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Inspiring stories highlight IACA Women’s Forum Mother’s Day celebration

BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE

Atlanta, GA, May 31, 2024: Women in spring attire were greeted by equally pleasant spring weather at the Mother’s Day lunch hosted by the IACA Women’s Forum. The spacious Amphitheatre in Newtown Park, Alpharetta, burst into color on May 11, 2024, as guests gathered to celebrate the most cherished women in their lives – mothers.

Motherhood is a beautiful and powerful experience that shapes the world in countless ways, and this holiday honors the strength, love, and resilience of those who mother: birth mothers, stepmothers, foster moms, grandmothers, and the incredible aunties who step up and provide a nurturing presence in a child’s life. While hailed as a joyous occasion, it may not be applicable to all – for those who have lost their mothers, didn’t receive the nurturing they needed, or are struggling with fertility challenges, this day can be difficult. Although a mother can weather any storm, she is still human and needs nurturing, care, and inspiration for herself. Considering all these aspects of this momentous occasion, the organizers aimed to create a nurturing and supportive environment for all women and mothers.

The gentle breeze and lush greenery set the tone for the event, which aimed to inspire women and rejuvenate their minds, bodies, and souls. Highlights included inspirational talks by a famous journalist and mountaineers, networking opportunities, pranic healing, soulful music, thematic dance, and decadent delicacies to pamper the palate.

In alignment with the event’s theme, Mansi Kumar opened with a grounding exercise to encourage everyone to be present in the moment. Judge Neera Bahl’s candescent voice channeled the divine, evoking profound emotions with her ethereal rendering of “Ma aaj tumhe nij dwaar kholna hi hoga.”

Moni Basu

Prominent journalist and editor of Indian origin, affectionately known as “Evil Reporter Chick,” Moni Basu, presided as the guest of honor. Basu, who has worked for CNN and major newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and reported on significant events such as presidential elections, the 9/11 attacks, hurricanes, earthquakes, and war, chose to speak about her inspiration – her mother, Kalyani Basu. Basu currently serves as the director of the low-residency MFA in Narrative Nonfiction and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault writer in residence at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Basu captured the audience with her moving journey from being an abandoned child to an accomplished woman who teaches the art of storytelling. Nurtured by loving parents Debabrata and Kalyani Basu, Moni Basu expressed her gratitude and joy for being blessed with wonderful parents and “the very best of mothers.”

“I think all the time about fate. How fortunate I was that the trajectory of my life was upended when I was only a few days old because of a chance meeting between a missionary and a woman who desperately wanted a child. I might have grown up poor in Kolkata. I might not have had a good education or traveled around the world. I might not have become a journalist and had the privilege of telling the stories of people who are vulnerable, marginalized, or unfairly treated. I might have been one of the millions of people in the world today whose lives go unnoticed, whose voices remain unheard,” Basu expressed.

Basu’s incredible journey moved every mother in the arena. She spoke about the challenges her mother endured and the indomitable spirit with which she faced adversity. Her mom, Basu said, survived for 19 years in a wheelchair, with only half her body and brain. Both her parents, she added, lived through suffering in the last years of their lives. “I spent quite a bit of time with them in our flat in Kolkata. In some ways, my mother and I exchanged roles; I was now the one she looked to for guidance and help. And I saw her as someone who was dependent on me.”

Basu observed that her mother never complained about her misfortune, never made demands of others, and never felt sorry for herself. Until the very end, she laughed heartily and spent hours on the telephone keeping in touch with friends and family because she could not readily visit them. While her father sometimes scolded her mom about the massive telephone bills, Basu said, her mom was the glue that held them together.

“She did not fully overcome the obstacles placed in her path. But she persevered. Her perseverance has been my guide as I fast approach the age at which she died. Most of the stories I write now are about resilience,” Basu said about drawing inspiration from her mother.

“It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves,” said Kavitha Reddy, who recently summited Mt. Everest. This quote resonated with her as she conquered many fears, particularly the fear of not being able to achieve her goals. Gayatri Ayala, Namita Tawde, and Kavitha Reddy, who have all scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro, shared their experiences, inspiring aspiring hikers with stories of their adventures.

Atlanta Indian Idol 2023 winner, Ananya Muni’s soulful Bollywood tribute to mothers moved hearts. Dancers Vani Rao, Sandhya Prashanth, and Soundarya captured the essence of a mother’s love, depicting the tender care of Ma Yashoda towards Krishna, which transforms from love to devotion.

In a joint statement, the organizers emphasized the goal of the IACA Women’s Forum, which is to encourage and foster leadership, empowerment, and sisterhood within the community, especially among women. Since its inception in January, the IACA Women’s Forum has successfully hosted a Women’s conference, a Conscious Parenting Workshop, and a talk on insights into Vedanta.

Dr. Paddy Sharma was the Gold Sponsor of the event. Organizers included Dr. Paddy Sharma, Suma Potini, Gita Vemparala, Jyothsna Hegde, Anu Ganesh, Dr. Ayesha Suneja, Nikita Kothari, Ranjitha Kadam, Mansi Kumar, Riya Gontu, Chand Akkineni, and Kaushal Tripathi. Volunteers included Malini Devi, Saisanjana, Bandana Gupta, Vaisheshi Jalajam, Seema Kohli, Deepa Sreetal, Nandini (Runa) Talukdar, Geetanjali Talukdar, Neetu Singh, Aanvi Karna, Aria Saude, Sathvika Bollimuntha, and Rajesh Bommadevara. Audio/Visual support was provided by Simi Negandhi and Sameer Gaikwad, and photography by Sayali Shinde Tilwankar. The sumptuous spread from Shri Krishna Vrundavana and Paneer and roti from Bhave pampered every palate.

The lunch ended on a high note as Muni’s mellifluous voice uplifted the women, who carried home some inspiration in the form of a decorative pocket-sized mirror that will always remind them of how special they are – “Sometimes you forget how awesome you are, so this is your reminder.” Indeed, all mothers are awesome in their own way.

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