Ranjana Warier Indian Classical Dancer and Choreographer

Ranjana Warier Indian Classical Dancer and Choreographer

Get to Know: Ranjana Warier
Indian Classical Dancer and Choreographer

By Rina Shah, The Arpan Group

The sound of ghunghroos ringing, feet stomping, and tabla beating have been deeply ingrained in Ranjana Warier’s daily routine since she was six years old. Born in Thirunavaya, a small village situated on the northern bank of the Bharatappuzha (River Nila) in Kerala, Warier now resides in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where she spreads the love of dance amongst her students and the broader community. Founder of Rhythms School of Dance, Warier brings the beauty and history of Indian classical dance to life for students and dance enthusiasts in much the same way her own gurus did for her at a young age.

Warier grew up in an art-loving family, and she began taking Bharatanatyam lessons from her gurus Kalamandalam Devaki and Kalamandalam Indira at the age of six. When she was 10-years-old, she also began learning Mohiniyattam. Under the guidance of her gurus, Warier performed at several festivals, which served to enhance her present commitment to promote the Indian culture and art forms. Warier credits her gurus for strengthening her passion, and over the years, she has progressed from an avid student sitting in her teacher’s lap to a teacher herself. “Because of the efforts my gurus, I feel committed to promoting priceless artistic treasures of India, through traditional and cross-cultural collaborations,” reflects Warier.

Warier is currently working on hosting an “International Dance Day” in association with the International Dance Council (at UNESCO) to educate and engage the community on our art forms.

Learn more about Ranjana Warier below. For more information about Warier and her dance training center, visit http://www.erhythms.net.

Tell us more about your journey and how you came to be where you are today.

Over the years, I transformed from an avid student to a dancer and then to a teacher with a mission to preserve it [dance] in its entire glory. This exploration for innovative ways to present Bharatanatyam has allowed me to stay connected to my heritage and yet reach a wide audience. I enjoy promoting cross-cultural understanding and collaboration in the community by showcasing Indian Classical dances through unique themes – bringing ancient mathematics textbook to life through dance, visualization of Afro-Caribbean poetry and Western fairy tales and integrated performance in Opera productions to mention a few.

Why Bharatanatyam? What drew you to this particular form of dance? What are some of your earliest memories of learning this art form?

This ancient art form allows me stay connected to my heritage and be relevant to the current age. Bharatanatyam is a very colorful symbolic representation of everything India is. It provides me with the most effective canvas to engage, educate, and entertain an audience.

My earliest memories of Bharatanatyam education are sitting in my teacher’s lap and watching the older kids dance. I was a very reluctant student in the beginning. I am grateful for my teacher’s patience and guidance that allowed me to eventually develop a strong passion for it.

Your day job is in the world of cyber security, which is seemingly so different from the world of dance. How does your day job influence your creative side and vice versa?

Art and dance are making computer science culturally relevant. Though seemingly different worlds, there is some overlap – in dance we do a lot more computation and pattern analysis than one might imagine; and in the cyber security field, the creative approach comes in handy often. I find an artistic workflow can be compared to a computer algorithm with built-in creativity. The exposure to these two worlds gives me a rare perception during the artistic decision process to connect with audience. I apply the same principles of analysis, creativity, structure and discipline in both of my professions.

In 2015, you were a choreographer for Florida Grand Opera’s The Pearl Fishers. Fusing traditional Indian dance elements into an opera by a French composer must have been a unique challenge. How did you maintain the integrity of Indian dance while also staying true to the opera story line?

This certainly was a unique yet welcome challenge. Given the fact that Georges Bizet is a French composer, the music for this opera was significantly different than traditional Indian music. This difference was reflected in the choreography and artistic decisions. I kept the foundation of the choreography traditional while staying in alignment with the story and the culture that is represented in the Opera. The traditional Indian folk and classical moves were broken down as needed and blended with some contemporary transitions to support the music and delivery effectively. Opportunities like these force me to think outside the box and be creative.

Through performances and your school Rhythms School of Dance, you have had a unique opportunity to educate the general public, including non-South Asians about Indian classical dance. How receptive do you find audiences? Why do you believe it is important to understand Indian classical dance?

South Florida is a lot like India with regards to diversity. Indian classical dances are very diverse, colorful and a symbolic representation of everything that is India. My focus has been on preserving the tradition while continuing to find innovative presentation styles to better connect with audiences. There is no better engaging medium to educate the community on culture and history than dance. Learning more about Indian Classical dance allows one to learn more about India and on a bigger sense to understand the spirit of humanity. I find the audience is very receptive to new experiences.

Who do you consider to be a mentor and why?

My Guru Kalamandalam Devaki. Her guidance allowed me to develop a passion for this art form and made the learning process more enjoyable. She patiently answered every question and allowed me to explore. She was a pioneer in innovation and was not afraid to take risks with her choreography. Her approach impacted me so deeply that I strive to be a better teacher every day.

Many young Indian Americans choose to learn Bollywood and fusion dance over learning traditional dance such as Bharatanatyam and Kathak, finding these art forms to be rigid and tedious. How do you encourage students to continue their journey with classical dance?

In today’s world of instant gratification, it is a struggle to keep the young generation interested in traditional art forms. The perceived complexity of classical dance and abstract nature of techniques coupled with traditional story lines hinders the enjoyment for most, especially for children. Though many youngsters learn it, very few pursue it seriously and the techniques and rigor are being lost often with attempts to modernize this art form.

My primary goal today is to inspire and empower younger dancers to practice and preserve Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) passionately. I feel the only way to keep them engaged is through systematic training to develop the knowledge; allowing them to explore ways to better connect with the art and the audience; and providing unique opportunities to learn and collaborate with the best in the industry.

What advice do you have for young Indian Americans who wish to pursue a career in music or the performing arts?

My advice is to make an effort to understand our heritage and take time to understand the symbolism and significance of everything they learn. Don’t be afraid to take risks and to make your own path. Art has the power to engage, educate, and entertain the dancer and audience.

About the Author

Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

Posted on: 04-4-2019 by: Deshvidesh

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DJ Play That Song: Choosing an Entertainment Vendor for Your Wedding

DJ Play That Song: Choosing an Entertainment Vendor for Your Wedding

The best part of a wedding is debatable for many, be it time spent with family, eating great food, or scoping out the latest in wedding fashion. For some, there is no question – the dancing is the best part! In South Asian weddings, music, like food, plays a big role during the events. Whether to create a celebratory mood at the mendhi/sangeet or to strike a somber tone at the vidai, music helps to express how the crowd feels at any given moment. The best DJs know how to read a crowd and play to their feelings. A crowded mob on dance floor at the reception? Thank your all-knowing DJ for that!

Photo Courtesy: FengLong Photography

Do your due diligence when choosing your DJ and/or entertainment service company. From providing music at the baraat, ceremony, and reception to monogram lighting, dance floors, and effects, choosing an entertainment service company can be nearly as important a decision as selecting your venue. Even if you are not sure of how your wedding events will be structured, a reputable entertainment vendor can help you create the right ambiance with lighting and create a playlist that creates the perfect mood for each of your events. DJ Sumi Khan, of DJ Sumi Services, believes that “a great DJ will know when to play a particular song by reading and interacting with the crowd. When it comes to being a DJ, the crowd defines your style, so I read them and then go with the flow.”

Selecting an entertainment vendor is much more than just music. Most modern South Asian weddings include family/friend and bride/groom performances as well as videos, slideshows, and unique couple entrances. With receptions now resembling mini-musical productions, choosing an entertainment provider you are comfortable working closely with is key.


Factors to Consider
Selecting an entertainment provider for your wedding or events is much like choosing a venue or caterer. Price is certainly a factor, but so are the firm’s reputation, work ethics, and music selection. Firoz Dudha, owner/DJ of Dudha Productions also stresses the need for compatibility with his clients. “I will be the first to tell my clients that I may not be the best fit DJ for their event. It’s important for me to pass that client to a DJ who would be a better match.”

Many entertainment vendors now offer a range of services from dance floors, lighting, live entertainers, and emcee services, so carefully consider your specific needs when narrowing your list.

Budget: This is something to consider for all your vendors, and the entertainment provider is no different. Consider the number of events for which you need a DJ and Emcee. Do you need special lighting for any events? A dance floor? Want special effects like monograms? Be sure to sure to consider all details when reaching out to potential vendors for a quote.

Reputation: Experience is a key factor when selecting your DJ. There is nothing worse than an empty dance floor! Dudha explains that experience “should be the most important factor, not how long they have been DJing, but their experience with handling a crowd, and experience with the style of music required for each event.” Word of mouth referrals, references, and personally witnessing the DJ in action will give you a sense of their style and personality.

Professionalism: Of all your vendors, the DJ is one that needs to be in tune with event schedules and timing of entrances and performances. Khan stresses that “organization is a key factor – your dj will not only organize your event with you, but also keep in touch with your vendors to ensure a smooth, timely event. [And] your DJ needs to maintain a professional presence at all times from volume, language and proper decorum.”

Music: Check with your DJ on the available music collection. If you have a specific playlist in mind, the DJ will need to be sure all tracks are available. Also, ask that the music collection is current and includes wedding favorites. If you have a preference on whether guests can make song requests, check with the DJ on how he/she will handle the requests.


Prepare for Your First Meeting
As with all vendor meetings, be prepared to share your thoughts on what entertainment needs you have for your wedding events. On mehndi night, simply playing background music may suffice, while your reception needs may be more involved. Whether you have specific playlists or programming in mind or just a general idea of the type of music you like, be sure to ask questions and get ideas from your entertainment vendor. Khan advises couples to “ … make sure to have all details ready about your event to share. And never be afraid to ask questions.”

Attention to detail goes beyond just the first meeting. Ask your entertainment vendor how they will communicate with you throughout the process. Will the DJ surprise you on your big day or will they reach out closer to your event to set a timeline and narrow selections? Dudha likes to reach out to clients one and half months before their event. “I help them with music selection, itinerary timeline, and understand their playlist. [This gives me time to] mash up a custom mix for the Bride and Groom’s reception entry.”  Getting to know your entertainment vendor has advantages so they truly understand your style and needs for your events leaving you more time to enjoy your wedding day … and dance your feet off!


Favorite Wedding Moments
The experts share the latest in music trends and what they’re listening to now (when they’re not catering to the requests of brides and grooms!).

Dudha:  There have been so many events with special moments, but it’s always amazing when you see the bride walk down the aisle. I realize that one day I will walk my own daughter down!  

Khan:  My favorite weddings are mixed culture weddings … I must say nothing is more beautiful when two cultures mix. Every single moment of weddings are my favorite, but one in particular is when I get my bride and groom behind the booth and they DJ with me. Also, feeling a sense of togetherness from my crowd is the most uplifting feeling!


Featured Experts
Special thanks to the experts who contributed their advice for planning wedding entertainment.

Dudha Productions
Firoz Dudha, Owner/DJ
www.dudhaproductions.com
Tel: (727) 418-8498

DJ Sumi Services
Sumaira Khan, Owner/DJ
www.djsumiservices.com
Tel: (407) 952-5903


About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. Based in the Bay area, The Arpan Group works with clients across the US. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

Article appeared in the December 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

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Get to Know: Rajesh Bhandari, Musician

Get to Know: Rajesh Bhandari, Musician

Rajesh Bhandari first discovered the lyrical beauty of Indian classical music at a young age on a trip to Delhi, India. Bhandari and his father returned to the United States along with a harmonium and tabla beginning the young percussionist’s musical journey.

Born in Queens, New York, Bhandari now resides in Miami. Soon after the fateful trip to Delhi, Bhandari began studying tabla, music, and theory with Pt. Ravideen Ramsamooj. Over the years, Bhandari has studied with many great maestros including Pt. Samir Chatterjee, Pt. Anindo Chatterjee and Ustad Zakir Hussain. While he began his musical journey studying classical Indian music, Bhandari began exploring Western styles, including Jazz and World music, in his teens and during his college years at Miami Dade College (MDC). From Bollywood to Ghazal, Bengali and Punjabi geet to World music and Jazz, Bhandari enjoys learning and experimenting .

At the age of 14, Bhandari began performing and traveling, which was a unique learning experience. Early in his career, Bhandari was a dance accompanist at the New World School of the Arts in Miami. It was during this time that the young musician began to understand the relationship between dance and music. Feeling inspired, Bhandari began composing music for dances led by students, faculty, and visiting artists. Since that time, Bhandari has accompanied many dance artists and musicians from around the world, making him a truly versatile tabla player.

Bhandari now shares his knowledge and experience with eager young musicians in South Florida, where he teaches classes monthly. Fans can expect his latest solo fusion album, Ambient Resonance, to be available in early September, followed by tour dates in the fall. Featuring great musicians from a range of genres, the album will showcase Bhandari’s talent and love for music in all its forms.

Bhandari will also be performing with Vocalist Sudhir Narain, who will perform bhajans and geet, on Saturday, August 12, 2017, from 6-9pm at the Palm Beach Hindu Mandir.

For more information about Rajesh Bhandari, visit https://www.rajbtabla.com/.


You’ve had the opportunity to learn from and work with accomplished musicians, such as Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pt. Krishna Mohan Bhatt, Lakshmi Shankar, Falu Shah, and even Shakira. Is there any one moment that stands out as the most memorable?

Studying and performing Ustad Zakir Hussain’s music at Carnegie Hall in 2009 was definitely the highlight of my career. It was also an amazing experience working with Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Kala Ramnath and drummer Steve Smith in that workshop and performance as well.

And there are so many more amazing memories for me, from performing with Smt. Lakshmi Shankar on WLRN in 2003 to performing with Questlove to touring with Shakira in 2009 and more recently with Utsav Lal, Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik, and Suresh Wadkar.

Why tabla, what drew you to this particular instrument? What are some of your earliest memories of learning to play?I think I was just fascinated with the sounds that one can make with this instrument, but I also fell in love with classical music’s rich nuanced melodies and deep rhythms. I remember from a young age a strong desire to practice and play tabla, and still to this day am in awe of what great music you can create.
Who do you consider to be a mentor and why?I would say I have a few mentors but Ud. Zakir Hussain has had the biggest influence on me, especially due to his work in fusion and world music. He really showed me how many possibilities there are for tabla in traditional Indian music as well as other genres. He also showed many artists how to be better stage performers as well as how to be more inclusive when it comes to classical music. He taught me how it is important to learn about the cultures of the world through music. Pt. Samir Chatterjee and Pt. Anindo Chatterjee are also big influences as well not only musically speaking, but they were both mentors on how to remain focused on practice and maintain virtues of humility, patience and perseverance.
What advice do you have for young Indian Americans who wish to pursue a career in music or the performing arts?The performing arts as a career isn’t the easiest path, but it can be quite rewarding. I do think there are more people now who are choosing to put a good effort forth as well. I believe it’s important to know your intent with your art first, then continue being consistent with developing your ideas and finding a way for people to experience it. Patience and humility is needed for this as well. But as long as you are genuine in your approach, you can find an audience and people are interested in having new experiences and the performing arts is a great way to connect with people on a very deep level. As the arts are a means for one’s expression of some of the deepest human emotions and can have a profound effect on those who can bear witness to it.

All images provided by Rajesh Bhandari. Article appears in the August 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

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Get to Know: Mona Ahuja, Children’s Book Author

Get to Know: Mona Ahuja, Children’s Book Author

As a young child, Mona Ahuja listened to her mom tell magical stories about the Moon. Through those tales, Ahuja began to understand the importance of the Moon in Indian culture and folklore, an understanding she has since passed along to her three boys. Her love for storytelling and the vibrant imaginations of children led to Ahuja pursuing a career in writing.

Born in Los Angeles, California, and raised in the Bay Area, Ahuja first began her career in, at the time, the new industry of Internet Security. While the work was exciting and new, Ahuja soon chose to pursue her passion of working with children and instead began teaching dance to little ones. Her ability to connect and engage with youth has been much more fulfilling, and the experience even inspired her to explore her creative side. In doing so, Ahuja developed some of her ideas and began writing stories as a way to not only connect with children, but also continue the tradition of storytelling and the sharing of cultural folklore.

Chanda Mama is the perfect bedtime story for families to enjoy together and represents Ahuja’s fascination with the moon, which began when she was young. She shares, “As a child, on road trips, I would spends hours staring up at the sky in wonder of the Moon and its connection and power over Earth.” From wondering whether a “Man on the Moon” truly existed to watching the moon rise, Ahuja’s love for the beauty of the moon shines through the pages of her new book. Her stories about the moon helped to soothe her young boys at bedtime, and later inspired her share these tales with other parents. In Chanda Mama, readers join a young boy as he follows the moon in the night sky. The calming illustrations and gently-told story make Chanda Mama a much-needed addition to any family’s bedtime routine.

Who inspires your writing?
My children are my greatest inspiration for writing and telling stories. Children, in general, have an amazing imagination and are extremely observant. They notice and question everything. I don’t always have the age-appropriate answer for them, so I tend to draw on my creative side and stretch the truth a bit. Some may not agree with this method, but I love to see where it takes them. Often they continue on with my initial ideas and add their own stories. It’s a wonderful way to see how their minds work.

What are your thoughts on the diversity of books currently available in schools and public libraries?
I don’t think that it is as diverse as it should be, but it is definitely more so than when I was growing up. I’m happy to see that and thankful that my kids will be exposed to our culture and heritage through these books. Picture books are an excellent way to introduce different cultures to young children. My own personal library consists of books from Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, India, and many other countries. Stories about animals, the moon and sky gods, and fishing all captivate young audiences and reflect what is important to those cultures. Today, it’s more important than ever that our young children have that exposure and understanding starting at a young age. They need to understand that no matter where you come from, we, as humans, are all very similar in our need for connection, family, and love.


Chanda Mama
Written by Mona Ahuja
Illustrated by Sid Veloria
Published by Lekha Ink

Bask in the moonlight with this sweet tale of a boy’s affection for Chanda Mama, Mother Earth’s loving and protecting brother. Just as a brother watches over his sister and her family, Indian folklore teaches that the Moon, known colloquially as Chanda Mama, watches over the Earth and the Earth’s children. This beautiful picture book continues the Indian tradition of love for the moon. This beautifully illustrated tale is the perfect reading for bedtime.

Visit www.lekhaink.com for more information and to purchase your copy.


About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

Article appears in April 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

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Get to Know: Amruta Houde, Public Health Advocate

Get to Know: Amruta Houde, Public Health Advocate

Indians and Indian Americans have long been known for their success across a wide range of fields in the United States. Amruta Houde and Niraj Antani are two young Indian Americans making a mark and paving the way for others to join them in their quest to serve and positively impact their community.

Learn more about what drives these impressive individuals to serve their communities.

Amruta HoudeGet to Know:
Amruta Houde,
Public Health Advocate

By Rina Shah, The Arpan Group

Volunteering comes second nature to Amruta Houde, a young Indian American pursuing her graduate studies at Columbia University in New York. At a young age, Houde, alongside her family, spent countless volunteer hours with organizations such as Sewa International and The Bhutanese Empowerment Project. While working closely with refugee communities as well as young adolescent girls in rural areas, Houde recognized the importance of information sharing, especially with regard to public health issues.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Houde has been a volunteer with various community organizations, including Sewa International, since she was in high school. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Georgia Tech and Master of Science in Psychology from Boston University. During a gap year after earning her Master’s, Houde volunteered with Sewa International in India where she worked with local NGO partners in rural communities to share health information. Her experience during this time inspired her to consider a career in public health, and she is now pursuing her Master of Science in Public Health from Columbia University.

In speaking with Houde, her desire to be an advocate for the Indian American community as well as to influence public health policy globally are abundantly clear. Her enthusiasm and dedication are an inspiration for all who wish to be actively involved in bringing about change on all levels – local, national, and international.

Learn more about how Amruta hopes to make an impact in the public health field in her post-graduate career.

What are some of the public health challenges faced by the communities in which you worked in India? How do organizations like Sewa International make a difference on local and national levels?

The public health challenges I observed in India were related to adolescent girl’s health, which naturally influences their development and access to opportunities. Millions of girls are not receiving comprehensive, accurate health education in school or at home. I spent time in Assam and Hyderabad where Seva Bharati, a partner NGO, conducts weekly sessions and camps for teenage girls. They have created a system where girls become “older sisters” and conduct confidence building activities and health education sessions. Another major concern is lack of adequate bathroom facilities for girls in schools which results in a significant school drop-out rate of female students and teachers. Seva Kirana, a partner NGO based in Bengaluru, is working to increase the female literacy rate by building clean toilets in schools and slums.

What are some challenges you faced while working with local NGOs in India?

As I traveled around to various states in India, I noticed that many NGOs are doing similar work in their local areas. However, there is little to no communication or exchange of resources between these organizations. During my time visiting various organizations around the country, I was able to serve as the connection and share project ideas and health education materials. Strengthening the network of NGOs would allow volunteers to learn the best practices from each other.

Get to Know: Amruta Houde, Public Health Advocate
How has your experience as a first-generation Indian American shaped the way you approach your work?

Most of my previous visits to India involved visiting relatives, shopping, and visiting famous landmarks. Experiencing India outside of the tourist context allowed me to truly understand my roots. Understanding the culture of a community is vital to serve. In the U.S., it is important for our community to have representation in various spheres, from healthcare to education to government. As a public health professional, I aim to serve as a voice and advocate for the Indian-American community.


A year-long study abroad or gap year spent volunteering can be eye-opening and influential in many ways. How did your gap year shape your decisions? Why would you recommend college students/recent graduates consider a gap year?

The most common reactions after telling someone you are taking a gap year are “Won’t this set you back in your career plan?” and “Wow, that’s so cool!” I completed my Master’s in Psychology two weeks before I left for India with plans of returning and doing my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. All the projects I worked on in India happened to be related to public health. If I hadn’t taken this gap year, I may have never realized that public health was my true passion. As for the second reaction, yes, it is an extremely exciting time! But there is another side to it as I saw the reality of the world around me and my true self.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What type of work would you like do once you graduate?

After completing my Master’s, I hope to continue in the field of global mental health. Mental health is a topic treated with caution and often avoidance. Through public health policy and programs in the community, I hope to increase awareness about mental health conditions, increase access to mental health resources, and in turn, decrease stigma.

Who has played a crucial role in influencing the events of your life? How so?

As the years go by, I realize more and more that my parents played the most crucial role in shaping who I am today. I observed my parents juggle their careers, family life, and community service throughout my life. More often than not, serving others became the priority. They always reminded me that it was my duty to step outside of my bubble and use the time, resources, and knowledge that I have to selflessly serve all those around me.

Increasingly today, younger generations in the South Asian community are choosing “non-traditional” careers. What words of wisdom do you have for those, particularly young women, who aspire to pursue their interests and embrace an entrepreneurial spirit?

There are many points where we have to decide to take a chance on doing something new or not. Take your time to make a decision and evaluate all the possibilities. But once you’ve made a decision, go all in. Do not doubt what you’ve done. If you continue to doubt yourself, you can never be completely committed to your decision. Sometimes things may not go the way that you’ve planned, but this is not failure. You’ve simply gained something out of the decision that you weren’t expecting. Each experience is a learning experience, it’s in our hands to reflect upon this and develop.

All photographs provided by Amruta Houde.

Article appears in February 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

Rina Shah

About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

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Get to Know: Niraj Antani, Ohio State Representative

Get to Know: Niraj Antani, Ohio State Representative

Indians and Indian Americans have long been known for their success across a wide range of fields in the United States. Amruta Houde and Niraj Antani are two young Indian Americans making a mark and paving the way for others to join them in their quest to serve and positively impact their community.

Learn more about what drives these impressive individuals to serve their communities.

Niraj AntaniGet to Know:
Niraj Antani,
Ohio State Representative

By Rina Shah, The Arpan Group

At the age of 23, Niraj Antani became the youngest serving member in the Ohio House of Representatives. Born and raised in Miami Township, Ohio, Antani remained in state and earned a Bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University. Now 25, Antani (R – Ohio House District 42) is poised to be an influential force in politics. Recognized by in 2015 by Forbes Magazine, Antani is on the list of top “30 Under 30” people in the United States for Law & Politics.

The young Indian American began his foray into politics first as an intern for his congressman at the age of 16. During college, Antani participated in The Washington Leadership Program (WLP), an eight-week leadership program based in Washington, DC, where young South Asian Americans are exposed to the South Asian American political Diaspora. The opportunity to meet with and learn more about the political process from leading community figures paved the way for Antani to become a changemaker of his own right.  

Learn more about how Antani got his start in politics as well as how his Indian American background influences his work ethic.

Why politics? What inspired you to pursue a career in public service?

I have been involved in politics since I was 16, interning for my congressman. Through politics, and being an elected official, we can make large change for the benefit of our community. I want to be a voice for my community, for my generation.

How has your experience as an Indian American shaped your career and values?

The Indian-American culture has taught me the values that I hold most dear. Hard work, perseverance, independence, among others. It is through these qualities that I have been able to succeed in politics.

Get to Know: Niraj Antani, Ohio State Representative
Who has played a crucial role in influencing the events of your life? How so?

There have been a lot of people who have influenced me. Harin Contractor, who runs the South Asian American internship program in DC, the Washington Leadership Program, first connected me to the Indian American political community. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her staff gave me the confidence I needed to succeed. Congressman Turner and his staff gave me my start. Scott Jennings and the Romney campaign gave me the grounding and skills I need to thrive in politics.

Get to Know: Niraj Antani, Ohio State Representative
Increasingly today, younger generations in the South Asian community are choosing “non-traditional” careers. What words of wisdom do you have for those, particularly those who aspire to a career in public service?

We need voices who will fight for our generation of Indian Americans. Our parents immigrated here and built successful lives. Now, we need a seat at the table to advance our community to the next level. I’m proud to be the youngest Indian American elected official in the country, but we need more to get involved.

All photographs by Mike Elicson, Ohio House of Representatives.

Article appears in February 2017 issue of Desh-Videsh magazine.

Rina Shah

About the Author
Rina Shah is the CEO and founder of The Arpan Group, a boutique ad agency and public relations firm that specializes in capturing untouched ethnic markets. From press releases and media kits to marketing materials and by-line articles, The Arpan Group customizes solutions based on the client’s needs. For more information, visit www.thearpangroup.com or call (703) 651-6670.

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