Aditi Chokshi is a remarkable "love warrior" of depth and character in the ServiceSpace ecosystem. A management consultant at Bain & Company in San Francisco, where she advises a number of social sector and retail clients, Aditi has spent eight years working on grassroots global development at the intersection of gender justice, economic empowerment, education, and health, with a focus on adolescent populations. While Aditi recognizes the need for social change on a large scale, she remains keenly focused on seeding the "small ripples" – which occur when no one is watching, and in the most intimate one-on-one settings – that power meaningful change the universe.
Raised in Texas, Aditi graduated from Columbia University and worked for three years as a management consultant at Bain in New York City before moving to her mother’s hometown of Ahmedebad, India. Through volunteer work as Director of Growth and Impact at a nonprofit focusing on sustainable livelihoods for poor slum women, Gramshree, Aditi found her passion for empowering women and adolescent girls. After two years working across India – in rural Bihar and rural Rajasthan as well as in Ahmedabad – with an array of organizations whose core strength involved grassroots community mobilization, she pursued and received a masters' degree in international development at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, with a special focus on education in resource-poor settings.
In her pursuit of social justice on a large scale, Aditi stays grounded through small moments of intimate connection that allow her to help others reach their potentials. She beautifully recounts how her relationship with her younger brother, who experiences certain neurological issues, keeps her focused on small moments of connection even as she works with people of different backgrounds: "At my home, even mundane experiences such as pouring a glass of milk became an opportunity to build an environment where Anand could thrive. When Anand was little, I would make sure one milk container was only a quarter full and at the front of the fridge. The nearly empty container relieved my mother’s fears about another spill and kept Anand feeling confident. As Anand reached for the container, I would remind him to pour over the sink and coach him on how to hold the gallon steadily with both hands. With a little encouragement only a few drops would escape his cup. One of the biggest lessons Anand has taught me is to look for the 'milk moments' of life – small opportunities to selflessly enable someone else to succeed. . . .
"There is a deep reciprocity in 'milk moments,' where seemingly inconsequential acts allow us to discover the depths of our own character. . . .I believe big moments in life are the ones that grab us awake, the ones that force us to stand up for what we believe in, to deliver precisely when the stakes are high and many are counting on us. . . .[T]he big moments jolt us awake but what we do once we are awakened – I believe that is the true substance of our character. And I believe it is the small moments – moments that no one knows about, moments that no sees, moments when we know absolutely no one else is watching – that truly define our character."
Selected as the Class Day speaker for her graduating class at Harvard, Aditi was introduced as "an excellent economist, but what really shines through about her is her heart." As Aditi reflected to her fellow graduates: "No challenge is too insurmountable; no dream too big. Yet we must not let our quest for the big become our singular pursuit. I'm sure all of you have felt the tension: Your dreams are so purposeful that in an extreme sense of justice, focusing on smaller moments could feel irresponsible. But it is in this type of thinking that we often forget that it is in those smaller moments of true connection in between the campaigns and the ministries and the big positions that we become who we are. . . . We will be prepared for our bigger moments because of how we are conditioned in these smaller ones. As we eagerly walk across the stage Thursday conquering this big moment and onto our next ones, we can aspire to a style of service that's a way of being – where we fight fiercely for the big, while nurturing the everyday moments to selflessly connect – trusting the symbiotic nature between the two."
Join us for this Awakin call, to experience intimately the power – big and small – that is Aditi!
What event or moment has been a pivotal turning point in your life? More so than any other time in life, the week my brother was admitted to the ICU was the moment where I "grew up." He had been having more than 15 seizures a day and December 26th, 2006 something just felt wrong, and we drove him to the good hospital downtown.
I was at the cusp of coming into my own as a senior in college, and while I didn't know it at the time, in hindsight, in that ICU I found the fine balance that is our walk in life. That moments exist where time stops and then slips from under us; we float. That dogged optimism and unflinching hope lifts our collective spirits. That making hopes happen is messy -- we push, cry, persevere, and make mistakes. That barriers melt and we connect with grace when we ask for help with our hearts wide open. That the warmth in someone's voice can linger in our hearts. That the hurry and clinical indifference can linger also, often more strongly. That when the stakes are high, I don't waver. That I could be my family's glue, scaffolding, and translator. That I held it together, even when I was sometimes breaking on the inside but that in breaking I was building. That fear -- terrifying, gripping fear -- is real and never something to renounce or apologize for, ever. That incessant as it may feel, my curiosity would stay untamed because that instinct stopped a nurse from making a big mistake in my brother's medication. That I would never hesitate to challenge or to question. That to survive and to thrive, we must meet others where they are. That sometimes the most unlikely of people can notice the light inside each of us.
To advocate for my brother (and for everything and everyone else I believe in) I would be a relentless fighter -- but one that was full of love, patience, and the understanding that things will at times be hard and imperfect.
A few moments come to mind immediately, each with enduring lessons or shifts.
--Bindu, a young, sprightly teenage girl, grabbed my hair and braided it for me in the middle of rural Bihar after chiding me for how disheveled I looked.
--The purest, most sincere generosity with which the women at Gramshree, a women's cooperative in Ahmedabad, would share their lunches with me each day on the kitchen floor and then would implore me to share a meal in their homes after work, in the slum across the street from the cooperative.
--The Sunday manager at our local gym in Houston, a gentle giant of sorts, who enabled my brother to access swim lessons in a way that worked for him.
--Witnessing Dr. Neal, the former head of a transformational school for children with neurological differences, embody servant leadership. When a group of students were visiting from India, he wiped tables, locked the doors of the school very late at night, drove a bus himself to take them home at night, all while having the kids in uproarious laughter despite only knowing one Gujarati word (abhar).
--A friend of two decades who still came to the airport to pick me up at 1:30AM despite a 12 hour delay with my flight
--When family and friends have startled me with their vote of confidence and belief in me. Immediately a feeling strikes me deep in my gut; I feel I don't deserve their faith but am overwhelmed with gratitude and a desire to try so hard to live up to it.
On my bucket list: That I build a nurturing home, a small labor of love across many years, tucked away somewhere in the magic of the Himalayas, not only for myself but for everyone who has nurtured me. On my mom's bucket list: That I find a life partner before I "escape" to the mountains. :)
"Commit yourself to something bigger than yourself for that commitment will set you free." Advice Jacqueline Novogratz (CEO of Acumen) said she received from a mentor of hers.