Born and grew up In India in a small town. Came to Virginia, USA, 19 years back, to find my own identity , accepting all the challenging opportunities that came my way and made my journey from a Nanny to a hotelier. Have graduated in India, but had no knowledge about a computer. It was a challenge of not being educated in today’s world and needs, accepted the challenge to educate myself in today’s needs , and did so in the public library. I completed online course in Hotel Management, Worked a few years in hotel front line job. And moved to Texas In 2008. I got the opportunity to work in a hotel, and got hands on training to grow in the business. I was fortunate to follow my heart and come this far to attain this successful journey with the help of good hearted people , who stood by me thru rain or shine, and motivated me to be what I am today. I successfully manage and run two hotels.
I enjoy music, art, writing , traveling. My friends describe me as “a self made woman, an Entrepreneur, known for her Positive attitude, hard working and her Philanthropic work, also manages a couple of hotels, as committed as her personality.”
I believe in giving back to the community and enjoy helping people. My journey in this country has been full of challenges, which have made me only stronger, and never to fear or give up. I do not question my life on how many complaints I may have about it, only make sure, life has not left out any more challenges to give me. The challenges makes my life more spicier and keeps me on my toes, to do better and evolve to be a better person.
After moving to Austin with my family 16 years ago, I worked with several companies as a ‘financial analyst’. Despite of good pay and job stability, I was feeling unfulfilled, so I decided to change my career about 3 years back. It was a tough decision to quit my job, but I knew I had to do it for my own happiness. I wanted to do something meaningful, something through which I can use my knowledge and experience to help the community. I saw the need for education in the area of financial planning -especially in the Indian community and for women in particular. I chose to become a “financial services professional”. My primary focus is to educate and provide financial strategies and solutions for personal and business needs. I am passionate about empowering the members of our community by making them aware of their options so that they can accomplish their goals.
The journey has not been easy, but I have enjoyed every bit of it. So far it has been the best decision of my life! Not only I could follow my passion, but now I am my own boss! Being in control of my own schedule, I dedicate my time serving various non-profit organizations such as SAIVA, IACT, Chinmaya Mission Austin, and HC4A to name a few. As Swami Chinmayananda quoted – “Happiness depends on what you can give, not on what you can get.” I am now happier than ever.
I believe in life-long learning and have been studying Bhagwad Geeta and Vedanta courses at Chinmaya mission Austin. Vedanta and practicing spirituality have given me the strength to deal with the negativity and rejection of the world. It has always encouraged me to keep doing the good.
My moto in life is from Bhagwad Geeta chaper 3 on Karma Yoga, verse 19 & 20 –
“Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.”
Happiness depends on what you can give, Not on what you can get.
Faith is, ‘To believe what you do not see’, the reward of which is, ‘you see what you believed’.
Success or achievement is not the final goal. It is the ‘spirit’ in which you act that puts the seal of beauty upon your life.
Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.
—The Bhagavad Gita – chapter 3 Karma yoga verse 19 & 20
Jaya Thakkar was born into a large, loving Gujarati family in Nasik, Maharastra. In college she majored in Zoology, and upon graduation she moved to the United States as a new bride in 1972.
As many young Indian brides in the 1970s can relate, she enjoyed the freedoms of exploring her life in the States. She loved getting to know Chicago, landing her first job as a computer programmer, getting to know her husband, Ishwar, and doting on her baby boy. Her life became even more busy after a move to their future home for 40 years – Moline, IL. There she and Ishwar raised two children while he worked as a physician and she became heavily involved with her children’s school as PTA board member and other philanthropies close to her heart.
In Moline, Jaya devoted a lot time and and energy volunteering with Junior Women’s Club to raise funds for needy children, President of the Indian Association of the Quad Cities, Chairwoman of the Junior League Charity Ball, President of the Quad Cities Medical Alliance, and serving as a Big Sister for the a number of years. with the Big Sisters and Big Brothers of America Program. Jaya and Ishwar fully integrated themselves into their community while also helping out those in need back in India. There they built and help run an English Medium school which educates hundreds of students.
Jaya has enjoyed retirement in Austin for the last 8 years. Soon after moving here, she joined both Pratham and HC4A as an active volunteer. She started Austin’s first chapter of Dining for Women, which raises awareness and funds for women and girls in developing countries. In addition to her philanthropic activities, she enjoys her book club, playing tennis, cooking, traveling and spending time with the 6 joys of her life – her grandchildren. She lives by the moto, “Live each day to the fullest and live till I die.”
Alicia founded the City of Austin’s ATX+PAK: Launch Entrepreneurship Program a replicable and scalable model for building diverse, sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world through the power of local government led public-private partnerships.
The first program of its kind in the United States, ATX+PAK Launch connects the vibrant community of entrepreneurs and investors in Austin’s startup ecosystem to those in the emerging startup scene in Pakistan. The two-year program resulted in several direct economic and cultural benefit to local economies including several new business partnerships between Austin and Pakistan.
As a Marketing Communications Consultant with the City’s Public Information, Alicia develops strategic marketing and community engagement campaigns for major City initiatives. She also provides communications guidance for more than a dozen City Departments. Her duties also include coordinating local, national, and international media coverage of the City of Austin as well as media training for elected leadership and city executives.
Alicia is seasoned broadcast journalist. In front of the camera he has been a general assignment reporter and military correspondent reporting from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Greece, Germany, and Ireland.
Behind the scenes Alicia has filled newsroom leadership roles ranging from Managing Editor to Acting News Director, at television stations in Detroit, San Diego, Cincinnati, Saginaw, MI, Little Rock, AR.
Most recently Alicia served as Assistant News Director at KXAN-TV. She was responsible for managing day to day operations in the newsroom as well as special projects and major live event planning.
In 2013, Alicia toured Pakistan as part of a small group of U.S. journalists selected to participate in the U.S. Pakistan professional Partnership in journalism, sponsored by the international center for journalists.
She is also a proud alumna of the U.S. Department of State Professional Fellowship program and speaks Urdu, Hindi, and Pashto.
In her spare time, Alicia enjoys designing clothes and teaching Bollywood dance inspired fitness classes as a certified BollyX instructor.
Manjima Kundu is an IT professional who works as a Director of IT at Electronic Arts, a leading video game making company. She is married to Koushik Kundu and has 2 teenage daughters.
She is a strong believer in the power of education. Coming from a humble background from a small town in the southern part of India, she says, education was the key reason that made her the successful woman, wife and mother she is today. Manjima and her family strongly believe in giving back to the community because she is one among those who are challenged, in her case a genetic disorder impacting vision.
The Kundu family supports several non-profit organizations in the US and India. Manjima is actively involved with her husband who leads the Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) Austin chapter and helps organize fund raising events for SEF.
Outside of her work and community service, she is also passionate about continuing to learn classical dance and enjoys performing with her daughter.
Sharmila moved to Austin seven years ago with her two daughters. Originally from Mumbai, she has lived in New York, California and Michigan before settling in Texas. Over the years, she has traveled extensively and has lived in four different countries.
She spent over 15 years in corporate world doing Advertising and Marketing for various companies prior to transitioning to Real Estate. With her passion and aptitude for interior design and marketing skills, she has found a niche for herself as a full time REALTOR. In her spare time, you can find her walking, hiking and exploring fun places in this vibrant and beautiful city of Austin.
It is her strong belief in providing education to children for a better future that keeps her coming back to help raise money for Hindu Charities for America. This is a third year in a row that she has participated in the fund raiser.
I am a full time hematologist and medical oncologist at Baylor Scott and White Cancer Center. Additionally I am the Division head for Oncology at Darnall Army Medical Center. Being able to serve our active duty soldiers and military families is a matter of immense pride and honor for me.
This is my third decade as a practicing doctor and I can say without hesitation that this was my calling in life. A doctor’s life is hard. An oncologist’s life is very hard. Some days are very dark and depressing. However If I had to pick an alternate profession, I would pick my current career again in a heartbeat. Nothing gives me greater joy and satisfaction than what I do and being part of my patient’s journey with cancer.
I also hold several leadership positions at my institution and hence work life is extremely hectic. I am also very passionate about community health education, particularly when it comes to cancer awareness, and give public health talks often.
In my little free time I enjoy my hobbies which include dancing and music. I have been extremely honored to be able to present the national anthem for the past two years at IACTs Republic Day event. I applaud the efforts of charities like HC4A, Pratham, Ekam, Akshayapatra, SAIVA and many others in bringing the Austin community together for the greater good. I try to contribute to these causes in my own little ways. My dream is to go on medical missions and offer medical care to people most in need. With a child who will be flying the nest in just a couple of years, I am unable to realize this dream of mine just yet .
I have been an Austinite for nearly 12 years now. Moved from NYC where I had lived for 9 years. I love everything about Austin as do my three kids. My family loves music and my kids have their own little Bollywood Rock band. We love to jam in our free time, travel a lot and try out different restaurants. With three active Boy Scouts, I also participate in a fair share of outdoor activities.
My life which involves juggling two jobs and three kids is by no means easy. But gives me endless joy in the capacity of both a healer and mother. I hope to contribute to the society at large in bigger better ways in the years to come and thank HC4A for this opportunity to share my story.
Dr. Khunti is a family practice physician with Austin Regional Clinic. She was born and raised in New Jersey. She finished medical school in Erie, Pennsylvania. After surviving the harsh winters of Erie, Pennsylvania she set out for warmer weather and set foot in Texas for her residency training eight years ago in the city of Corpus Christi. She now calls Austin her home for the last five years. Her parents and younger brother reside here as well now.
She had aspired to become a health care professional from a very young age. Though the journey was not easy, it has been a rewarding one. Practicing medicine comes with many challenges but there are many reminders (small and big) along the way that help lift your spirits and remind you why you went into this profession. She is reminded of this everyday through her routine follow ups with patients getting to help them live long, healthy lives.
Dancing has always been a hobby of hers from a young age and she is grateful to have the opportunity to dance again through the HC4A platform, serving a great cause. In addition to dancing, she also enjoys singing, playing pool and participating in sports.
Vinitha Subramanian, Director, Natyalaya School of Dance
Natyalaya School of Dance is dedicated to teaching and propagating the Indian classical dances particularly Bharathanatyam. Founded in 1982 by Vinitha Subramanian, Natyalaya is the largest and oldest classical dance school in the central Texas area. Students of Natyalaya are trained in Bharathanatyam, one of the most ancient classical dance forms in the world.
Vinitha Subramanian began her dancing career at the tender age of four under the tutelage of Thirukoshtiyur Nagarathna Ammal. She then went on to be trained in the Thirukoshtiyur and Pandanainallur styles under Shri Radhakrishnan of Bangalore and Madurai S. Jayaraman. After moving to Texas, she founded Natyalaya School of Dance in 1982. Since then, she has taken scores of students through margam training, culminating in their arangetrams. She also has several dance dramas to her credit: “Prahala Bhakthi Vijayam,” “Nauka Charitram,” “Two faces of Shiva,” “Aaru Padai Veedu,” “Raja Rajeshwari,” “Ganga – A River’s story,” and “Navahavarna – Colors of Number Nine.” Under her direction, Natyalaya has grown tremendously over the last couple decades.
Vanitha Dorairaj, Choreographer, Natyalaya School of Dance
Vanitha Dorairaj, born and brought up in Chennai, South India, has learned Dance from the age of 5 under Guru Smt. Kalpagam Jayaraman, from the same hometown. She was trained in Vazhuvoor Bani and performed her Arangetram in India. She did her schooling in Engineering and moved to Boston. Her passion for dance instigated her to open up classes for bharathanatyam training in Boston. Vanitha moved to Texas for pursueing her schooling/career opportunities. She completed her MBA and currently working at Dell. She underwent training under Smt. Vinitha Subramanian in Pandanallur Style and started teaching in Natyalaya. Currently she trains students to complete a Margam. She has participated in Natyalaya productions, temple and other social events cultural performances.
About Mansi Muchhala
Mrs. Mansi Muchhala Patel is the Founder and Director of Sargam Dance School. She has been teaching and choreographing Bharatnatyam, Folk and Bollywood dances in Austin for over 11 years. She fosters a love for the fine arts, engages her students through the happy medium of dance, builds their self-confidence and instills discipline in her students through their dance.
Mrs. Mansi Muchhala Patel is an accomplished dancer and earned her degree in dance after 13 years of intensive training from her Guru late Shreemati Dr.Jayanti Chandorikar, who herself was the disciple of the renowned Guru Shree Kubernath Tanjorker.
Brihad Gujarat Sangeet Samiti, an institution of the Government of India, has designated her as a Certified Examiner of Classical Dance.
Mansi Muchhala Patel wants to expose the richness, beauty and essence of Indian culture through the medium of dance. Her mission is to make Sargam Dance School a haven where students can weave dreams and create magic through dance.
Sargam Dance School
Sargam Dance School is Austin’s premier dance school teaching Bharatnatyam and Bollywood style of dances in Austin for 10 years.
The mission of Sargam Dance School is to foster a love for fine arts, build self-confidence and engage students through the happy medium of dance.
At Sargam Dance School, a large number of enthusiastic students from diverse cultural background come together to train in a systematic and professional manner.
Sargam Dance School’s students have been featured on prestigious South Asian TV channels, South Asian Newspapers, Austin American Statesman newspaper, various School District events. Our grand Annual Dance Recital is a must watch showcase!!
Our goal is to bring a smile on everyone’s face as they immerse themselves into the beautiful art of dance!
Agni Dance Company is the pioneer Bollywood dance company in Austin. Starting in 2007 as a small group of dancers, the dance ensemble now features 35+ dancers that have performed at major venues, various festivals, musicals, schools, corporations, studios and private events. The ensemble’s repertoire ranges from folk styles such as garba and bhangra, classical techniques such as kathak and Bharatanatyam, to shoulder-shimmying feel-good medleys, and poetic interpretations of Sufi music.
Agni is actively committed to building community in the greater Austin area. The company not only performs at city-sponsored events such as Diwali celebrations at Zilker Park, but also annually organizes Bollywood Day in central Austin. The company has also collaborated with other local artists and dance companies to produce full length shows including Om Shanti (a Bollywood style musical),Big Fat Indian Wedding , Disco Deewane etc.
To know more about our classes and offerings please visit agnidance.com
Bio for Prayrana Sharma:
CEO: Agni Dance Academy
Director: Client Services at Strivector
Prayrana has always been passionate about dancing. When she was younger she used to dance to Sridevi ,Madhuri’s songs. Prayrana started dancing and learning with Shaiamak Davar after her daughter was born. After moving to the US, she joined Agni as a dancer and has been instrumental in recent years to the management and success of Agni Dance. As a result, she is currently in charge of the Agni Dance Academy, AgniFit and the Agni Performance Team. Not only is she in charge, but she is an instructor and a choreographer with Agni. Most importantly, she is always dancing on stage alongside her students and teammates. She believes that dancing gives her the motivation to live and also believes in spreading that positivity and happiness. This is her way of contributing peace and love to the world.
Bio of Venkatesh:
Venkatesh was brought up in a small town on the shores of sun kissed Arabian Sea, Udupi in India. Udupi is famous for food, music and dance. Venkatesh grew up eating, dancing while enjoying music. He has learnt classical dance form Bharathanatyam, and Yakshagaana the folk style. He grew up watching Bollywood movies and dance. He used to be the official choreographer for all the dance events at his high school, college and his family functions. He has Zumba, Strong, Aqua, and BollyX certifications.
Dance has been his passion all his life. he teaches dance, dance based fitness classes in the evenings while in the mornings he designs cool gadgets such as iPhone, iPad etc he is two handsome little boys with whom he loves dancing as well.
We, Monsoon Dance were established in Dec 2012 with the mission of bringing happiness and fitness to all our students through instruction of Bollywood dance! Over the years, we have been fortunate to work with hundreds of students to see them grow into stronger, confident individuals. We especially love working with our kids whose curiosity, desire to learn and perform on stage never stops to amaze us.
We are proud to have our own studio in Austin which is the first ever studio teaching Bollywood & Yoga. Our goal is to provide a safe and fun environment to learn dance and practice yoga for children and adults. We are able to use unique dance props from India like decorative sticks, colorful scarfs in our classes to make them more exciting for adults and kids. With our own studio, we are able to offer multiple class options and flexible enrollment packages to make it economical for individuals and families alike. We also teach at our satellite locations in Circle C & South Austin.
Monsoon Dance studio combines the strength two powerful forces of fitness from India- Bollywood Dance & Yoga in its class offerings for adults and kids. This unique set of programs is branded as BollyYoga class package where a combination of Yoga classes and Bollywood workout sessions are combined to provide fitness of mind & body.
Monsoon Dance has always aimed to support local non-profits and charitable organizations through the initiative Dance for a Cause. Our Mayur Dance team members donate their skill and time for causes that make our world a better place giving a purpose to their passion for dance.
We have always believed in bringing people, cultures, communities together with dance and we hope to continue this journey of spreading happiness and fitness forever!