ACTON, MA– Late Tip O’Neill, a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, might have made the “All politics is local” phrase famous, but it is truly lived by Sahana Purohit. Currently, she serves on the Executive Board of the Acton Democratic Town Committee, the Board of Directors of the Discovery Museum and Commissioner on the Acton Housing Authority.
“As an immigrant, I was not familiar with how local government works in the United States and I have had wonderful experiences to learn and engage with my communities,” says Ms. Purohit.
As part of the successful funding of Acton’s Kelley’s Corner Infrastructure Project ($17 million stat-funded project) and North Acton Fire Station (another $11 million project), with which the town had been grappling the past few decades, Ms. Purohit organized a grass roots outreach where they presented convincingly to residents on the merits of the projects. “These were the most fulfilling and thought-provoking conversations for me as we made connections, met diverse people and bridged the gap between different points of view. I would like to believe that we have made a difference in the community.”
Ms. Purohit, who holds BS degree in Math and Economics and a Masters in Statistics from Bangalore University, lives by her core values of positive attitude in life, believing in people, and helping others.
Here is a Q/A with Ms. Purohit, who will honored at the Woman of the Year Awards Gala at Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA, on April 14, 2023. To buy a ticket for the gala, please click here.
INDIA New England News: Tell us about your work and what you enjoy most about it?
Sahana Purohit–My passion has always been to learn about people of all backgrounds and help them. Since moving to Acton about two decades ago, I have had the privilege and enjoyed immensely getting to know and serving our diverse community. That passion led me to serve on different committees such as the Comprehensive Planning Committee (Acton 2020), the Finance Committee, Chaired the League of Women Voters, served on the Town Manager Search committee, and outreach for major projects in Town (Kelley’s Corner and North Acton Fire Station).
Currently, I serve on the Executive Board of the Acton Democratic Town Committee, the Board of Directors of the Discovery Museum and Commissioner on the Acton Housing Authority (appointed by the Governor).
As an immigrant, I was not familiar with how local government works in the United States and I have had wonderful experiences to learn and engage with my communities. As part of the successful funding of the Kelley’s Corner Infrastructure Project ($17M State funded project) and North Acton Fire Station ($11M project), with which the town had been grappling the past few decades, I organized a grass roots outreach where we presented convincingly to residents on the merits of the projects. These were the most fulfilling and thought provoking conversations for me as we made connections, met diverse people and bridged the gap between different points of view. I would like to believe that we have made a difference in the community.
INE: What does success and failure mean to you?
SP: To me success is inner happiness derived from bringing communities together towards a common goal. Success gives me inspiration to keep going with things I believe in. I consider myself to be positive by nature. Failures have taught me to time out negativity and keep at it until mission accomplished.
This question reminds me of these famous quotes by Oliver Goldsmith— “Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall” and “Our greatest glory consists NOT in never falling BUT in rising every time we fall.”
INE: The One thing that you attribute your success to:
SP: My ability to build my network, stay connected and helping others. Though I do not consider myself as an extrovert, I really do enjoy meeting people! I also am deeply grateful to my parents to have instilled in me at a very young age to NOT give up and keep trying to do my best even in the most difficult times.
I also attribute my success to the many mentors I have had in my life. Over the past 14 years of my volunteering work, there have been many who have helped me learn and grow, guided me in making the right decisions, or have just been there as amazing and supportive family and friends. I have also been very lucky and thankful to have been recognized for my efforts in the successful projects in Town by State Senator Jamie Eldridge. He nominated me to the “Unsung Heroine Award” by the Massachusetts Commission on Status for Women in 2020. Being one amongst an amazing group of women, this award has motivated me to do and give more. It’s not always been easy and I truly owe my success to all these amazing people.
INE: To which charitable, community and professional group do you belong and why?
SP: Over the years, I have been a long time member of the League of Women Voters. Though I am heavily involved at the local level, LWV is a national organization with chapters in all States. The organization is nonpartisan, grassroots working to protect and expand voting rights and ensure everyone is represented in our democracy. They empower voters and defend democracy through advocacy, education, and litigation, at the local, state, and national levels. All of which I truly believe in making a difference.
I also support the Discovery Museum in Acton for STEM, Saheli, a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower South Asian and Arab women and families to lead safe and healthy lives. I am also a life member of New England Kannada Koota (NEKK)
INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field?
SP: Through more than a decade of volunteering work in various roles, I have had the most satisfaction serving the community as a member on the Acton Finance committee. Here, I was able to use my expertise in helping review budgets (Municipality, Minuteman Tech, Public and Regional Schools) and making recommendations to the Select Board and School Committee.
I feel very proud that I was a key player in successfully organizing a grass roots outreach with two major projects in Town. I was very happy that both these projects passed with an overwhelming majority! The successful funding of the Kelley’s Corner Infrastructure Project which is a $17M State funded project, and North Acton Fire Station a $11M project, both of which the town had been struggling the past few decades. It was numerous conversations that I had with the community during this grass roots outreach, it was the most fulfilling and thought provoking for me as we made connections and successfully answered and explained the different viewpoints. I truly believe that we made a difference in the community with these two projects for generations to enjoy.
INE: Any aptitude/gift or talent that not many people know about you?
SP: Ummm…. growing up, just like most parents in the world, our parents always wanted my three sisters and I to try various activities. So I picked up playing an instrument- the Violin! I learnt to play the “Carnatic” classical music. I started learning when I was in 5th grade and continued until college. I can proudly say that I was a part of my undergrad college orchestra and performed at one of the annual events.
INE: What are your hobbies and interest?
SP: I love to paint. My favorite medium is water color. I have tried and enjoyed knitting, sewing–anything crafty. I like to cook which is a stress reliever for me. I enjoy listening to music- Soft Rock, Indian classical and Bollywood music.
INE: Your Favorite books?
SP: I have many books that have been on my favorite list for years. A few that comes to my mind now:
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Roots by Alex Haley
Becoming by Michelle Obama
INE: Your favorite quotes?
SP: Over the years I have liked many. For today, these quotes stand out for me.
“Let us remember the large numbers of citizens who, day in and day out, through acts of volunteerism large and small, bring hope to so many of the world’s disadvantaged. Let us ensure that this wonderful resource, available in abundance to every nation, is recognized and supported as it works towards a more prosperous and peaceful world.” – Kofi Annan.
“We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time meeting each thing as it comes up, seeing it as not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down.” – Elanor Roosevelt
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi
INE: The one person you would like to meet and why?
SP: Neil Armstrong. I would love to meet the first person who set his foot on the moon and showed an example for a giant step for a mankind. Oh, by the way, I am afraid of heights!
INE: Your Core value you try to live by?
SP: Having a positive attitude in life, believing in people, and helping others.