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Ranjani Saigal Named 2012 India New England Woman Of The Year

Anoop Kumar

"The roses may wilt, the plaque may gather dust but the love and appreciation I have received from so many well wishers has touched my soul and will be with me for ever," says Lokvani co-founder Ranjani Saigal, who was named the 2012 India New England Woman of the Year. The award was presented at the Woman of the Year Banquet & Awards Ceremony held at the Lombardo's Conference & Function Facilities in Randolph, MA  on Thursday June 28, 2012. Saigal was also honored with "Award for Excellence in Education and Community Service."
Saigal works as Sr. Educational Technologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. She is also the co-chair of the TIE-Social Entrepreneurship group, serves on the board the MIT Heritage of the Arts Society (MITHAS), and is a classically trained dancer that has been teaching Bharatanatyam at her dance school for 20 years. She works with several nonprofit organizations including VisionAID, Saheli, Udavum Karangal, Ekal Vidyalaya and The Boston Pledge.

In its tenth year, the competition seeks to recognize and highlight outstanding contributions by woman of Indian origin in the New England area. Nominations are sought and twenty women are chosen as finalists.   The finalists were chosen based on their contributions to their community, culture, organizations, business and their personal achievements. This year’s finalists were Jaya Asthana, Sarboni Banerjee, Sangeeta Bhatia, Anu Chitrapu, Joya Dutta, Neela Gandhi, Monica Jain, Aliya Khalidi, Deepa Krishnamurthy, Shilpa Lawande, Mandakini Pahooja, Rina Patel, Jothi Raghavan, Sanam Rastegar, Ranjani Saigal, Parul Singh, Eshani Shah, Shipra Shah, Upma Sharma and Usha Vakil.

At the event, all 20 finalists for the 2012 Woman of the Year award were honored and recognized. A panel of five judges picked the Woman of the Year. This year's judges were: Anant Agarwal, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Anjali Arora, vice president of software development at Allscripts; Amar Gupta, the Thomas R. Brown Professor of Management and Technology in the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona; Venkat Kolluri, chief executive officer of Chitika; and 2011 India New England Woman of the Year Manju Sheth.

Usually Ranjani Saigal interviews people for Lokvani. But for a change we present a brief interview with Ranjani Saigal.

How does it feel to be the “Woman of the Year?” Why do you think you were chosen for this honor?

It is very exciting to get this award that comes from a peer news organization -  India New England News.  A dear friend Dr. Manju Sheth, the 2011 Woman of the Year and  co-chair of Lokvani@10, handed me the award, which made this very special.

Prior to the event I was so touched to know that I was nominated. My nominators are very busy people and for them to take the time to do this was very special to me. I know many of my co-finalists  well and I am an admirer of their great talents. I felt honored and humbled just to be part of the pool.  I think  the award is the Lord's way of saying  “you are on the right track with what you are doing”.   The attention I have received will I think propel me to work even harder.

While the award is very nice, I really am overwhelmed with the post award congratulations from so many dear friends and students. That love will be something I will treasure always. Those loving words made the award so worth it!

Who are your mentors?

My parents are my first source of inspiration. My father taught me an incredible amount and instilled in me a deep love for arts, literature and culture.

My mother showed me through her own life how to  maintain a work life balance. More importantly she taught me never to take myself too seriously.  My dance teacher brought Lord Nataraja into my life.  My friend Benu Tandon gave me the courage to start a dance school.  I learned so much about Bharatanatyam from my dear colleague Kausalya Srinivasan. Raj Melville has been a great mentor in the social enterprise space. Puran and Kamlesh Dang have inspired me in so many ways, particularly in the area of community service. The list is actually long.

For all members of our family, our greatest mentor is Bhagwan Shri Sathya Sai Baba, whose words and teachings guide our day-to-day lives. His focus on spirituality, community service, kindness and love is always a guiding light for all members of our family.

To what do you attribute the success of your many endeavors?

We are very fortunate to live in the New England area where there is a great spirit of collaboration in the community.  All my endeavors have succeeded because I have been part of a great team. It has been a great delight to work with my wonderful colleagues at Lokvani, Anoop Kumar, Anil Saigal, and Nirmala Garimella. I have been blessed with wonderful dance students who have brightened my Saturdays with their presence and with many dance teachers especially Jeyanthi Ghatraju and others who have worked with me to create several grand productions.

Of course none of this would have been possible without the inspiration and support of my husband Anil Saigal. He inspires the children and I to work very hard and works incredibly hard himself to support all our endeavors.
Any special message for the readers?

Getting involved in community service has been a tremendously positive experience for me and hence I would recommend it strongly to everyone. Explore your passions, take risks and most importantly do things that you enjoy doing.  It is better to have tried and failed than never tried at all. Never waste your energies on negativity and petty quarrels.

Have fun !!! Most importantly laugh a lot.. it makes the heart grow stronger and your troubles smaller!




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Photo By : Jay Srinivasan

Photo By: Dyuti Manjumdar

Photo By: Dyuti Manjumdar

Photo By: Dyuti Manjumdar

Photo By: Dyuti Manjumdar

Photo By: Dyuti Manjumdar

Dr. Manju Sheth, 2011 Woman of the Year, presents the award to Ranjani Saigal Photo By: Jay Srinivsan

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