We had the good fortune of connecting with Manisha Mundhra Beriwala and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Manisha Mundhra, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
As an immigrant diverse woman,a desire to be accepted, included by representing my heritage and sharing that with the world through the Diwali festival has added me and my company The Corporate Diwali as the ONLY company in the world working towards sharing & spreading the light of Diwali,festival of lights on this earth. This furthermore attests the peculiarity of me and owning that by converting my unowned into a strength by creating a Diwali dream world into reality. A local diverse community is created in our operating cities – New York City , New Jersey , The Hamptons , Long Island , Syracuse , Tampa , miami , Chicago , Austin , LA
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Black Sheep to Queen B
I was born in India into an aristocrat legacy Marwari family. A family who upheld traditional cultural values with strict assigned gender roles. Women were trained and encouraged away from “heavy” college degrees and lofty corporate goals towards working in a more entrepreneurial spirit focused on cultural connectivity and purpose. Since long before my birth my family’s legacy centered on a yearly compulsory visit to our ancestral spiritual home in Rajasthan, northern part of India. Rajasthan is home to our extended family’s ancestral estates in the ‘Mundhra’ locality; our family runs a private temple devoted to the worship of our ancestral god.This worship took the form of a strict and focused regime. Every hour was accounted for, every rule enforced. For a free spirited child this was a challenge.
I was never a star academic student in school & would fail multiple times in my tests,when I was growing up in India. I was expected to be competitive – I had all the advantages due to my family’s position, but my interests travelled elsewhere. I became the dark-skinned insecure underdog, defined by how others defined me. I struggled to talk to people. I don’t know how things would have gone had I stayed in India but my life took a turn when I met and married my chosen husband and life partner, Rishi. We arrived in New York City in 2005 to immerse ourselves in the experience of American culture at its fastest and most dense. Exhilarating but terrifying New York. This was freedom but freedom to do what? “There was so much freedom in the US, but also so much loneliness,”
New York City did not cure my insecurities. It added to them. I did not have a 9-5 job or a corporate or professional career. America nearly broke me. I felt a strong need to fit in – Here, herds of people, half of them women, were working and working. The lack of a corporate job made me feel less worthy, at a loss as to how to “plug” in.
I missed the Indian culture, its lively, inclusive and boisterous festivities. Since I was a little girl my favorite holiday has always been Diwali, the Festival of Lights. In America, my first Diwali came and went, bland and forgettable. This was a terrible loss. Something inside of me felt hollow – with the acknowledgement of the need to connect to my life here with “home” back in India , came a sense of purpose and drive. I was determined to find a path.
Searching for answers and a way forward, I came across the Vipassana Meditation Center in Shelburne,Massachusetts which offers a 10 day silent meditation camp.The experience of ten days of silence and solitude was overwhelming. I cried every day. I’m not a quitter & I stuck with it. I meditated and I cried, I cried and I meditated. When I left the ashram, I felt like I’d walked through fire. It felt like my life’s biggest achievement. Vipassana transformed my life and made me somehow “shock-proof”.I also learned that I was pregnant with my second daughter. Alyona, my “Vipassana child”, was born on the eve of Diwali that year.
Since 2005 I have engaged myself even more deeply with the celebration of Diwali in which I found a profound sense of community with roots which reach from India to America. I started small with a few neighbors – I found the more Diwali I shared the more happiness and a sense of fulfillment grew, the larger grew the celebration. I wanted to bring Diwali in the DNA of America by now.
By 2017 my love of Diwali and my entrepreneurial drive led to the birth of my company, The Corporate Diwali whose goal is to educate,share and spread the celebration of the Festival of Lights, in all its glorious, colorful, detail. Diwali gave me myself and can do the same for others across all cultural backgrounds. With close to 3000+ Diwali celebrations I became to be called The Diwali Queen, a name I was given.
This is my purpose , my passion & I consider myself as a mediator whose setup by the universe to spread hope in this world by lighting the Diwali lamp of light. In 2020 i step into 15 years of spreading this Diwali festivity and bringing it closer to 92,000 diverse people via our Diwali.In 2017, inspired by goddess Laxmi (A lady goddess of valor, intelligence,beauty ,strength) – worshipped during Diwali I created The Corporate Diwali Diverse women empowerment Felicitation in collaboration with Mayor’s offices in New York and New Jersey, in the form of City Proclamation to be awarded to chosen diverse women for outstanding merit. In 2019 we introduced for the First Time ever- The Empire State Building Diwali lighting ceremony. I am Currently writing my first book – Diwali, Diversity & Inclusion. A Guide to Diwali, The Festival of Lights. An immigrant’s need for self-acceptance. Me & the company has Received multiple recognition for our work in the diversity & inclusion space in Newjersey & Newyork. And now we have expanded our wings to a global world with Diwali brand ambassadors in London, Australia, Newzealand,India. Within America we have expanded to New York , New Jersey , Tampa , miami , Long Island , Chicago , Austin, LA, The Hamptons, In October 2020, the company has planned a retreat with 15 women to bring Diwali diversity in The Hampton’s, Newyork.. In 2020 we I trduced international womens day events I all the above cities
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Versace house brunch Bagatelle
The good time hotel
Dior cafe at Miami design district
Faena happy hour
Hakkasan – fountain bleu
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Alyson Follenius – universal connection of purity & love