MV, in her 40’s, was born in the Fiji islands to Indian parents and moved to the States when she was 16. She talks about her beautiful childhood on the island, her move to America in her teens and her quest for becoming the best version of herself while helping others in their own journeys. Here’s the transcript of my face to face interview with her.
Heart: Tell me anything. A memory from childhood maybe?
MV: Woah, OK. When you said childhood, the first thing that came to my mind was my favorite place in Fiji Islands which was on top of our house which is a four-story building. In Fiji all the buildings are like that; like a level up, because there’s so much flooding that’s happening over there. And they’re all concrete buildings. But the room was really my favorite, because it was all the way on the top, beautiful sea breeze flowing and the weather was always perfect, you know. There are mango trees right there and you can pluck those mangoes from my room. You understand?
Heart: Yeah, sounds beautiful.
MV: And my mom had all these plants because she used to love plants. And now, I love plants too. I love that room and it’s surroundings. And Fiji is such a small place, there’s not really much to do. So, I hung out there all the time. And one day, there was a storm and I looked at the sky and I was so scared, but you know how they say, “Face your fears,” so I tried to stay brave and looked at the sky and it was this bright red. Beautiful, amazing red color and I loved it.
I was born and brought up in Fiji Islands. My mom was a go-getter. She’s still a go-getter. And so she used to push us a lot for a lot of things. Our major thing was Sri Ramakrishna mission. And every day after school, we would go to the center. And my mother would be feeding the Swamiji’s (Holy men) when the cooks were unavailable at the center. A majority of my childhood was spent in the Ashram.
Heart: What aspects of your mother do you think made her a go-getter?
MV: She would take a lead in a lot of things. She would take a leadership role among the women. She would be interviewed on the radio for specific recipes or parenthood or something like that. She would always be out there and doing things as opposed to what I’ve seen, like not doing anything, staying at home, cooking and cleaning. What I’m saying is, she did a little bit more than that for sure. She’s still a very active person and I love her. She was a little strict on us. But she took care of everything, homework, you know everything.
Heart: Was she first-generation in Fiji?
MV: She was born in India. My dad was born in Fiji Islands, went to India to get educated and came back after marrying my mom. Coz, Fiji had a lot opportunities at that time. Still does.
Fiji is a paradise. Everything is organic over there, obviously. The schools were the best. Compared to the education that I got over there, to here, the education system in Fiji was so much better. The fact that it was a Third World country, which I still don’t get how it is, it’s a freaking paradise. Everyone wants to go there, tourism is huge.
My father taught, who’s that rock and roll guy, he taught him how to play the Sitar. Mick Jagger?
Heart: What? Get outta here!
MV: He taught Mick Jagger how to play the sitar and he sold his sitar for practically nothing to him.
Heart: Wow. Did your father have a full-time job?
MV: He was a geologist and he took over the family business, which was building houses and buildings. So they were into architecture and building and all that kind of stuff.
Heart: Was he around or was he busy?
MV: He was the best father anyone could ask for. I promise you that. All the children in our town, in Fiji you’ve these towns, loved him. Because he would pack us all up and take us to the beach and afterwards bring us all back. At the beach, he would show us how to be creative. Like how to do art on sand, you know. He was this super creative, amazing dad. And he had these values, to me, its all irreplaceable.
We woke up early in the morning, and every single day, “[Redacted], it’s time to wake up!” he would say. See, we didn’t wake up to alarms. You know what I mean? We don’t do that for our children. I used to love that and then it was dinner time we were that family that ate together, prayed together and stayed together. You know what I mean?
Heart: I’m speechless. So, geographically where’s Fiji?
MV: It’s in the South Pacific. It’s an hour’s flight from Australia and New Zealand. They’re like in a triangle, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. And when you go to Fiji, you should plan a trip for 21 days so you can visit Australia and New Zealand.
Heart: Wow. OK.
MV: In my childhood, we would go to all these islands and locals usually get the top rates on top resorts. These resorts are all villas, they have kitchens and they’re huge. I’m talking 1980’s, beautiful swimming pool in the front, right in front of the ocean, and all that for $10 for the entire stay. All you’ve to do is clean up before you leave.
Heart: I’m already heartbroken about my childhood.
MV: (Laughs) And the Ocean, you go in the shallow waters, where the water’s still crystal clear, you would have these schools of fish, different colors and the best play thing for me would be to take my little foot and put right in the middle and the fish would go psssshhhhh… (Makes motion of scattering away with hands) I loved doing that. (Laughs)
Heart: Well, I think you’re robbing your children of their childhood.
MV: (Laughs) I realize that. We try to travel all over the world, you know. Next year is Fiji Islands. We want to keep going back year after year. We can’t go every year, it’s a lot of money and time.
Heart: How many siblings do you have?
MV: Three older and one younger. So total, there are 5 of us. My sister is a pharmacist, she’s here. Actually, everyone’s right here in Georgia, including my aunts and uncles. And if I do a party, I’ve to think about the headcount. Forget friends, there’s already too much family. (Laughs).
Heart: So, I just want you to go back a little. When your mom first landed in Fiji how did she assimilate? Like girls who get married and come over with their husbands for the first time in the US.
MV: Fiji is not at all like the US. Fiji was built by the Indians, so for her, it was like migrating from big Gujarat to little Gujarat. Only that Fiji is cleaner but that’s about it. Everything else is the same.
If you want to make papad, you just get together with the other women and make papad. If you want to make an naashta (snacks) like Dhokla, Ghatia, they would get together and do it. So, the community was already there. We had the best garbas in the world. Because, the music was live. And all those musicians were so talented. By live, I don’t mean disco. They have the Sitar, Tabla, traditional Indian instruments and people singing live. Oh my gosh. They would teach us how to do Garba.
I actually learned Bharatnatyam too in Fiji. After school, we would go to the ashram and the Swamiji insisted that we learn something. You know, he was amazing. People like him are on a different level, they’ve this extra awareness than the rest of us. One time he told our dance teacher, she was South Indian, “This doesn’t seem like Bharatnatyam, this is Bollywood. Please start teaching the kids from the very beginning.” The last dance we learned was Jateeshwaram. And we would perform all over. I learnt Kathak too. That’s how much there was to do in Fiji. In regular schools we were offered Hindi, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu languages. This was 1973 to 1989.
Before I came over here (the States), I remember one thing, my principal gave me a piece of advice, because I was scared of the transition and was looking for guidance. I was in secondary school at that point, and when I went to her, my principal wrote in my book, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” And she said, “Go create your world.” I didn’t understand it at that time, I thought, “OK, these are some important words, they might mean something someday.”
We were always participating in debates, giving speeches. We were always just being a part of some competition or the other. That’s why I feel that kids and their life was much more superior over there than here. Here, kids have all these issues that you would never think of can be issues. They blow up everything into big issues for nothing.
Heart: When all your basic necessities are met, people don’t know what else to do. Every little thing gets magnified I think.
MV: I think so. I think so. (Laughs)
Heart: Do you have a favorite quote?
MV: “At the time of change, the learners will inherit the world, while the learned will be beautifully equipped with a world that no longer exists.” To me that’s really powerful.
Heart: Especially the first part. Sure. Change is a very difficult concept.
MV: I quit my job recently to become a consultant at [redacted] Institute. I help people set a prosperity mindset. And I help people to do what they really want to do and become prosperous at it. I work with people who are my clients.
I was very unhappy with what I did earlier but I loved the people that I worked with. But in the corporate world, there’s a lot of blame game and politics that you’ve to deal with. There was a time when I had to get the corporate lawyers involved. I cannot go back to that life to work ever. I will not go back.
Heart: What was your previous line of work?
MV: I did data center management in [redacted], like disaster recovery and back up storage. I started with knowing nothing to getting promoted as an escalation manager. All the escalation engineers reported to me. So if nobody in [redacted] can fix any issue related to disaster recovery or storage back up, it would come to me. I’ll assign an engineer to go work on it.
It was good, the fixing part. But once that was done, you have to do root cause analysis. And because the data center is so huge, and there are database analysts, your network manager, your operation systems manager, the applications people, we need to sit down together to figure out the root cause. And there’s blame game going on and you’ve to remind people that this is a conference call specifically to discuss issues and not to point fingers at anybody.
Its just too much, you know. So yeah, I gave some ideas and said, “Look these are some things we can do.” And of course, no one listens because they’ve their own mode of working and they don’t want to get out of it, right? Like, I took people a long time to figure out that, “Yes, our team in India can actually do this.”
When I had first joined, we had a team in India but we barely used them. We paid them, but didn’t use them. And people over at my office were getting laid off. And I’m going, “Wait a minute, we can do this.” They didn’t believe me, and so I took it upon myself to work with these people in India. Because I hated getting a call in the middle of the night, I trained them to work like me. (Laughs)
And not just technical stuff, but the ethics, and values of working with the customers. “Your customers don’t talk to your technical expertise, they talk to your values.”
It makes a difference you know, yeah, the technical stuff matters, but the truth is you have to show that you care and the customer’s data is safe and secure. It means a lot to them to know that. And you have to bring that out in your communication. Simple things like that. That’s the reason our US customers never wanted to talk to people in India before.
After I made them go all the way into the deep technical support details, troubleshooting and fixing the issue, I recorded all that in an email and I forwarded it to my manager and “See, this is what they’re capable of doing. And I’m using them in my disaster recovery. So if you want to use them, your welcome to use them. And they went, “Ok, wow, it’s actually possible.” And then they made me the head of the whole team.
Heart: It’s great that you thought of bringing back the human face to customer service. So, were you ever a wild child?
MV: I was a very wild child. Super idiotic too. I was. Remember, the only place in Fiji was my room that I hung out in. And I hung out there all the time. That’s how it was, my room, my school, or the ashram and then come back to my room. There was a library but I had read all the books over and over again. So I was ready to get out of Fiji and go see something totally different. Something new.
But moving to the states at 16 was a bit difficult, because I already had a lot of friends in Fiji and I had a system in place. And here, I had absolutely no friends and everything was so alien to me. The only things I liked were the beautiful trees all around me.
Heart: Who made the decision to move to the United States?
MV: My father. Actually my sister and I were going to go to New Zealand for higher education. But then he decided we will move here as a family, which I think in the end was a great decision. Because, it makes a difference that your family is close by. A lot of people’s families are not here.
When I need help, they are there for me. When I need help with babysitting my kids, they’re there, you know what I mean? My father is very loving. I’ve not seen a man that secure and loving in my entire life. And I remember this one time, I was working and I was on a conference call. And he was so amazed that I was talking like this in a call. He had never seen me in that avatar. To him, I was still that clueless girl in my room. And he brings me my afternoon tea and he’s like, “Salaam madam.” and salutes me. (Laughs)
Heart: That’s funny.
MV: So, I was really wild in college, we would go party every Friday and Saturday to a bar that stayed open. I don’t know if you know how Buckhead was around ’96, ’97 and ’98. They had a long stream of nightclubs over there and people will be so wild. There were no cars allowed on the streets and people would be walking up and down the streets drunk and dancing to the music that was playing, just having fun. That’s where I met my husband. (Both of us laugh)
I was not good in college. Never. I was like what the F is this place? I was not exposed to this mode of studying, this was very a different ballgame altogether. You know, you have to choose a major, minor, what the hell is that? I know I had to choose something, have a career, but I didn’t know what all I had to do in college. A little bit of preparation would have helped, a little bit of direction would have helped.
Give myself a chance to take some time out to think what I really wanted to do. First volunteer and figure out what I really liked to do. And then get into it.
Heart: What about high school?
MV: I went to high school, my 11th and 12th grade here in the States. Scary stuff man. Because, in Fiji when the bell rings, people move in one single file in the hallways. If your teacher is walking on one side, we all just moved to the other side and would go, “Good morning ma’m.”
And here, the freaking bell rings and all the different colors come out into the hallways. Oh my God, they all looked so different, and in a way, they all looked the same. In the beginning, I couldn’t tell the difference, white, black, just so many colors.
Heart: I think it’s called racial paralysis.
MV: And their screams. In Fiji, the school atmosphere is very shanti, shanti. (Peace) (Laughs) But, here, the bell rings and everyone’s rushing to their lockers. It was crazy.
My first prom and this Russian kid came up to me and he asked if I wanted to go to the prom. I said, “I don’t know I’ve to ask my mom.” Because that’s what I’m used to doing. And he made fun of me so much after that, until we graduated, the whole entire year. “You wanna go play? Ah, I guess, you’ve to ask your mom?” (Laughs) Of course, I didn’t go with him, “If you’re going to be a jerk like that, I won’t go with you.”
Heart: I can’t imagine how rough it must have been, the transition, a new place, new school in your teenage years.
MV: Well, I ended up a disaster. An academic disaster. I was partying all the time, of course, skipping classes and going to the nearest pub to drink. I hated college. I hated college with every single cell of my body. Because, the place where I lived, there was no public transportation. Everyday, somehow I had to make my way to GSU (Georgia State University). My sister-in-law would drop me off in the middle of the road, and I would walk to the nearest bustop, CCT Marietta (Cobb Community Transit) or whatever and then I would catch Marta and then go to downtown. Are you kidding me?
Of course, I would go to college, but after all that shit who would want to go to class? So, that went on until I got my car. When I got my car, I got to class on time, I did whatever I wanted, went wherever I wanted. So, yeah. I was a mess in college. For the most part.
My parents – I won’t judge them. Because they didn’t know the system. They had left everything in Fiji, where my mom had servants (paid domestic help). My dad was an enterpreneur and here he was working at the cleaners. My mom worked at a Fast food place. So, they didn’t know the system. But I knew the system, I should have known better. Hopefully, I’m doing that to my children.
Heart: So, what part of that is still with you today?
MV: Um, the part of me that wants to have fun is still there. Its still there, but I’ve changed so much.
Heart: What keeps you grounded?
MV: My work. I love my work. 3 years ago I went through some real shit. And that changed my outlook. It changed how I think, and my opinions. It made me realize that we are all being programmed, we’re all living under the Bollywood bullshit programming. I would be a different person if I was not influenced by shit like that. And, I guess its all OK in the end, I learned a lot and I grew. You only grow when you learn. That incident had made me go into trauma mode, like I had a literal mental shutdown.
Heart: Was it caused by someone else or do you feel like it was partly your own doing?
MV: Um, its always two people, right? But, it felt like I was put in a washing machine and taken out. My world went upside down and I came out totally knowing all that had happened to me. Because of this, now I know what I want, I know what I don’t want. So, I have a healthy respect for whatever has happened.
Heart: So, were you this positive about it right away?
MV: Hell, no. It was a big transition. I was crying for 6 months, “What did I do wrong, I didn’t deserve this. Why did this happen to me? Maybe I contributed to this.” And I was trying to find ways to save the situation or what was left of it. And there was no saving, because the more I tried, the more it slipped out of my hands. When you’re in trauma, you’re stuck. The trauma did something to me, which I’m still recovering from, but I know its not impossible to come out of it.
At the time I was down, I got this email and the email had my name on it. It said, “[Redacted], life might be rough, but I believe in you. I love you. – Robin Sharma.” I read it and felt different. The next day another email came. Very motivational, very inspiring. “I know you’re stuck. You’re at the bottom. People have hurt you. – Robin Sharma.” Again, as if he knew what I was going through. Then another email. This was about, “Suck it up. Get out of it. That’s the only way. There’s a hero inside of you. The world can’t wait to see it.” And believe it or not that email reminded me of my accomplishments. So I thought, “What the hell am I doing? My kids, they’re basically raising themselves, I need to get up and do something!”
Most of us are programmed to believe this or that. Believe it or not, you’re living on a program right now. And I was too, its called the “Bollywood Dream Program.” – Grow up, get married, have children, be the best daughter-in-law, live happily ever after. That’s a F****** up program. We’re programmed that way since childhood.
And so yeah, a few days later, I got an email one day about how to be inspired and inspire others. I called the number in the email and the guy on the other side of the line asked me what I wanted. He said, “You can have anything you want.” I said, I want “this” badly. He asked me to tell him what was going on. And he said, “You know what, the information we will give you, you’ll have to do those things, not just read what you give you, you’ve to go to work with it. And once you’ve done it, you’ll notice small changes in dynamics. And eventually there’ll be a paradigm shift.”
I went in there thinking, “I’ve tried everything. Maybe this will work.” Over a period of time, I struggled, but I kept moving forward and came out of it. And in the process, not only did I change myself, I changed my environment. I change the way people were responding to me.
Because this stuff worked for me, I work for [redacted] institute now to help other people. Its nothing new, its already in the Bhagawad Gita but what he does is he teaches this in a way people can understand. [Redacted] was right, I already have a temple that I go to, but I can’t put anything to use what they teach me over there. They tell you to live a certain way, but you can’t have practical application to that. I didn’t get the exact steps to take to live a great life in my temple.
[Redacted] simplified it for me. He gave me simple techniques to follow. You’ve to live what you’ve learnt. Be good and be good to the people who’ve hurt you. Some of the practices you’ve to do in order to advance in the program are:
1. First thing in the morning, write down 10 things that you’re grateful for.
2. Forgive 3 people in your life.
3. Meditate for 10 to 20 minutes.
They ask you to do your daily affirmations and to visualize your ideal reality. But, I don’t that type of thing, I meditate like how they’ve taught me in the temple.
4. Goal writing is a big thing. Write down, “This is what I want.” And act like you already have it. And work your way back.
It was a very simplified, strategized, and well defined program. You’re basically rewiring your mind, and it works. Not only did I change my attitude, I changed everyone around me. I’m able to see the world in a different way. “Have a good attitude and see good in everything.” Same as what’s taught in the Gita. You’ve to leave people with an impression of increase. What is that? Leave them in a better spot than how you found them.
With that intention if you go say Hello to your child, can you imagine the difference it will make in the world. Right? So, I teach people this program as a consultant with [redacted].
Heart: What matters in life?
MV: What matters is “What impact do I have in the world.” How do I do my due diligence for what I was born for. That’s what matters.
Heart: Do you compete with anyone for anything?
MV: I did compete with others when I was in the corporate world. And I was very good at it. But, I don’t compete anymore. Have you seen the movie Avatar?
Heart: No, I haven’t.
MV: So, there are all kinds of dragons, and all these people have dragons as their vehicles. There’s also a super dragon. The strategy that the super dragon uses is that it travels on top of all these other dragons. All the dragons fly, but that super dragon flies higher and it preys upon all these small ones. There’s no one above this super dragon, you see. So, it comes on top of all the others, right?
So, I think that, using that approach, I don’t do competition anymore. I go on a different plane, rising above everyone where there’s nobody.
Heart: Very cool. So, favorite food, something you might want to eat daily?
MV: (Laughs) Dal bhaag, Gujarathi style.
Heart: Favorite restaurant?
MV: Host 259, Toronto, Canada.
Heart: Have you used Uber Eats or any food delivery service?
MV: Uber Eats, no, but we have a pizza business, so we’ve definitely had pizza delivered. I don’t like pizza though. (Laughs)
Heart: Your thoughts on vegetarianism?
MV: I’m not a vegetarian. I need my proteins. Its not like I’ve to have meat with every meal, I just consume according to my needs.
Heart: How do you consume news?
MV: I read once in a while. I love listening to this one guy, this guy with British accent, and he’s always making fun of Trump.
Heart: John Oliver?
MV: I think so.
Heart: Anything you like to binge watch?
MV: I binge watch all the time, so that’s why I cut off Netflix. (Laughs) I used to watch Grace and Frankie, its about two women, best friends, who find out that their husbands are having an affair with each other.
Heart: Oh, that’s just great. (Laughs) Any song on loop?
MV: I love music, but I don’t hand onto one song. Right now, I’m listening to a song from the movie Half Girlfriend (Bollywood).
Heart: Spirituality or Humanity?
Heart: God fearing?
MV: God loving.
Heart: Do you have a “I don’t give a F” moments?
MV: Yeah, all the time. I just need to be more subtle about it. (Laughs)
Heart: Does life have irony?
MV: Its full of it. You just have to laugh at all the experiences and the drama that comes out of it. See, I know where I came from and a lot of people who I know are still here with me. I see them, they’re still struggling on a constant basis. But, I can’t say anything. Its their own growth.
Heart: Beauty routine?
MV: I have to tell you all about it. (Laughs) So, I was losing a lot of hair and I couldn’t figure out why. We were visiting Canada a lot and every time I washed my hair there, I never lost a strand. I come back home, and I’m back to losing lots of hair. So, I figured it must be something to do with water, and I asked the Costco guys to inspect. And they did some lab tests and installed a filter in my house. And since then I’ve not lost hair.
My skin has also become really soft, I don’t need any lotion. Whatever treatment they did has made out water so much better, so I would definitely say, water has to be an important part of our daily beauty routine. 75% of our bodies are water, so. And as far as makeup is concerned my 8 year old daughter probably has more makeup than I do. (Laughs) I just use Oil of Olay UV protection cream and some eye makeup.
Heart: The farthest you’ve traveled?
MV: I’ve been to South Korea. I was in college and Daewoo was launching their cars in United States. And they wanted to send people from here to go there to learn about their company and cars. So, I did this summer internship in South Korea. And so we got to go there for free, travel all over Korea for free for 3 weeks. It was awesome, oh my gosh.
Heart: What leaves you shaking your head?
MV: The total drama queen shit. I can’t deal with it. There are these people who argue for the sake of arguing and they just want to make a point for the sake of it. If you’re in a situation where there’s drama, keep your mouth shut. Let these drama queens take over and you can sit and watch the fun.
Heart: Does you phone abuse you?
MV: I don’t let it. But, the downside is I miss a lot of conference calls. I need to figure out how to balance them both. Yeah, like right now, I don’t know where my phone is, its probably sitting in some room. But, its not like I’m a saint or anything right? Its my birthday today, so I love looking at Facebook.
Heart: Its your birthday today? Oh my God, give me a hug.
MV: (Laughs) Thank you.
Note: Before you rate this episode, please consider if you would’ve been so open and authentic about your own life. Earlier episodes available at The Anonymous Manifesto.
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