When Manisha Mundhra was a young girl in Kolkata, her Marwari parents would insist on taking her to Rajasthan for every summer holiday. “The heat was crazy,” the 38-year-old remembers, “but spending time with large extended families in those old havelis of Bikaner really shaped me.”
Many years later, Manisha would try to recreate those festive moments for the bigwigs of corporate America in her own unique way – by becoming a “Diwali specialist”.
As a young girl, while Manisha struggled with academics, she met Rishi Beriwala who was quite the opposite: “He grew up to become a brilliant college topper, an IIFT silver medallist, an MBA in finance and a CA rank holder,” she laughs. After their wedding, the couple moved to the US.
“There was so much freedom in the US, but also so much loneliness,” Manisha recalls of those early years. She missed the Indian culture, its boisterous festivities. Her first Diwali came and went, bland and forgettable.
By the time her first child Ivanka was born, Manisha began organizing cultural events for Indian-Americans in New York. But something inside her felt hollow – a sense of unfulfilled purpose and untapped drive.
Manisha searched for answers and came across Vipassana. “Those 10 days of silence and solitude were overwhelming. I cried every day. But I’m not a quitter. When I left the ashram, I felt like I’d walked through fire. It felt like my life’s biggest achievement,” she says.
Vipassana left Manisha more patient and “shock-proof”. She also learnt she was pregnant again. Alyona – her “therapy child” – was born on Diwali eve two years ago.
Manisha’s Diwali connection grew even stronger over the next year. She began hosting and organizing mega events for corporate houses, schools, hospitals and luxury hotels, taking care of everything from the Indian cuisine to the entertainment, décor and “ethnic” props.
She formalized her company MMB Events last year, and hired a team of over a dozen people. One day, she was invited by Google to host a party for 2,000 employees. Then it got bigger: in her very first year of operations, she organized 13 Diwali events over two months. Everyone deserves a little bit of India in their lives, after all.
“We are the only company in the world defining and designing the Diwali festival and its celebrations,” says Manisha.
A natural networker who is inspired by the idea of “women supporting women”, Manisha introduced the Diwali Devi Diva women empowerment awards supported by the Mayor’s office in Jersey city while raising funds for an NGO in India via Diwali giving.
She’s now gearing up for Diwali 2018 with over 600 clients on her sales list. “This is my passion,” she says, all set to light up the corporate calendar in the US.
Lead photo credit: Raj Sarma Photography. Venue credit: Kate Spade New York