USA (Commonwealth Union)_ In the United States, the month of May is commemorated as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time to honor the broad range of rich cultures and experiences that these communities have contributed to the American narrative. Last week, The Culture Tree, an organization offering South Asian-themed educational and cultural programs, partnered with Asia Society, which focuses on educating the world about Asia, to host an event in New York celebrating the accomplishments of four remarkable Indian American women. The honorees are Anu Aiyengar, Global Head of Mergers & Acquisitions at financial services giant J.P. Morgan; Jenifer Rajkumar, a New York State Assemblywoman; Snigdha Sur, Founder & CEO of The Juggernaut, a community platform for global South Asians; and Dr. Sue Varma, a renowned psychiatrist.
According to Anu Aiyengar, a high-profile figure in the world and head of M&A, J.P. Morgan, the event that gathered South Asian women for support and knowledge-sharing was inspiring and invigorating. She offered valuable advice to those in the early and mid-stages of their careers, emphasizing the importance of being present, taking a seat at the table, having a unique perspective, and speaking up.
Jenifer Rajkumar, the first Indian American and South Asian woman elected to a New York State office, expressed a sense of pride in joining the panel. She highlighted the passion, dedication, and excellence that South Asian-American women have brought to the United States. Rajkumar acknowledged that cultural values, strong connections with parents, and a strong work ethic are factors that have helped South Asian-American women overcome challenges.
According to Dr. Sue Varma, a board-certified psychiatrist and television celebrity, the significance of Indian American culture lies in meaningful connections. She also observed that the community currently faces a lack of such connections, resulting in both loneliness and mental health issues. Dr. Varma referenced the advisory from the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, regarding the detrimental effects of loneliness. Drawing from her experiences as a South Asian woman born and brought up in the US, she shared how reconnecting with others through volunteering, community engagement, and fostering friendships can combat these challenges.
Snigdha Sur, the founder and CEO of The Juggernaut, emphasized the diversity within the Asian community, emphasizing that Asians are not a monolithic group. She highlighted the multitude of stories within the Indian American experience, each deserving to be shared and celebrated. She said, “Asian Pacific American heritage reminds us that Asians are not a monolith and neither is any group. Indian Americans, too, have a variety of stories, each waiting to be told.”
Following the panel discussions, attendees enjoyed a cocktail reception featuring a dessert bar organized by accomplished Indian American chefs and culinary experts from New York City. The concept of the Dessert Bar was devised by Barkha Cardoz of Cardoz Legacy LLC; Surbhi Sahni of TAGMO; Alak Vasa of Elements Truffles; and Kanchan Koya, author of Spice Spice Baby. According to Anu Sehgal, founder of The Culture Tree, “While planning this event, I wanted to make sure we highlight the diverse industries and segments in which South Asian women have leadership roles in America”. She added, “Each and every trailblazer has brought about monumental change in their industries and are considered pioneers in their field and have had a huge impact in their communities.”
According to Neelam Chowdhary, vice president of education, Asia Society, “South Asian women have long been known for their spirit, their unwavering determination, and their ability to transcend barriers and shatter glass ceilings”. Indian Americans are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the US, and Indian American women have made significant strides across various sectors, including government, finance, business, politics, technology, and food.