She’s working non-stop to bring resources to women and girls — with dharma as her guide.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Megha Desai is a woman whose warmth transcends Zoom (where our interview took place), and work defies being boxed into just one industry. Over the course of her life, she’s transformed from an advertising exec to the president of The Desai Foundation and a proud member of Resistance Revival Chorus.
Desai is a self-proclaimed devotee of the notion of dharma — a philosophy spanning world religions and cultures, grounded in the belief that we all have unique paths to walk and purposes to fulfill.
Here’s our chat about hopes, dreams, and day-to-day action to steady us each step of the way.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Megha Desai: a social impact entrepreneur, friend, singer, daughter, sister, and very involved auntie.
Can you talk a little bit more about your work at the Desai Foundation?
We help cultivate dignity for women and girls across India and the US. [We do this through] health and livelihood programs on different scales and community-integrated levels. Our flagship program is the Asani Napkin program, which promotes menstrual health equity and lets girls live their lives, go to school, and aspire to livelihoods when just having their periods would otherwise interrupt all that.
How did COVID-19 affect your work?
Initially, we had to cancel in-person events; hundreds of health and livelihood workshops. But, guided by our dharma of improving the lives of women and girls, we were able to pivot and begin the Masks of HOPE initiative, which employs hundreds of women — many of whom are the primary breadwinners of their families. Through it, we’ve distributed over 800,000 masks and cultivated dignity for women and girls across rural India in the process. Not only is it a source of income, but it’s [also] a source of pride to know that their work is literally protecting their families and others around the world at the same time.
The Desai Foundation was a family-run organization that you stepped into after a career in advertising. What led to that shift?
I’d worked in traditional advertising for years but, despite the accolades, just wasn’t happy. My decision to take the role of foundation president was guided by my [connection to] dharma. Your dharma can evolve or change completely throughout your life — in fact, it’s expected to. Everyone and everything in the universe has dharma. It’s how we guide the operations of the Desai Foundation: through the dharma of helping vulnerable women and girls cultivate dignity.
How do you define dharma in your own life?
My grandmother would remind me of my dharma “to be a good daughter” when I was antsy at the dining table as a young girl. But for me, now, dharma relates to everything. To follow your dharma is to know your innate role and responsibilities in life, and to live your life accordingly. Now, one of my dharmas is to help others, and I do everything I can to live my life in a way that serves that purpose.
How can people find and follow their dharmas a little more closely, the way you so clearly have?
Listen to your body! Don’t discount the mind-body connection across every situation and pattern within your life. Work, relationships, free time, rest — all of them matter and impact every part of you.
Open your mind to possibilities outside the realm of what you expect. Following your dharma is rarely a linear journey! You can actually have multiple dharmas happening at once. There’s not so much “right” or “wrong” going on, as you might think. Don’t obsess over finding your dharma, rather stay open to signs from the universe and from your gut.
Create space for engagement with higher powers. As a member of the Resistance Revival Chorus, singing is one way I tap into my spirituality. Ask yourself: What is my innate role or responsibility in life?
What is your highest vision for the work you do?
My highest vision is of a world where women and girls across the world cultivate their own dignity.
What lesson are you learning right now?
The year 2020 in particular taught me the importance of leaving room for the unexpected and staying open to new opportunities and beginnings. I really sat with this as I was celebrating Diwali [which took place November 12th -16th, 2020], shortly after election day.
Diwali is a “celebration of light”, but it’s also about coming out of the darkness — the power of connection and renewal that’s constant, [regardless of] our temporary experience.
What does being a lightworker mean to you?
Celebrating and creating joyful moments, such as singing with the Resistance Revival Chorus, which was invited to perform at the Biden Inaugural Committee’s welcome celebration!
What is your personal mantra of the moment?
“Magical things don’t happen to people who don’t believe in magic.”
What’s your concept of dharma? Where’s yours guiding you right now?