About Anu Benakatti

Name : Anu Benakatti

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Raj Asava and Aradhana from NTFB in conversation with Anu Benakatti

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God can not appear to them except in the form of bread”. 
We recently learned that 42 million people--adults, seniors, veterans, and children in the USA grapple with hunger! We also learned that hunger no longer equates with homelessness. In fact, majority of the people struggling with hunger have a roof over their heads. Elements contributing to this issue are rising costs of living, people not making a living wage (under employment), job loss, illnesses, fixed budgets, etc. 

In North Texas alone, 850,000 people struggling with food insecurity are served by North Texas Food Bank (NTFB). Toppick media visited the North Texas Food Bank distribution center in Plano, Texas and had the chance to tour the facility. We also spoke with several dedicated volunteers who were sorting and packing donated nonperishable food to prepare it for delivery to the 200+ pantries that distribute it to families in need. 

North Texas Food Bank is a nonprofit hunger relief organization that serves the hungry in 13 counties of North Texas. Current statistics show that one in four children in our schools is food insecure.  Our kids go to school and have friends who are chronically hungry! It is unbelievable! Under the leadership of CEO Trisha Cunningham, NTFB enabled 77 million meals last year. Impressive, but the goal is to be able to enable 92 million meals by 2025. Yes readers, that is projected to be the need. Unfortunately, hunger is growing in North Texas almost as fast as prosperity. 

The wonderful state-of-the-art facility of Plano named “Perot Family Campus” was opened in 2018 with the help of a lead gift by the Perot family. In the Perot household, philanthropy was a priority. An 'X' marked on the curb outside of the Perot family home signified a pledge to feed anyone passing by who was hungry. The NTFB recently unveiled their own 'X,' a giant sculpture outside the new facility that tells the community that this is also a place where hungry people can get the help they need.


North Texas Food Bank has seen a surge of engagement from the Indian American community in the past couple of years. Food Bank and media is abuzz with “IAC” and “Hunger Mitao”. 

To understand this phenomenon, we met with Raj and Aradhana (Anna) Asava, founders of the Indian American Council (IAC) for Food Banks.

When Raj and Anna became aware of the rampant hunger issue in North Texas about 5 years ago, they knew they had to engage in the solution. They started donating, volunteering, and serving on leadership councils at NTFB. Their financial commitments kept growing, but they also realized that their contributions could only do so much. And they sensed a lack of hunger awareness in the Indian American community. So, in 2017, they launched a grassroots level initiative called the Indian American Council to engage the vibrant Indian community in North Texas. 

Their extensive corporate experience helped. They created the tag line “Hunger Mitao” (Wipe out hunger) and started conducting awareness sessions to generate awareness about the rampant hunger in North Texas and how people can engage with the food bank in various ways. 

With missionary zeal, the couple have made it their mission to mobilize and galvanize the efforts of the Indian American community around the important work done by the Food Bank. Raj and Anna explained the goals of the project and how the model works. It focuses on “Catalyzing and inspiring the Indian community to engage in helping fight the hunger issue. Secondly, it also aims to change the perception and image of the Indian American community, to be known and recognized for their generosity through the spirit of “give where you live”. 
People can engage in their own ways through the following avenues: 

· Become aware and own the issue of  hunger around us
· Volunteer at the food bank 
· Donate food
· Donate funds

The response from the Indian American community has been astounding!! In less than 2 years, the community has enabled 4 million meals, tons of donated food and thousands of hours of hands-on volunteering at the NTFB! Indian community members now look forward to volunteering on a regular basis; conducting food drives on special occasions over the metroplex; and raising critical funds needed by the food bank for their operations.

IAC calls the month of August a month for “Independence from hunger” in celebration of India's Independence Day. This year they established a goal to collect 25,000 pounds/$ of peanut butter. By the end of this campaign, the Indian American community blew past the set goal and has raised close to 30,000 $/pounds of peanut butter!

Dr. Martin Luther King's comment is so true, “Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, and any table, when man has the resources, and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will”.  Each one of us should take the responsibility to contribute to our best abilities towards “HUNGER MITAO” and make hunger in our communities a thing of the past. In Raj's words, “We may never be able to eradicate hunger, but let's make sure no one goes hungry”!

Anu Benakatti  Sep-2019   1558   0

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota - Abhimanyu Dassani : in Conversation with Anu Benakatti
The Man Who Does not feel The Pain Abhimanyu Dassani : YES!!!! That’s me :) Young, handsome, goofy, Abhimanyu introduced himself to Toppick with great smile during his interview at the South Asian Film Festival Dallas.

Abhimanyu played the role of a boy named “Surya” who is born with a rare condition called congenital insensitivity to pain. A medical disorder that does not make him feel the pain when gets hurt. The movie got chosen for Dallas SAFF 2019,This film has already pocketed the people’s choice award at international film festival directed by Vasan Bala.

Toppick had an opportunity to meet Abhimanyu and get to know him more during the festival.

Q :Congratulations on the success of your debut film. Being a star child did you always want to be an actor?

Thank you. Having a degree in finance, I was drawn to and interested more in business. But later I realized my passion and interest towards acting and continue to pursue my career of acting. I gained my first experience as an assistant director before my performance in the film.

Q : What was your parents reaction when you told them about your career change? Is your mom your role model?

I am very grateful and proud of my parents. I do not really believe in any role modeling. But principles does matter to me. I have been pretty much an independent person since I was 16.Even though my parents were not very thrilled to hear about my decision in the beginning,but supported completely. With the goal set in my mind it is an achievement for me.

Q : How did you feel to be the winner and recipient of “Best Debut Award” at Macao international film festival?

It was a “WOW” . Yes, I won this award for my performance.It felt amazing.I was not expecting it and all of a sudden when I heard the announcement I was so thrilled and speechless. It is a great feeling of accomplishment.

Q : I believe you have performed all the fight scenes including martial arts one, by yourself. How hard did you have to train for that?

Oh yes! I did perform those. It was my toughest challenging commitment for the movie. I actually had to isolate myself for three months from everything. My friends, social media, my family and the outside world. Got trained for martial arts and practiced.Got hurt many times. I injured my ankle, leg and arm, but made it all the way.I takes lot more perseverance and patience. I was confident that I could do it.

Q : You studied human anatomy for the movie? Was it needed? :)

I did it for myself. I always liked biology and its been my favorite subject to begin with anyway. Also, I think when you get to know your body and its functions well,you can be in better control of your actions and can take better care of yourself. Learning anatomy helped to know myself that way.

Q : This was a great beginning. What next? Any plans of acting in Hollywood movies?

May be in the future. I watched Jackie chan action movies growing up. But I would like to focus on current projects that I have.

Congratulations again Abhimanyu. Thank you for sharing your personal and bollywood experience with us. Looking forward to your next movie. Wish you the best
Anu Benakatti  Jun-2019   473   0

Ashwini Patil, Vice President of IOT solutions at Prolim in conversation with Anu Benakatti
Success is not about what you accomplish in your life. But it is about what you inspire others to do. Like we hear from our mentors “ We must learn to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we mess up greatly sometimes. Failure is not opposite of success but it is a part of success”.I would like to share one of such inspirational journey towards success of an entrepreneur, leader and a mother Ashwini Patil, Vice President of IOT solutions at Prolim. Started in 2005 Prolim PLM services is a leader provider of end to end PLM and IT solutions to global fortune 100 companies Company has pocketed 27+ precious awards and various recognitions providing serves to 400+ global customers from 9 global locations. Prolim focuses on addressing the specific needs of women towards development and grooming the next generation women leaders to fill up the top roles. Recognized as Top 100 fastest growing companies among Dallas for the third consecutive year and 2018 small business supplier of the year award by Siemens USA INC

Intro :
I spent the first 22 years of my life in India. Since I was very young, I always dreamt of being a doctor. I loved to take care of people and help them feel better. While I was in 7th grade, I had decided which Medical institution I wanted to pursue my degree in. I did not have access to internet then and I tried to gather more information on Medical degree and its requirements by talking to people and reading books. As I found out more about Medical field, I realized that was not what I really wanted to do. Computer Science was a new domain and I became curious about Computers and started enjoying it. I then decided to do my Undergrad in Computer Science. After I moved to US, I took this one step further my completing my Master's in Computer Engineering. 

Passion :
Since I was a young child I was interested in Dance. I joined a class when I was in 6th grade but could not continue as the logistics did not work out. I then got busy with Education, Career and family life – working full time and raising two kids I had no time to even think about dance. Now that my kids are grown up and independent I am able to pursue my passion for dance. I found Zumba class was the closest to dance and started with it. 5 years ago I was fortunate to meet a professional choreographer and started learning bollywood dance. We have 2-3 performances in a year and performed at various events in the past 5 years. I am not a born dancer but enjoy learning and performing.

Growing up did you always dream about being an entrepreneur and being your own boss?
No Since school days, my dream was to be a working woman. I dreamt about having a nice job and being financially independent. Soon after my Undergrad, my family wanted me to take a break and relax. It was just two weeks after my final exams and I could not take it anymore. I convinced my parents and they agreed for a part-time job while I was waiting for my results. I started my first job as a teacher at a Computer Institute teaching C programming.

Any inspirations or mentor ship that influenced to initiate the venture
My entrepreneurship journey started after I moved to the US. I was taking a web technology course during my Masters at Wayne State University in Michigan. Within our network of friends we had businessmen and doctors. Casual conversations around web technology and doctors/hospitals provoked the idea of a web-based application for doctors/hospitals which resulted in the Medical company.

Motivation :
Every morning I think of all the customers and employees associated with PROLIM. There is one quote which has motivated me for many years – “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up!'

Multiple locations globally can get overwhelming. But, having great leaders at every location who are committed makes it a lot easier. We have thought leaders who are very independent and manage day-to-day operations very efficiently. There is no micromanagement, leaders work independently and communicate with the management when needed.

Learnings throughout my journey :
Know your priorities in life! You should what to focus on at a given time, it will be different things at different times. Just follow your dreams. If you are working hard every single day with your heart, mind and soul into it, you are already a winner! 
Anu Benakatti  May-2019   547   0

Dr H R Nagendra: The Yoga Teacher of Honorable PM of India Shri Narendra Modi in conversation with Anu Benkatti
Over the past few years yoga has become tremendously popular throughout the world. Especially in the west it is an alternate way of exercise or workout. June 21st is celebrated as International day of yoga globally which was declared by the honorable prime minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi. 

Recently we had a great privilege and opportunity to meet Padmashri Dr. H.R. Nagendra in Dallas, who is best known to us as Guruji, a guide and a yoga consultant of Mr.Modi. 

Dr. Nagendra is a very well known scholar,yoga therapist, academic writer and the founder and Vice chancellor of S-VYASA university Bangalore, Karnataka India. He shared his knowledge and views about how to stay healthy by making yoga relevant to modern lifestyle during his visit with us. 

Guruji has written 35 books and 100+ research papers on yoga. While answering the meaning of yoga, Guruji said, It is very important to understand the meaning of yoga. It is not just only asanas. Yoga is a way of life. Mastery of mind.Taking into consideration, the very meaning of yoga “Yujyate anena iti Yogah” it is the process of joining. Swami Vivekananda expanded the scope of Yoga to encompass all streams - Jnana, Bhakti, and Karma also to lay the foundation from the four main streams of yoga and the purpose of all yoga is to realize, be in tune,and ultimately merge with reality.

The holistic definition of yoga is most relevant to the modern society where the matter based paradigm has become the truth of the times.Yoga postulates Consciousness based paradigm and emphasizes that we are not robots governed by a set of physical laws driving us as machines.If we are more efficient than a robot sometimes or work haphazardly we do it consciously with intelligence.This power of consciousness is featured by the freedom in all of us to choose - to do, not to do or do it differently “kartum,akartum,or anyatha va kartum”.

Dr. Nagendra advised NRI community to contribute their time towards practicing yoga in order lead stress free and healthy life. He mentioned that “Unfortunately many NRI people are
becoming more prone to diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Yoga is the wonderful solution that will help to prevent many diseases and promote positive health”.

He was very excited to announce that VYASA academy for prerequisites/training will be opening soon in Dallas under his guidance and with the support of local team.
Anu Benakatti  May-2019   821   0

Anu Benkatti in conversation with Stand Up comedian Appurv Gupta - GUPTA JI
Do You all know it takes more energy to frown than to smile? Laughter is the best medicine and always will be the best form of therapy to enjoy life and stay happy and healthy. Skydance entertainment in association with Aux media along with Mr. Mehta brought Mr. Appurve Gupta a very well known stand up comedian from India to Dallas. Mr Gupta is known as hinglish (mixed humor of hindi and english) stand up comedian,and a Satirist. He was ranked second in “top 20 Indian stand up comedian in 2014” by CNN and was shortlisted in the Forbes India 100 celebrity nominee list of 2015.

Toppick had the privilege to meet him and talk to him about his life as a comedian during his show at Dallas. When he realized after completing the bachelor of technology in electronics and communication engineering, it is not his cup of tea, he decided to go after his passion and turn it as his profession. He started performing as stand up comedian. He said, “ The response and applause that he receives from his audience is addictive almost like an alcoholism and I just can’t stay away from it”.

Eventually his shows were received well by the audience and he became a successful stand up comedian. He says “ He loves to make people laugh because he does not like sad faces” His shows are all about his real life experiences and stories.He always find humor situations when he meets new people, visit different countries and places.

“Finding new things every time to make people is a tough task.But I have chosen this profession. So I can do it!”

Whenever and wherever funny things happen in my life, they will always go on to the stage.Because I don’t want them to go free of cost. I get inspired to share them with my audience and make them laugh. His advice to may budding artists who would like to become a comedian is “Give yourself time to grow.It may take one year or two years or even three no matter how talented artist you might be”. Dallas audience enjoyed his performance at grand center plano on March 29th
Anu Benakatti  May-2019   526   0