Neeta Sane and Chitra Divakaruni Share “Life’s Lessons” at the IACCGH “Women Mean Business” Event


Photos: Bijay Dixit

By Manu Shah

HOUSTON: It was a woman powered evening with celebrated novelist Chitra Divakaruni and HCC Trustee Neeta Sane keynoting the Women Mean Business (WMB) event organized by the IACCGH. Sponsored by Shell and held at the Hess Club on February 24, the event attracted more than 70 ladies.

IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia welcomed the gathering and invited every participant to introduce themselves. This broke the ice and helped the women bond easily with each other.


Neeta Sane (left) with Chitra Divakaruni

IACCGH President Ashok Garg expressed his appreciation at how women were breaking the glass ceiling and proving that they mean business in every field. The Chamber, according to him, was not only about trade and economic growth but also about encouraging women entrepreneurship and leadership. The aim of events such as the WMB Series was to help women “cultivate the strategies and tools” that can empower them and enable them to meet other successful women – a resource that could be inspirational and unlock opportunities.

President Elect Joya Shukla reflected that she “was amazed and inspired at the talent and diversity in the room”. She also credited Asha Dhume for initiating this series at IACCGH and emphasized the fact that when successful women “share the journey of their lives, it allows others to take back pearls of wisdom” that could change their life for the better. Introducing Neeta Sane as “one of Houston’s top 50 Influential Women and Chitra as “an internationally renowned writer”, Joya invited them to address the gathering.

When Neeta Sane took the oath of citizenship in 2005 and raised her right hand, she felt an “inner voice” that compelled her to give back to the community that had given her so much. Despite her inexperience in politics, she ran for public office in 2007 with the simple goal to make a positive difference in someone’s life and her successful run strengthened her belief that “passion and heart can take you wherever you want to go.”

In her position as one of the 9 Trustees in the HCC Board, all from diverse backgrounds, she realized that the “cultural aspect was a significant factor in decision making and the multicultural environment was a challenge.” Through trial and error and “several sleepless nights”, she opted for a different approach which she described as “public servant leadership approach,” an approach that helped bring opposing, contrasting views to find creative solutions and move forward. Neeta also touched on several new initiatives by HCC including an Asian Scholarship Program.

Chitra never thought she would be a writer but “immigration made her one”. Her imagination and her keen observation of the transformation that America brings about in Indians and their relationship with each other provided the fodder for her stories. It also struck a chord with her readers making her one of the most popular Indo American writers today.

Sharing some insights learnt during her writing journey and citing examples from her life that brought her to these realizations, Chitra observed that if you are passionate about something and work at it, you get better at it and if something is really important to you, you will find a way and time for it. She also highlighted the importance of having confidence in oneself and the futility of worrying about things that are beyond your control. To everyone’s delight, Chitra also read an excerpt from her latest book “Oleander Girl.”