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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Smarty Mom: Raina Gandhi

By Rachel H

Welcome to another Smarty Mom Saturday! Today I am happy to introduce you to Raina Gandhi. Raina grew up in West Windsor, New Jersey, went to Barnard College (Columbia University in New York) and got her MBA at Wharton (University of Pennsylvania). She and her husband, Parag, moved south to Tennessee when her husband completed his Ophthalmology residency and started a fellowship in Oculoplastic Surgery. (For those of you who are not up to par on doctor terms, like myself, that is plastic and reconstructive surgery of the eye!) Three years ago, the Gandhi family moved to the Triad where Parag joined the faculty of Duke Eye Center. They live in Winston-Salem with their two daughters, Nysa (5 1/2) and Krisha (2 1/2).

Since the birth of her older daughter over 5 years ago, Raina has been a stay-at-home mom. She is presently the Treasurer of the Medical Alliance of the Piedmont. She loves to work out, travel, paint, dance and scuba dive.

Let’s hear more from Raina:

You are a brave woman who travels internationally with your children quite frequently! Please share with us your tips for keeping you and the children sane while traveling.
I take a lot of overnight flights when I go abroad so they sleep on the plane. On shorter flights, Nysa takes 3 paperback books and this summer she has been traveling with her Leapster. She recently learned how to play UNO, too, so we just keep ourselves busy. Krisha colors, plays with the tray table, and makes puppets out of the barf bags!

What is your favorite part of being a stay-at-home mom?
Being at home allows me the flexibility to travel extensively with my girls. I have found that I spend more quality time with them when I am anywhere but home, where I am always preoccupied with my daily tasks. Growing up, I loved traveling with my parents and sisters and am grateful I can share this experience with my kids. We have had the opportunity to experience so much of the US, Europe and India together already, and I think that exposure is very valuable.

Prior to having children, you spent a year volunteering in India. Please tell us more about that experience.
In 1999, after 2 years working in investment banking in New York, I needed a change and wanted to pursue volunteer opportunities in my parents’ homeland, India. Although I had spent almost every summer there, we had mostly traveled through major cities, and I was then curious to learn more about rural India. I worked in two micro-credit organizations that provide small loans to impoverished women allowing them to start their own businesses with the goal to bring about their own economic and social development. Micro credit not only provides financial security to these poor families, but also provides the participating women with higher self-confidence, independence and improved bargaining power in their household. One organization for which I worked was through the Grameen Bank, which eliminates the need for collateral (which the impoverished do not have access to) by creating a banking system based on trust and accountability. Women are grouped together and are held accountable for each other’s weekly loan payments. The social pressure encourages these women to payback their loans in a timely manner since failure to do so would force their group members to cover the payment, causing embarrassment and the burden of knowing the default cut into their group members’ individual profits.

One of my roles as a volunteer was to research why many women who participated in the program decided to quit after one year. My research showed that the majority of the women chose not to participate because they were pregnant (and did not keep in good health so were forced to forego their business), or they invested their money in livestock which died (for example, they bought a cow, which got sick and died so they could no longer earn a living by selling the cow’s milk). My recommendation was to invest in birth control education as well as to provide basic health care programs. I also recommended that the lending program include livestock insurance so that those women would not lose their source of income and drop out of the program.

What is your best tip for busy moms?
I try to cook 2-3 days worth of food at a time so that I do not have to make full meals every day.

What is your favorite family activity?
In addition to travelling, we love to explore books and bake.

Favorite “me-time” activity?
I jazzercise at least 4-5 times a week. It is the one hour in my day I have for myself, and my girls love the child care facility there. I have been doing it for 4 years, and it is what I miss most when I am out of town. Thankfully, it is a franchise so I am able to find jazzercise centers in most cities!

Favorite date place in the Triad?
Admittedly, my husband and I do not get out as much as we should. Recently, however, we made a trip down to Asheville, NC where we took a tour of the Biltmore Estate (which was much more relaxing without our kids!), participated in a Land Rover off-roading tour, went wine-tasting and took a long drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway (without ever having to hear “are we there yet?!”). It is a great place to visit for a weekend without young kids.

Favorite spot for lunch?
My favorite lunch spot is my kitchen table! It’s casual, warm and we can be as loud as we want to be!

Favorite place to eat dinner out with the family?
Athena Greek Taverna on Stratford Road in Winston-Salem is wonderful, authentic, and has live Greek music on Tuesday nights where guests have been known to spontaneously dance!

Funniest thing your children have ever said?
One afternoon, when Nysa was 2 ½, she asked me who I was talking to on the phone. I told her that she was not allowed to ask me that because it was rude so she told me that when she grows up I won’t be allowed to ask her who she is talking to since it would be rude! Krisha used to call macaroni “makamowpeepee” and still calls her sippy cup “skippiescup”.

Mini-van or SUV?
That is a great question. I am probably the only mom with two kids still driving a sedan, but I will eventually “trade-up” for a minivan. Carpooling saves so much time!

Favorite book you have recently read?
Three Cups of Tea. It is a very inspiring true story.

What has been your favorite Triad Smarty Pants article thus far?
I enjoy reading about the birthday party ideas as well as the recent article on backpacks. Nysa is going to Kindergarten and buying the right backpack was a big deal for us!

Best thing about raising a family in the Triad?
We lived in the Northeast for many years and really enjoy the pace of life here in the Triad as well as the myriad of children’s activities available to us including a fantastic zoo and several science museums. My husband skis and we both scuba dive, so we are thrilled to have mountains and beaches in close proximity.

Smartiest way you save money?
I go through the sales in the newspaper every weekend to see if there is anything I need, and I buy a lot of clothes at the end of each season.

Best birthday party you have attended?
We recently went to a birthday party at the Young Chefs Academy in Winston-Salem, and my 5 year-old really enjoyed it.

I could not live without my...
Daughters, whom I cherish.

Raina, you are truly a fabulous person and a wonderful mom! Thanks for your time to share some things about yourself with TSP!

If you have someone in mind who you think would make a great Smarty Mom or Smarty Dad on Triad Smarty Pants, email us at with your nomination!


Ashleigh said...

Yea Raina! You are a great neighbor too :)

C.D.L. said...

I love the puppets out of barf bags! I'll have to remember that one!

Hemang Bhatt said...

Raina was a great daughter growing up, and is a great daughter right now. She is very loving,warm,hardworking and always helpful. And she is a planner which quality will be very helpful to her in her life.
Raina's daddy

Jen P. said...

LOL at the barfbag puppets - classic! Nice to "meet" you, Raina:-)

RLR said...

Hi Raina - nice mention! Wish I'd seen the barf bag puppet tip 2 weeks ago - we just got back from vacation :) The Leapsters were our lifesaver on the plane!

Parag said...

This is from Nysa and Krisha: We love you so much. You are a very smart mom and ggrrrreeeeaaat! You are a very special mom!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey raina this is mani from WWP, why'd you dump me for this loser guy?

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