Anjali Desai is a polymath. Originally from Houston, Texas, she landed in Kutch as a 2003 Indicorps Fellow to run a rural design school with partner NGO Gramshree to empower women artisans. Her experience with the people and land inspired her to co-found India Guide Publishing, through which she authored several guidebooks on Gujarat (India Guide: Gujarat) to encourage meaningful and culturallysensitive travel and exploration. She also helped establish Seva Café, a gift economy experiment that has inspired similar experiments worldwide. In 2005, Anjali founded Patangyu, an alternative grassroots education initiative for children in one of Ahmedabad’s marginalized communities. She is also an active cornerstone in the NGO Manav Sadhna, and its values-based education program, serving children across several of Ahmedabad’s low-income communities.
What is your favourite word?
I love the word Empathy. When we practice empathy, there is no right or wrong, just a deeper understanding of one another. Through this understanding a lot of barriers we face as humans stand broken.
What was the moment in your life that made you Blossom into the person you are today?
There is not a single turning point for me, but many influences. One of the most profound have been my parents. Their love for India, even after heading to the US to give our family a better future, was seeded in me. Their values of simplicity, service and spirituality also shaped me significantly. I wanted to try to pay forward some of what they have given me in life. Growing up, I had often heard people talk about settling in life and then serving later. But I wanted to start while I was still young and had nothing to lose. So, after finishing college, I came to Gujarat to volunteer for a year. I had no idea one year would turn into two decades and completely shift the direction of my life’s journey.
What would you want the young boys & girls to learn from your journey?
Find a way, no matter how small, to give back to the world. Do this without expectation and with as much humility as possible. And try to give through whatever opens your heart and excites you