlived their purpose. Today, we cross cities, countries, and continents, in automobiles and airplanes, unleashing greenhouse gases, and depend on oil and gas pumped from underground wells that poison our air and water. The list goes on. Our clothes are no longer homespun, but sewn by Bangladeshi child laborers in horrifically dangerous conditions. Our food is no longer grown on small family plots, but on corporate mega-farms, picked and packaged by underpaid undocumented workers. How do we, as Jains, live our values under such conditions – the conditions imposed by a modern, global economy? It is worth noting that many of these developments, and the attendant moral complexities, are product of celebrated political and technological advancements. Increased access to food, water, electricity, healthcare, housing, education, and transportation have lifted millions out of poverty, and allow us to have a quality of life (indoor plumbing! air travel! avocados!) that far exceeds that of even King Louis XVI. Perhaps the only morally correct answer is to go off the grid and become a vegan (but not the kind that drinks almond milk), a subsistence farmer (but not the kind that uses pesticides), a hermit, a monk. Or perhaps the morally correct answer is a wholesale rejection of the chains of capitalism, a recognition and a demand for a transformation in the global economy that prioritizes people over profits.

YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 13


“...what we can do is seek to examine and question the outcomes of our choices and its impacts on our souls, and strive to mitigate and correct the problems we create and the harms we inflict.” But none of these options provides a complete solution to the dilemma of contemporary life as a Jain. While The Good Place has yet to complete its run (the series finale will air later this year), the show suggests that the only possible answer is for people to try their best, to help each other learn and grow, and to make sense of what we owe each other, our fellow humans across the street and across the planet. I sometimes find myself frustrated that Jainism seems to have little to say about social justice and political movements; little to say about lifting up our neighbors, our society, and our species – especially when compared to some other religions. But I’ve personally discovered that what Jainism does demand of us is a deep awareness and understanding of the intentionality and consequences of our actions. We cannot all be monks, and we cannot all dissolve our connections to a complicated and interconnected world. But what we can do is seek to examine and question the outcomes of our choices and its impacts on our souls, and

strive to mitigate and correct the problems we create and the harms we inflict. Because while global interconnectedness presents challenges for Jains, it also presents opportunities. We can learn and share the stories of people around the world, amplify their voices, and provide direct assistance to those we have never met. We can support and advocate for the rights of workers, refugees, and persecuted minorities, we can fight to protect rain forests, oceans, and farm animals. And that may be the only way forward for us on this messy, complicated planet. As T.M. Scanlon has explained, hell is not other people: hell is a relationship with other people that you create by treating them badly. So let us not treat each other badly, intentionally or unintentionally. Let us not forget the suffering in the world. And let us work to keep our eyes and hearts open, and work on growing a better tomato. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Monika Kothari is an Associate within the Litigation Department for Jenner & Block based in Chicago. She maintains a pro bono practice, where she represents clients in both criminal and civil matters as well. Monika has a JD from Yale Law School as well as a B.S. in Anthropology and a B.A. in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from Michigan State University.

14 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


ADVERTISEMENT

SEWAA Service and Education for Women Against Domestic Abuse A 501 c3 Non-Profit Organization

SEWAA is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources and support to South Asian women who are victims of domestic abuse. We work with women from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. SEWAA seeks to create a safe and supportive environment for women to cultivate self-esteem, assertiveness, and independence. The Facts: • 1 in 3 women worldwide experience domestic violence in their lifetime. • In a study within the Asian American community, 41-60% of respondents reported experiencing domestic violence (physical and/or sexual abuse) in their lifetime. • 58% of men and 48% of women in the South Asian community personally know a victim of domestic violence. Source: “Domestic Violence in the South Asian Community.” South Asian Network (SAN), 22 July 2013, https://www.slideshare. net/bixbycenter/south-asian-network42913-24504373. Accessed 17 March 2019.

How YOU can help: 1. Volunteer to help victims of domestic abuse within the South Asian community. We are looking for general volunteers to support community outreach, fundraising efforts, and other opportunities, as well as family law attorneys, immigration attorneys, social workers, and marriage / family therapists available to offer their services to victims pro bono. Contact info@sewaa1.net to volunteer. 2. Donate to SEWAA to support awareness campaigns as well as the construction of shelters for victims of domestic abuse within the South Asian Community. Visit http://www.sewaa1.net to donate today!

Questions? Contact info@sewaa1.net

YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 15


I

SELF-DISCOVERY IN THE THROES OF MENTAL ILLNESS BY: ANVITA JAIN

magine being fresh out of college, about to start the job of your dreams and move to a new city. In July 2016, I moved to Dallas to start my first job as a Business Analyst at Capital One. To say I was excited about this new role would have been an understatement. I thought I had tricked Capital One into hiring me. I was absolutely convinced that, by some stroke of luck, I had landed the perfect transition from an engineering degree to a business-facing career.

On the surface, this job seemed perfect. I entered a two-year rotational program along with many colleagues my age that offered development opportunities in spades and a high enough salary to cushion a comfortable lifestyle. My manager was agreeable, I got to work on impactful projects and my hours were reasonable. Dig a little deeper and the reality was much more bleak. I did not enjoy the work I was doing, which ultimately led to a lack of engagement and a failure to perform to my fullest potential. My dissatisfaction spilled over into a lack of connection with my peers and colleagues. In short, I was unhappy but also too stubborn to be a “quitter”. In December 2016, I hit rock bottom. Getting out of bed was a struggle on most days. I was moving through life as a ghost of my usual vibrant self. At this point, I finally saw a doctor and was clinically diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. With my parents’ help, I quit my job and started treatment. Going through treatment was one of the most difficult and transformative experiences of my life. I discovered that the source of my anxiety was deeply entrenched perfectionism and a natural reflex to set impossible expectations. I learned how mental health can impact every facet of my life and how to prioritize it. As I was taught self-care and mindfulness techniques, I became more aware of my emotions and learned how to sit with difficult emotions. Not only did this improve my emotional intelligence but it also helped me to develop greater karuna (compassion) towards myself and others.

16 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


Thanks to this reality check, I have pivoted into a career that I find much more meaningful: human resources. Soon after I left Capital One, I felt completely lost. As a joke, I took one of those silly online personality quizzes and human resources popped up as one of my top options. I reflected on the extracurriculars I pursued through college and realized one common theme – I am passionate about developing people. I received admission to Texas A & M University’s Masters in Human Resources Management program and took a gamble on a field I had no experience with. It was not until my summer internship in a human resources role at Dell Technologies that I knew I had found the field that was right for me. I fell in love with my new career. The opportunity to interact with and make a direct impact on employees daily was so rewarding. If it’s even possible, I fell even more in love with this field during my first full-time role as an HR Business Partner for Dell’s Chief Customer Office. One of the essential elements to my healing process was my support system. After going through treatment, I wanted to offer that same support to others. I started by sharing content related to mental health recovery on my Instagram account (IG @greenwithanvi). In October 2018, I joined MannMukti, a nonprofit that seeks to destigmatize mental health within the South Asian community, as a Development Chair. In 2019, I made a personal commitment to openly share my story within more

public forums and actively advocate for mental health awareness. I have had the opportunity to write for the Anxiety Chronicles under the Washington Post and contribute to an article on workplace mental health in ThriveGlobal. I hope to continue my path of mental health advocacy through my roles as the Vice President of Development for MannMukti, driving its partnership and outreach strategy, and as a Human Resources professional, advocating for mental health inclusion and resources at Dell.

MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS IT’S TIME WE SPEAK UP.

My mental health journey has also strengthened my connection to Jainism. Increased spirituality results in better mental health, and this how I stumbled upon Young Jains of America (YJA) and Young Jain Professionals (YJP). Making connections with like-minded people through regional retreats, Conventions and other events has been instrumental in helping me heal. These people are now some of my closest friends. It is thanks to my experience overcoming anxiety that I have found meaning and purpose in my life, enveloped myself in genuine connections, and discover something new about myself each and every day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ANVITA JAIN A Texas transplant from the rainy, hippie city of Portland, Oregon, Anvita is now a proud resident of Austin, Texas. Holding a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from UT Austin and an M.S. in HR Management from Texas A & M University, she is a Longhorn with a tinge of Aggie. Driven by her passion for helping people, she is a budding HR professional at Dell Technologies. Her personal experiences with mental illness have made her a passionate advocate for mental health as VP Development and Outreach at MannMukti. She hopes to pay forward the support she receives by sharing her story and supporting as many people as she can. In her free time, Anvita enjoys ballroom dancing, traveling, trying new food, day-dreaming and exploring the city with her family and friends. Please reach out to her if you would like to discuss this article or anything else related to mental health or otherwise. She loves connecting with new people!

YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 17


EVERYDAY WELLNESS BY: VARUSKA PATNI

coming into stores for purchase as well as the amount of effort this end-to-end process took. In addition, being aware of and selecting certain foods with specific beneficial ingredients can improve our physical and emotional health. For example, foods with higher levels of tryptophan are known to increase serotonin levels, thus boosting our mood. The preparation of certain foods can also be great for one’s well-being, providing another opportunity to practice mindfulness. For me personally, making homemade chai from scratch is therapeutic. I truly enjoy the process of grinding the ginger and stirring the spices for a more flavorful tea. While I make the tea, I try to involve my senses by taking in the scents of the strong spices and ginger while watching the golden brown color form.

h diet

“Wellness...involves a sense of creativity in our approach to maintaining our well-being.”

wellness th

roug

A

s I got older, my concept of wellness and how I incorporate it into my lifestyle has evolved over the years. Simply put, I view wellness as the opportunity to remain healthy in various avenues of life (i.e. physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, etc.). Since wellness encompasses so much, it is unique to each individual and thus involves a sense of creativity in our approach to maintaining our well-being. I believe true contentment breeds from fully engaging in daily activities and making them meaningful. Here, I share tips I have discovered to effectively incorporate wellness into our everyday lives.

As a vegetarian for the past twenty-four years, it is important for me to be conscious of my food intake, including its source and nutritional value. Being mindful of my food is one way I practice wellness. To practice mindful eating, I try to put away electronics, engage with others in conversation, and take a few moments to consciously think about where my food comes from. I feel a greater sense of appreciation for the food I eat when I think about how meticulously it was grown and packaged before

18 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


roug

wellness th

h nature

as part of a wellness ritual. Writing out a list of tasks accomplished during the day alongside a to-do list can set the tone for tomorrow. Creating a gratitude list can help form an empowered attitude and an abundance mindset. Additionally, I avoid caffeine after around 5pm and looking at electronics an hour before bed to maintain a healthy sleep cycle.

wellness t

roug

h

w e ll n e s s

balance for

Connecting with nature is also a great way to recharge. As a Jain, connecting with the outdoors serves as a great reminder of how all living beings are interconnected. This mutual support between all living beings allows me to feel a sense of belonging to a larger community. Doing yoga outside, or even walking outside, can help clear the mind to better focus on daily goals.

These are just some ways I have incorporated wellness into my everyday life. Though the practice of wellness comes in many forms, it is important to understand that our well-being directly affects our thoughts, actions, and emotions. Maintaining one’s well-being helps reduce stress levels and risks of health issues, while forming meaningful relationships and ultimately a better quality of life.

h s ou n d s l e e

p

Aside from food and the outdoors, self-reflection and ensuring proper sleep are both powerful tools to incorporate

“...our well-being directly affects our thoughts, actions, and emotions. Maintaining one’s well-being helps reduce stress levels and risks of health issues, while forming meaningful relationships and ultimately a better quality of life.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Varuska Patni graduated from University of Arizona with a degree in Physiology and minors in Intercultural Studies and Molecular and & Cellular Biology. She is currently looking into a career in healthcare and is passionate about health, wellness, and promoting education. She has attended pathshala (Sunday school) classes for over nine years, where she learned more about her religion, learned how to read and write Hindi, and formed long-lasting friendships. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, reading, spending time with loved ones, and meeting new people.

YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 19


Space in the City By: Preeti Shah The astronauts have landed in Times Square. The milky way is freckled on the steel grey face of skyscrapers. A whole gaping city, its mouth full of space. Asteroids stream of jaywalkers, with their daily shuffle, jaded saturation of rhythm. Obsidian can be found sparkling in the grit and caulking of all the homeless corners. We see each other, our anti-gravity, our eye contact fluxing. Our kind words suck into the worm hole of subway tunnels. We see each other, and sometimes nothing; just the darkness of space.

Preeti Shah is a Queens-based poet whose work is upcoming in Sukoon Magazine, Toho Journal Online, and True Chili Journal. She is a Brooklyn Poets 2019 Fall Fellowship Finalist. She is grateful for the opportunity to have her work published through YJPerspectives.

20 YJPERSPECTIVES


THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS BY: VATSAL GANDHI

spent the first 17 years of my life in South Mumbai, within a tightly knit, mostly Gujarati-Jain community. Although there are a lot of Jains spread out across the city and its suburbs, the Jain community in South Mumbai is a small group, well-to-do and fairly religious. We had a beautiful temple within the boundaries of our apartment complex and another historic temple a mere five-minute walk away, both complete with all forms of facilities: Upashray, Ayambilshala, Pathshala, etc. As a result, I grew up watching and learning about various aspects of the Jain religion.

to Buddhism; we learned about their origins, beliefs, and similarities. This helped me put the teachings obtained at home and at Pathshala in perspective. While the former focused on dayto-day activities and scriptures, school gave me the big picture philosophical background of the religion: the values of non-violence, nonattachment, celibacy, and truth.

Holidays like Paryushan, Mahavir Jayanti, and Diwali were a big part of my life growing up. They were grand affairs that involved countless visitors, lots of food, and massive amounts of money spent. Everyone would dress up in their best attire, following strict rules of penance and While studying ancient Indian history in showing complete devotion to the Gods. school, Jainism came up as a parallel religion YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 21


PRACTICING JAINISM IN INDIA Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji Jain Temple, Walkeshwar (Malabar Hill), Mumbai

PRACTICING JAINISM IN THE UNITED STATES Vatsal’s parents (both on left) visiting Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago (JSMC)

But as I grew older, I did not always want to abide by the rules, and there were times when I questioned a lot of the rituals. There were certain practices that didn’t make sense to me, such as gender-based restrictions and the induction of children into diksha. Money played a frustratingly influential role in religious society, contrary to my liking. At the same time, there were a lot of principles and teachings that I appreciated; ideologies like non-violence, truth, and non-

attachment are relevant in their purest form even today. In the end, whether or not I wanted to be part of this culture, it was almost impossible to completely detach myself from the environment.

“At that tender age (of 17), it is easy to forget one’s roots, to get lost and stray away, willingly or unwillingly, from an inherent value system. But this is when your culture can be your companion or, in some cases, come to your rescue.”

Then, at the age of 17, I came to America. About to spend four long years in college a couple of hours outside Chicago in the middle-of-nowhere. My parents were undoubtedly and understandably nervous about what would happen to me. At that tender age, it is easy to forget one’s roots, to get lost and stray away, willingly or unwillingly, from an inherent value system. But this is when your culture can be your companion or, in some cases, come to your rescue. The Jain society in the US has done exactly that for many of us. Many of my classmates in college and colleagues at YJA have come from halfway across the world to pursue a better education or career, and having this community around us has definite benefits. I have lived in the US for almost

22 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


ten years now, and being an active part of the local Jain community has not only provided me with a sense of belonging but has also allowed me to stay connected with the world I thought I had left behind in Mumbai. I attended my first YJA Retreat in Wisconsin in my sophomore year of college, wherein we spent a weekend at a ski resort sharing ideas and knowledge about our faith. This gave me my first real exposure to a Jain youth event in the US, one which I thoroughly enjoyed alongside my first time skiing, a brutal but memorable experience. I attended my first Convention in Tampa, FL that same year, wherein I networked with inspiring Jain youth from all over the country, participated in enlightening and thought-provoking sessions about our religion and way of life and learned how I could make an impact in my community in the US. I then attended the 2018 Midwest Retreat in the Indiana Dunes, reconnecting with a lot of people after I had missed some of the retreats hosted just before this.

“…a new, smart, and unique approach to a centuries-old religion (Jainism) is imperative to spread its message and ensure its continued success.”

The most rewarding and insightful aspect of my experience has been the approach with which we discuss and teach our faith, especially to the younger generation. Youth are taught to think about aspects of modern society through the lens of a Jain way of life. Not only does this provide logical ways of living that we all can follow, it is also easier to do so in a country devoid of direct access to a community so immediately available in India. This occasionally comes at the expense of some modifications to traditional practices but a new, smart, and unique approach to a centuriesold religion is imperative to spread its message and ensure its continued success. This modern approach may have come out of necessity to an extent, but I hope it continues to attract more youth and encourages them to stay involved in I now make it a point to attend as many YJA and Jainism. YJP events and retreats as possible. I also make it a point to visit the Jain Society of Metropolitan I do not wish to pit my two experiences with Chicago (JSMC)’s temple in Bartlett during the Jainism, in India and in the US, against each other. year, especially during Paryushan. My various Instead, I want to appreciate and be thankful that experiences with YJA, YJP and JSMC have been I have had this opportunity to both experience significant, fruitful, and enjoyable and, over and discover what Jainism means to me through time, have helped foster lifelong friendships and both sides of the same coin, extract the best parts of each, and become the best Jain that I can be. relationships. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: VATSAL GANDHI Having spent the first 17 years of his life in Mumbai, Vatsal is a Mechanical Engineering alumnus from the University of Illinois (I-L-L!), a Chicago resident and a consultant in the transaction advisory services industry. Vatsal is an avid soccer and NBA fanatic and likes spending his free time reading, listening to podcasts and re-watching The Office. He attended his first YJA Convention in 2012 and now serves as one of YJA’s 2019-2020 Co-Chairs. Fun fact: Vatsal is a huge Beatles fan and actually owns their most famous records in physical form!

YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 23


BI-CULTURAL CRISIS BY: APARNA SAGARAM

As children of immigrants, many of us struggle to fully assimilate with both Indian culture and American cultures. This is called the bi-cultural identity crisis, and the effects this has on mental health can be very damaging. Many children of immigrants grow up afraid to embrace and discover all the wonderful aspects of experiencing 2 different cultures. We often feel like we have to pick one and reject the other. Some of the negative effects of experiencing bi-culturalism are: 1. Feeling like you don’t fit in anywhere 2. Trying to please your parents while discovering who you are as an individual 3. Internalizing prejudices about the minority identity you also hold 4. Feeling like you are betraying an identity if you are “too much” of the other identity Many of these effects can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and isolation. As bi-culturalism is becoming the new buzzword, it is important to recognize that allowing yourself to discover and embrace both cultures can be very freeing. It is helpful to recognize that both cultures offer different strengths that allow you to navigate the world as you do. Below are important reminders as you allow yourself to discover both cultures: 1. Picking and choosing what you like from each culture is completely normal and your right 2. Rejecting aspects from each culture is also completely normal and your right 3. Give yourself the freedom to navigate and discover the world as you 24 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


ABOUT T H E AU T H O R (SPONSORED ADVERTISEMENT)

Aparna Sagaram

Marriage and Family Therapist, LMFT Aparna Sagaram is a licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in Philadelphia, PA. Her practice focuses on working with South Asians to help them to heal and discover themselves through therapy. Her gentle approach allows clients to freely explore and understand themselves and their relationships better. Aparna offers tele-therapy for clients seeking services outside of the Philadelphia area. Whether you are looking to improve your marriage or yourself, she can work with you to help you get to a better place mentally. Visit her website or contact her directly for more information!

Center City Philadelphia (267) 225 4428 aparnalmft@gmail.com IG: reflectionswithaparna http://www.reflectionswithaparna.com YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 25


The 3rd Annual YJP National Conference 2019 was held October 18 - 20 at the Hyatt Rosemont in the Chicago metropolitan area. The conference featured several distinguished speakers including Sachin H. Jain, CEO of CareMore Health; Manish Patel, Founder & CEO of Brandify; Masum Momaya, arts, social justice, & human rights curator; Bhavana Jain, Founder & CEO of BhavyJ Designs; and Sonal R. Shah, a public official and economist who each shared their personal and professional experiences, touching on the theme of the overall conference, Perspective: Uncover. Reflect. Transform. Following these inspiring talks, YJP hosted its first ever Shark Tank competition where young Jain professionals pitched unique business ideas! As part of the conference experience, attendees also danced the night away at Falguni Pathak Dandiay Dhoom 2019 and visited the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago. Check-out photos from the event below!

26 YJPERSPECTIVES | ISSUE 4 | DECEMBER 2019


YJP hosted its first ever Shark Tank competition, where submissions were reviewed considering several criteria including business objectives, market opportunity, financials, and scalability. Finalists were invited to pitch their ideas at the YJP National Conference. Please see below for details on the top pitches, and feel free to contact the team leaders if you would like to learn more or invest into any of these Jain-owned ventures! Coup D’ePop, roasted water lily puffs is a new player in the healthy and natural snacking market. Coup D’ePop is being positioned as a popcorn alternative with a high health-benefit plant based product. When it comes to mindful snacking, consumers are on the hunt for good for you and better for the world options. Coup D’epop, offers abundant health benefits all while following sustainable economic and environmental practices. With whole and natural food snacks growing 3x faster than all other snacking categories and consumer trends suggesting a shift from corn / grain snacks towards high protein / seeds + nuts snacks, the opportunity here is ripe! Interested in learning more? Contact the team lead, Shradha Mehta at shradha.mehta@gmail.com. Precise Nutrition is an artificial intelligence based app designed to help people over the age of 40 get off blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes medication within 3 months and competitive athletes achieve their peak performance. This novel app takes data from a $29 blood test, macro measurements, and a dietary preference profile to output an individually customized dietary plan leading to a rapid improvement in key clinical markets. Currently, prediabetics worsen to diabetics and heart disease patients spending up to $33,000 a year! Precise Nutrition can save 75% of these costs for 400 million people globally! Interested in learning more? Visit the Precise Nutrition website (https://precisenutrition.weebly.com/) or contact the team lead, Semant Jain, Ph.D. at nutritionprecise@gmail.com.

YOUNG JAIN PROFESSIONALS (YJP) 27


Stay connected with the #YJP network:

@yjp.jaina

@youngjain professionals

@yjprofessionals

@YJProfessionals

Young Jain Professionals

@YJProfessionals

bit.ly/yjpsignup

Profile for YJProfessionals

YJPerspectives | December 2019 | Issue 4  

YJP is excited to release its winter issue of YJPerspectives themed on “Discover." In this issue, young Jain professionals take a deep dive...

YJPerspectives | December 2019 | Issue 4  

YJP is excited to release its winter issue of YJPerspectives themed on “Discover." In this issue, young Jain professionals take a deep dive...