An Interview with Venkataraman L.N.
Nivi Jaswal is an intersectional vegan advocate and social entrepreneur in the Boston, Massachusetts area. She founded The Virsa Foundation Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit and the JIVINITI Research Program after healing herself on a Whole Food Plant-based lifestyle. In addition to holding a BA (Psychology, Sociology), an MBA (Consumer Behavior Marketing) and extensive international corporate experience in the consumer packaged goods, medical devices and media & research sectors, Nivi is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC) trained at the Mayo Clinic. She is passionate about developing creative multidisciplinary intersectional content and designing unique research collaborations aimed at communities of color in the U.S., South Asia and elsewhere.
“If there is a pendulum of duality that our human consciousness has spent the most intimate moments of our life swinging on, that is Food – seductive pleasure on the one hand and survivalist purpose on the other.“Nivi Jaswal
Nivi Jaswal’s Life Story
Nivi’s life journey is unique because it depicts success of two kinds. The two which are opposite in intention and effect. Her life before the events that lead her to switch to ketogenic diet (and later to veganism) is a picture perfect story of success – good education, a leading global role in a corporate, with global travel. The success equated to rise in job position, popularity and wealth. We all grow up with this very definition of success in mind until somewhere down the line, for some, the underpinnings of it becomes questionable through exposure to the motives behind business growth. Nivi was one of them, who used to last work in a corporate, in a food production industry’s research division. The ties with international development agencies and their model of implementation seemed hypocritical and when this was compounded with her own health crisis, Nivi’s life took a different turn. In the process of regaining her health and her resolve for a long term wellness solution for others, her knowledge from the past work experience took her to the right alternatives and exploration of new dimensions of health. Thus, the Virsa Foundation was born wherein she delivers whole plant based food products enabled by research and embedded sustainability principles. She has taken it on a large scale with coalition with many women led organizations and strives for the benefits to reach the poorest of the poor.
It is truly wonderful to cover Nivi’s ‘Wisdom in Threes’ in this article. Her sharing of her experience is truly appreciated as well as her patience for the long time it has taken to publish this article.
Nivi Jaswal’s Profile Summary
|Founder & CEO||The Virsa Foundation Inc. & JIVINITI (Non-Profit Organizations)|
|Offers||Health and Wellness Coaching|
Healing through Whole Food Plant-based lifestyle
|Research Work||1. Project Shakti – focused on non-vegan low-income women in the United States — white women, Latin women, and African-American women — doing a qualitative study trying to understand their relationship with food, their relationship with chronic illness, and what do they understand when we talk about food-related climate change, animal rights, and chronic illness.|
2. COVID-19 experience of Americans and the impact of COVID-19 on their physical and mental health.
|Education||BA (Psychology, Sociology), MBA (Consumer Behavior Marketing)|
Nivi Jaswal’s Wisdom in Threes
Editorial Support, Adaptive Instruction: Megha Elza John
Describe yourself in three words
Define life in three words
Three things which have been your greatest source of inspiration
- My Parents: My parents are ambitious, energetic and values-aligned anthropologists and research scientists, loving in their own ways.
- World Travel: I have lived and worked in 7 diverse countries and traveled to more than 47. Travel is hands down the best education ever!
- Meditation: The biggest inspiration and motivation that drives me is to commune with my Higher Self, in silence and solitude, and learn from the eternal wisdom of the soul that has experience far beyond the dimension of human, mortal, material life. I call this meeting my own Self in the proverbial “Rumi’s Field.”
Three challenges you faced in life
- Witnessing the deaths of all my grandparents as a teenager and in 2020, my father (he was only 69 years old) due to avoidable food-borne chronic illness such as Type II Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Breast and Prostate Cancer, all of which are mistaken to be part of genetic destiny but are easily preventable and in some cases, reversible through a whole food plant-based, dairy-free, oil-free lifestyle that embraces plants and shuns animal products full of violence, hormones, antibiotics and inflammatory ingredients. My father was infected with SARS-CoV-2 but he had preexisting comorbidities that led to his tragic and untimely passing. Here’s a blog I wrote about this.
- Patronizing patriarchy in large corporations in South Asia and elsewhere in the world, which promotes a lopsided model of leadership, teamwork and collaboration. This often means that women must either mirror the “Alpha Male” norms of what’s traditionally defined as success or shadow it, either way losing touch with their own femininity and worse, not having viable role models of Sustainable Female Leadership. My latest LinkedIn post offers but merely a threadbare glimpse.
- Grief – Losing grandparents is hard enough but losing one’s parent, no matter how old or young, is extremely difficult. My father was a strong force in my life, value system and continues to be, even in his transition from the physical plane. His passing has helped me redefine my professional purpose. I am ever more passionate to contribute towards building plant-powered intersectional awareness and helping raise awareness of how the various “isms” in the world (materialism, carnism, hedonism, speciesism) have permeated our food system leading to issues of pandemic proportions in public health and planetary health at this time.
Three ideas to build resilience to face challenges
- Meditate: Drop all escapes and excuses. Invest the time to sit in silence and solitude, and dare to truly meet your Higher Self. There is an entire Universe to be found in stillness, emptiness and nothingness. It has a wildly amazing way of redefining one’s day, or even one’s entire life!
- And, once you’ve sat in spiritual stillness – Move: Sitting has become the smoking of our generation. We take our stress sitting down foveating into blue-light emitting boxes of various shapes and sizes, yearning for digital dopamine to make us happy. Movement, fitness and exercise, especially outdoors can do wonders for resiliency.
- Creativity: Human beings are inherently creative so I urge you to challenge any limiting beliefs around this term. Indulge yourself with your favorite playlist, or draw random Zen doodles, or immerse yourself into a spontaneous colorful interaction with paint on canvas, or putty in your hands over a potter’s wheel. Pour your heart out so it can fill up again. It’s one of the most therapeutic and clinically proven ways to build resilience.
Three essential things needed to achieve success
- A deep seated belief in the inherent goodness of humankind. Everyone of us is struggling with something.
- A spirit of giving more than one receives. That’s the golden key to abundance!
- Finding work that truly aligns with one’s values. Else, it will remain “a job, a livelihood” and force you to keep playing small.
Top three practices and habits you would advise to young students
- Keep a daily journal and practice stream of consciousness “writing”.
- Practice gratitude and kindness on a daily basis, almost as though it was a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for your compassion quotient.
- Offer time to your parents, mentors, teachers. They will be gone before you know it. Find a way to celebrate their values and legacy!
WATCH NIVI JASWAL LIVE OVER A WARM VIDEO Conversation
FOR DEEPER INSIGHTS
Nivi Jaswal’s Awards and Recognition
- In 2007-08, I was the marketing lead for Unilever’s largest Home & Personal Care field study that lasted a full year and included special health & hygiene intervention for children 7-9 years old in Dharavi (Mumbai), an initiative which subsequently led to the Cannes winning #helpachildreach5 campaign and several others for the Lifebuoy brand in South Asia and internationally.
- In 2012, I led the team responsible for Unilever’s first “clean label” artificial ingredients free Mayonnaise in Eastern Europe and the advertisement campaign for this launch scored very high on effectiveness in the Millward-Brown Ads Database for Foods & Beverages.
- Founder and President, The Virsa Foundation Inc and the JIVINITI Research Program