Renu Gupta received the She The Change – Nari Udhyami Sanman 2019 for her lifelong efforts in bringing about a positive change in the lives of people in India and the US. The award, conferred by the Beti & Shiksha Foundation in Varanasi, India was presented by Tara Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi and Baby Rani Maurya, Governor of Uttarkhand. While happy at the honor, Renu downplays her achievements and says there are many people who are doing as much work as she is and she just “happened to be lucky” that she was recognized.
This is typical of the friendly no nonsense awardee who doesn’t believe in doing “anything that doesn’t make sense to her,” but will do whatever it takes to help someone in need.
Renu, 61, spent her growing years in Rajasthan where she completed her studies in Sanskrit and English. Marriage to Dr. Arun Gupta, a scientist, brought her to the US where she plunged into a job, studies and community activities.
She credits two strong influences in her life. Her maternal grandmother who instilled the values of Hindu dharma and her paternal grandfather from whom she absorbed the spirit of selfless service. The appeal of Hindu Dharma, observes Renu, is its “universality, logic and its step by step direction for self-realization.” She is “very comfortable being a Hindu in the US” and accepts other religious traditions with the same openness.
A member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad America for the last 36 years and now serving as VP of Seva in VHPA, Renu spearheaded a group of 15 likeminded women for “Seva, Shakti and Sadhana.” All activities are geared towards this mission such as organizing spiritual retreats, workshops and serving the community. In 2008, she received a call from a Catholic Service coordinator who asked for help in rehabilitating 50 refugee Bhutanese and Nepali families. Over the course of 10 years, the VHPA group worked with the refugees to set up their homes, taught them to clean houses and drive so they could find employment, file taxes and helped their children enroll in school.
Five years ago she took up the “Support A Child” project – a VHPA initiative that was languishing for want of attention. The initiative raises funds for the education and boarding of under privileged children in India and her efforts helped the support grow from 700 children to 2500 children. Renu makes it a point to visit the Ekal schools and the SAC hostels every year to supervise its operations personally. Plans for the future include increasing the number of children in the program from 2500 to 5000.
One of the original volunteers of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA, Renu was elected as the first woman to become the chairperson of the Board. Renu’s husband Dr. Arun Gupta, is equally engaged in Ekal and serves as a Board Director.
Renu also spends time teaching Hindi and Hindu culture to children in Cincinnati, Ohio where she is based. Role models, for our children, she inserts, must be characters like Mirabai, Shivaji, Maharana Pratap and Laxmi Bai. Playing on the word “Hindi medium” she enjoins Indian American parents to “raise their children through the Hindu medium and teach them values of Hindu dharma.”
Growing up, Renu was often buried in books thanks to a friend’s father who owned a bookstore. Writing came naturally and she has several books to her credit. Her experiences and observations in America served as fodder for her books. Close to her heart is “Mrityorma Ma Amritam Gamay” and deals with a friend’s battle with cancer while her latest book “Sansari Sanyasi” is a biography of Hanuman Prasad Poddar, a saintly personality who played a key role in her spiritual journey.
Renu, along with her husband and son is also actively engaged in running the dozen franchisees of Great Clips – the hair salon chain they own.