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BAPS Women’s Conference empowers through faith and education

By Neha Negandhi
April 2015
BAPS Women’s Conference empowers through faith and education

On March 15, 2015 the bright sun outside reflected the mood inside the hall at the eighth annual BAPS Women’s Conference in Atlanta. Beaming with positivity and welcoming smiles, the 650+ women attendees were ready to connect with the 2015 conference theme, Moving Forward. This year’s conference added a new twist with a networking mixer that promoted attendee interaction, and exhibition activity centers that combined learning while promoting the three main conference pillars: compassion, forgiveness, and perseverance.

As the sun gleamed on the 13-dome white marble mandir, the largest BAPS location in North America, the hall reflected its guru’s altruistic spirit which spread from one attendee to the next. Not one person could point to the official conference organizer; rather, people gave varying responses of teams, volunteers, and humble leaders. This quiet sentiment summarized the all-day conference programming: moving forward while ridding oneself of life’s excess baggage. To be successful on this journey, one must learn compassion, teach through forgiveness, and exemplify perseverance. Though she herself wouldn’t admit to being the unofficial chair, Rimisha Patel was definitely the go-to person and has been helping with the conference for the past six of its eight years. She says the conference is a tool to “empower women” and gives women a “safe environment to listen” and be heard.

This year’s speakers highlighted empowering women in today’s society by building a strong cultural identity platform to stand on and also to remove excess “stuff” that hinders spiritual growth. They shared personal stories while giving lessons on each of the three pillars. The well-spoken emcee, Ashini Parikh, who recently worked as VP of Global Marketing for Edelman in Los Angeles, did an engrossing job of weaving the stories together with the theme. The lighting of the diya was followed by Payal Patel’s soliloquy: strengthening our compassion muscle is a “cure all” good for everyone, taking us out of the “me-first world” but also releasing the brain’s feel-good chemical, oxytocin for ourselves as well as “making the world a happier, welcoming place.” Patel, who holds a JD from Roger Williams University and is Assistant VP and Division Director at Robert Half Legal firm, shared stories about how her guru’s compassionate gestures is one of her foundations and urged everyone in the audience to live in an “us-world” and incorporate “kindness and gratitude in everyday life.”

Manshi Patel shared how her recent marriage taught her how to conquer her anger at out of control circumstances. “Through faith and looking deeply within myself, I found how to forgive and move forward with humility and empathy,” Manshi said.

Dr. Jayshree Patel, Pharm.D., delved deep with her personal anecdote: “Every single one of us has persevered; it is a fundamental part of being human.” She compared how Rosa Parks, Gandhi, and even Kasturba Gandhi (Gandhi’s wife) struggled mightily; her own perseverance “is not a mighty battle—it is the ongoing struggle of everyday life.”

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Keynote Speaker, Dr. Nazeera Dawood speaks on perseverance, compassion, and forgiveness.

 

Keynote speaker Dr. Nazeera Dawood, Health Promotion Division Director at Fulton County Department of Health and Awareness, told her heartfelt story to a captivated audience. Her perseverance in becoming a doctor against cultural norms, showing compassion for her patients, and forgiving those that did harm to her serves as a bona fide example of the three pillars.

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In the packed auditorium were women of all ages. What is significant is how the learning and then living of the three mainstay pillars proves true across every age range, from child to elderly. When I asked why UGA college student Katha Patel comes every weekend to meet nine other fellow students at BAPS for servitude and fellowship, she said matter-of-factly, “this is how I connect with my community, this is where I get back to my culture, and this contributes to who I am.” If Katha is an example of living and learning then this conference is a sure success.

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Dancer Mrs. Mital Patel a software engineer, completed a deeply moving abstract dance on the concepts of compassion and perseverance through Kathak.



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