BURLINGTON, MA–If every great dream begins with a dreamer, Raksha Soni is the embodiment of the optimistic visionary who wants to make a difference in her community. After 20 years of diligent work as a software Engineer for Siebel Systems and Oracle, she began an epic second act: follow her true calling for Art.
Ms. Soni applies the same rigor and drive to the 3 C’s that make up her life’s mission: creativity, community, and compassion.
She founded Brush & Paisley in 2017, to bring her art to new audiences. As an artist she is prolific and has had over a dozen exhibitions where she has showcased her signature style; from intricate madhubani drawings to lush, opulent landscapes that capture the nostalgia and emotion of India. Along with furthering her own journey as an artist, she teaches young kids and helps them express and harness their creativity and find their artistic voice.
Along with her art, she has been a tour de force in the Indian Community for over 10 years. She is a humble leader that propels her teams to achieve and dream bigger. In the last few years, she has had led some major initiatives in the community:
Ms. Soni was a leader on the Hindi Manch Steering Committee, and organized and hosted the first National Hindi Convention in Boston in 2018. She has led the fundraising efforts for Ekal Vidyalaya through innovative efforts like Art Workshop and IndiArt: events to bring young creative minds together. She has served as a core team member of Hindi Manch, India Association of Greater Boston, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, and the Indian Americans for Burlington.
Here is a Q/A with Ms. Soni
INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?
Raksha Soni: Many years ago when I was an undergraduate in India I studied fine arts because I believed in pursuing what I enjoyed most in life. Life swept me away, as it often does, and I landed in Boston raising 2 kids and finding a career. After working as a software engineer for more than 20 years, I returned to art a few years ago and dedicated myself once more to pursuing it as a hobby, profession, and source of joy.
My art isn’t just my work. It’s a lifelong quest that allows me to learn more about myself and observe the world around me.
By day, I teach art to children in my community; I teach them about colors, techniques and that creating something brings a joy that’s very different but equal to solving a math problem. By night and weekend, I create paintings, drawings, and illustrations.
Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to have my artwork be featured at various charity events and art exhibitions in both India and the US. My work has also received awards and accolades.
For me, Art is a medium by which, I express my gratitude, emotions, and admiration through colors. I am driven to spread the Indian culture, traditions and heritage to the next generation through these colors. I believe, it’s more important in this fast-paced, computer driven world to engage children in activities that bring forth their creative and artistic spirits and also foster concentration of mind and tranquility.
INE: To what charitable, community and professional groups do you belong and why?
RS: Over the last 15 years, I have been deeply involved in the Indian community and have worked with many charitable and cultural organizations. Some of the organizations I support include: Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, Hindi Manch, India Association of Greater Boston, and the Indian Americans for Burlington. My approach has always been to support, volunteer, and help wherever possible with the goal of helping each organization realize their goals. I have also emceed in Hindi for many small and large events, which I truly enjoyed.
My work with Ekal Vidyalaya awakened a social responsibility within me and I became very passionate about education and youth. Through our lives in the the US, it’s so easy to take the wonderful public education for granted and we often forget the lack of comparable opportunities in other parts of the world. I used my art to drive fundraising efforts for Ekal Vidyalaya through Art Workshops and IndiArt — which raised funds for several schools and brought creative young minds of the community together.
One of other achievements I’m most proud of is being able to lead some major initiatives for Hindi Manch. I was part of the Hindi Manch Steering Committee that organized and hosted the first National Hindi Convention in Boston in 2018. It was a proud moment to see so many people from our NE community become a part of holding the torch of our literature and culture.
INE: What are your hobbies and interests?
RS: I am absolutely passionate about art, which is not limited to making paintings only. I love to spend time with anything artistic whether it’s drawing, painting, designing traditional Indian clothing; interior decor, arranging flowers. I love being able to put by creative inklings to use and have done some large scale event decorations. The creative process gives me tremendous joy, satisfaction, and a sense of great accomplishment.
Literature, acting, travelling, and cooking are some of my other sources of enjoyment.
INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community or your company/organization and professional field?
RS: I feel so blessed that my parents taught me the importance and power of giving back and helping others in need – through their actions. I believe in Gandhi’s quote from my childhood “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. And I have chosen to live by my beliefs.
I have been a core team member of Ekal Vidyalaya, and put my continuous efforts to brainstorm, design and implement several projects and events for the organization. Through Ekal, I got the opportunity to work with many children and adults in New England community; inspire them to help, support and make a difference in the lives of less fortunate children in India. Influencing a person to support the future of our country through education has a ripple effect, and I feel so proud to see many young kids/adults sharing their riches and kindness for doing various projects in India to support Ekal children.
INE: What is the most pressing issue that you believe women are facing today?
RS: I think much progress has been made in the last few decades: there are more women working and more women in high powered positions today than ever before. I think the most pressing issue for women in the US is the lack of resources needed to help them have successful careers as well as families. I believe this is due to factors such as disproportionate childcare and family responsibilities, gender and compensation disparity in the workplace.
I have been fortunate enough to enjoy my family, a corporate career, and develop my art. I would love for solutions that allow all women to enjoy these things and achieve their goals.
INE: What is your rare talent that people don’t know about?
RS: I love to act! I discovered this talent a few years ago when a few friends invited me to write a play and participate in the production. Though I was very nervous, I was overjoyed to express myself on stage with many other talented people.
INEL What are your favorite books?
RS: KrishnaKali by Shivani,
Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu and Somnath by Acharya Chatursen,
Nirmala by Premchand,
Parinita by Sharatchandra.
The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran.
Becoming by Michelle Obama.
INE: What are your favorite quotes that motivate you or make you smile?
RS: “Girte hain shahsawar hi maidaan-e-jung mei.
Woh tifl kya girenge jo ghutno ke bal chale”
It’s more than okay to fail in life. But I believe that it’s imperative to try, and try your best. If you never try, you never learn. I believe one should never stop trying new things because of the fear of failure.
INE: Who inspires you the most?
RS: My father was my first role model – kind, caring, compassionate and charismatic. I have very fond memories of laughing together, sharing life stories, discussing all issues and emotions openly with him. He always believed in me and my siblings, and taught us to dream big, follow our passion, work hard, touch the sky but keep the feet on ground. He not only inspired but also provided the environment to flourish and get the best out of us. My parents deep love, respect and devotion for each other is still the best I have seen in a relationship.
INE: Who is the one person you would like to meet and why?
RS: I would like to meet Michelle Obama. She is the epitome of grace and poise. She is self-confident, accomplished, charismatic and one of the most influential woman in my opinion.
INE: What are your core values that you try to live by?
- Enjoy small things in life, be grateful for what you have and spread happiness.
- Build loving and deeper relationships with family and friends. Spend quality time with them, share your happiness and sorrows; be loyal and kind. The depth matters more than breadth.
- Treat others the way you want to be treated.
- Be honest and true to yourself and the people around you. Never pretend to be someone you’re not.