At BHAV, we believe in empowering women to find unique ways to embrace their cultural heritage. We started 'The Culture Connection' to explore the impact (both good and bad) of heritage on a variety of incredible women, and understand how it continues to play an influential role in their lives. We invite you to join us on this journey, with the hope that you find value in these conversations.
Formerly a lawyer, Varsha (@coachingbyvarsha) has transitioned to a career in life coaching, and has helped numerous people unlock their potential to live a life of success, love and fulfillment. Besides coaching, Varsha loves to travel, collect art, and sew. Read on to learn about the instrumental role Varsha's South Asian heritage has played in her life, how she overcame her divorce, and her motivation for becoming a life coach.
On Her South Asian Heritage & Journey to Coaching:
What's your background?
My family is from Rajasthan, India, specifically Jaipur and Ajmer. I was born in Brooklyn, New York.
How has, or currently does your heritage play a role in your life?
I could write a whole book about this. Oh, wait, I am! My heritage has played a very large part in my life. I'm grateful I was able to learn Hinduism and Indian culture while being in the US. Chanting and meditation is a daily routine for me. And when I think of culture, I immediately relate it to family. Without the festivities and get-togethers of my family, I would never have been able to feel rooted in my heritage. The dancing, music and food with a huge family are so fun. My grandparents who migrated in 1960, took great pride in teaching us the morals and values of their heritage. Today, we have four generations in the United States and everyone is so closely bonded.
The most challenging time for me culturally was when I was contemplating and eventually deciding to get divorced. Making the right decision for me, getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship, was stopped by the fear of what “society” would say. I didn’t want my parents to have to face their relatives and friends and explain my divorce, nor my family to be judged. Most of all, I was scared to be seen as the “divorced Indian girl” out in the world. Dating again as a divorced person was really difficult. People say really mean things and don’t even know they are doing it, even friends. Despite some initial struggles, my family came around and especially my siblings and parents were super supportive. Through it all, I had to look internally and decide who I wanted to be in this world in order to meet the person of my dreams. I remarried in 2015 and my husband is my greatest love, my best friend and biggest supporter.
Your previous career was in law - what motivated you to choose a new career as a life coach? What internal, social, or cultural challenges did you face when making this decision?
As a lawyer, I never felt like myself. It was a journey I took because it was what I thought everyone wanted me to do. It was what was expected of me and a great way to make enough money to stand on my own two feet. I really respect my parents for encouraging me to pursue something that would grant me that security. Especially during my divorce, it was important that I had a solid income.
Coaching was an organic calling for me that evolved from my blogging about things no one else would talk about. When I transitioned to coaching, I was truly afraid of how people would view it. There are so many people out there who slap the word “coach” behind their names but don't have the right credentials. They are often seen as “less than” in the professional world. Perhaps it's the lawyer or the “Indian girl” in me who had to do things the right way. I graduated from an accredited program and follow the International Coach Federation Ethical Guidelines and Core Competencies. I attribute these accomplishments to my heritage because without the encouragement and support of my immigrant family, I don’t know that I would've had the drive to follow through on my dreams to this extent.
Has your South Asian heritage influenced your approach or perspective on providing guidance and advice for your clients?
Absolutely! My South Asian clients find comfort in knowing that I will understand where they are coming from and my other clients appreciate my perspective and the strength that my experiences have given me. For example, I had a boyfriend who was not South Asian and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t invite him as a plus one to a family wedding. Some of you reading this may know what I mean. It became a riff in our relationship. I became a coach to empower people to make decisions free from social stigmas and taboos. And, I also know that choosing your battles wisely is a virtue. That relationship was not worth confronting my family for, but had it been the man I saw a future with, I may have been bolder. I think experiences like that help me relate to both my clients and their parents.
With the many stigmas associated with divorce in South Asian culture, how did you rise above that and choose personal happiness over pleasing family and staying in an unhealthy relationship?
This is a super loaded question that I often work on with divorced or contemplating divorce clients. This takes time. What I will leave you with is to remember that all the morals and values that we are taught, even the ones that seemingly create stigmas and taboos, are never meant to hurt us. So, when they do hurt us, it is important to consider the weight we want to give them and whether we are interpreting them correctly.
What do you love most about South Asian fashion?
I love saris! It's my go-to for South Asian events, and I hope they make a comeback. I know anarkalis are easy to wear, but saris aren’t that bad once you’re used to them. The grace of a sari is like nothing else I’ve ever worn. As a kid, I was all about the lengha because saris were for grown ups.
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now?
I love dresses, they are definitely my go-to outfit. Currently, I'm obsessed with Temperley London dresses. Generally though, I'm eco-conscious and very much into designer vintage pieces that are timeless and keep me away from mass market stores.
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
What are you currently watching?
Mindy Kaling's show, 'Never Have I Ever'!
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
Morning person or night owl?
Morning, for sure.
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?
I couldn't give up Butter Scrubs body lotion... it's amazing!