On her 16th birthday, she chose to give back
As part of an ongoing series, we bring you stories of young Indian Americans who came looking for the Real India and found their real selves instead. Madhumita Parmar speaks to Arthur J Pais
To many, Sweet Sixteen celebrations mean an extravagant event with the parents doling thousands of dollars. But Madhumita Parmar just asked her parents to support her in producing a solo Bharata Natyam performance to raise money for a charity.
"I have always been reminded by my parents that it is important to give back," said Madhumita, who raised in September $10,000 for Akshaya Patra. Through her dance programs and donations at the events she has given over $26,000 in the last few years for charities including Habitat for Humanities to support Katrina Victims and an Ayurveda Hospital in a remote Rajasthan district.
At a recent Akshaya Patra fundraiser in New York, Gururaj 'Desh' Deshpande, the chairman of its American chapters, called her to the dais and interviewed Madhumita about her passion for charities.
She said she had visited the Akshaya Patra kitchen while visiting family friends in Rajasthan. Philanthropist Siddhraj Bhandari took her to many charitable institutions including the foot and limb hospital run in Jaipur by D R Mehta through the Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti.
Seeing hundreds of volunteers working for the hospital and Akshaya Patra. Madhumita said, she came back home to raise money for some of the institutions she visited. The Akshaya Patra event would be the first among them, she added.
"The kitchen was unbelievably clean and run with super efficiency," she said. "And the food was nutritious and delicious. Seeing thousands of children getting that food free all through the academic year was something I cannot forget."
Her mother Subha Ramesh Parmar runs a dance school; her father Ramesh Parmar has an information technology business.
Her parents did not give her lavish gifts for the Sweet Sixteenth event, but they got a live orchestra of musicians from Tamil Nadu. Over 600 people attended the two-hour dance recital. Bhandari, who had impressed Madhumita with his commitment for charities over several decades, attended her performance.
A student at the Academy of Allied Health Sciences in Union County, New Jersey, Madhumita is trained in classical Hindustani and Carnatic music, saxophone and piano. She has been learning dance from age three.
Learning Indian classical music and dance, she said, has also led her into studying their spiritual foundation.
"My family is into the Sivananda ashram's work," said Madhumita. "I have visited the ashram and read about Swami Sivananda along with my parents."
She has performed at Sivananda centers in America, Canada, France, Austria, and Germany. She has performed as part of the National Children's Honor Choir and Celebration Chorus Singers, one of New Jersey's prestigious children's choruses. She has also performed regularly at the Alameda Senior Citizen Center, Perth Amboy, NJ, where her great grandmother lived.
Madhumita wants to be a pediatrician, and hopes to integrate the arts into medicine to help patients heal faster.
Image: Madhumita Parmar