In a different year, the Mohan family (Ram, Rupa, and their daughters Jia and Arya) would be looking forward to their annual winter getaway to Providenciales in Turks and Caicos. “The past year has obviously been a little different,” laughs Rupa. She explains that travel has always been a big part of their lives, “With a family spread around the world (London, South Africa, India), our kids got passports as soon as they were born and had clocked over 20,000 miles in their first couple years of life! Our kids are very used to planes, trains, buses, and exploring new places.” Her husband Ram has traveled extensively for business for decades and found the break in travel somewhat refreshing. “I’d travel up to 300,000 miles each year for business,” he shares. “But with the pandemic, I’ve been home to see my girls more. That’s irreplaceable.”
In 2005, Rupa and Ram were introduced to one another virtually by their families. At the time, Rupa was working in London, and Ram lived in the US and traveled internationally quite often, so their courtship began with a series of long phone calls and e-mails. After 2 months, they knew they wanted to meet face to face. “Ram and I had a memorable first date,” remembers Rupa. “He was flying into London from Brussels on July 7, 2005. I was on the Tube (subway) headed to work when a colleague called to say, ‘bombs are going off across London.’ Rupa was able to retreat to the suburbs that morning but did not want to miss their long-awaited date later that day!
“I got a cab out to Heathrow Airport where we met for the first time,” Rupa explains, “and I was struck by how calm and cool Ram was given all the craziness, not even knowing if his flight out would be canceled due to the attacks in the city.” The couple enjoyed a pleasant lunch getting to know each other amidst the chaos nearby, punctuated by calls from family and friends checking to see if Rupa had been caught up in the attacks. “The rest of our dates were spread across beautiful cities in Europe; London, Geneva, and Paris where we got engaged,” she remembers fondly. “But those were nowhere near as dramatic as that first date!”
Rupa was raised in England and earned a Master’s in English from The University of London. “Eventually, I got fed up of reading books and became fascinated with technology, so switched my career.” Rupa worked in the Square Mile in London for 15 years, “I worked for several big-city firms in project management,” Rupa explains. “Since moving to Bucks County, I worked for Comcast as a Project Director.” More recently, she says, new opportunities have come her way. “I’m working on a few new projects in varied areas including e-commerce, website development, a café launch, and real estate, all of which are enormous fun!”
Ram was raised in India and earned his BS from MIT-India, his MBA from BIM-India, and an MS from Drexel. He interrupted his MS to work for the first Internet startup in the Philadelphia region, a company called Infonautics, which later went public. Ram spent the following two decades working for Internet companies which were successfully sold, most recently, a company he co-founded called Afilias. “Ram is a serial entrepreneur at heart,” says Rupa. “He is already exploring possibilities for his next fun venture.”
The couple married in India in 2006 surrounded by friends and family. Many of their guests flew in from around the world to be a part of what Rupa describes as a “big, vibrant Indian wedding.” For the uninitiated, weddings in India are often multi-day festivities. “Our wedding lasted for two and a half days,” Ram remembers with a smile. “When all was said and done, we had more than 800 guests. It was quite a celebration.” After they wed, Rupa relocated to the United States into Ram’s home in Mill Road Estates. “Her first night here,” Ram tells us, “Rupa couldn’t sleep. She said it was far too quiet!” Rupa laughs at the memory. “It WAS too quiet,” she chuckles. “I still can’t get over how silent LMT was compared to London. And I had also never seen deer at such close quarters wandering in the woods behind our house!”
Rupa and Ram have loved raising their daughters in our community. When she first arrived in Lower Makefield, Rupa admits it was a bit of a culture shock compared to London. “I was impressed with the friendliness and big hearts of the locals. Our girls were born here and attended local Montessori schools where we made many friends who we still see to this day.” The Mohans enjoyed the community aspect of LMT, “LMT won our hearts. The library, community pool, fireworks, walking trails were all wonderful,” says Rupa. “We also built a strong network of friends and professional contacts, and were known for our big, fun Diwali parties and summer picnics at Core Creek park!”
“In 2016, with so much division in the country, I wanted to channel my energies into making a positive difference in our local community,” says Rupa. “And to show our young kids that it is possible for each individual to make a difference regardless of what is happening in the world.” Neighbor in Need, led by Elizabeth Kearney, was an obvious organization for Rupa to partner with. “I was very impressed at the speed and efficiency with which these ladies would hear of a need, and how quickly they would rally the community to respond,” Rupa explains. “Their energy and drive were relentless and energizing – simply amazing! I also loved that they were super-flexible in how I could help – monetary donations, buying goods, or giving time.”
“We also decided that our young children should learn about all of the cultural influences in their lives. With immediate family spread across the UK, India, South Africa, and the US, we were keen to expose them to these varied cultures,” says Ram. “We joined the Chinmaya Madhuvan Center in Yardley to enable our children to understand their Indian heritage.” The Chinmaya organization is a worldwide, Hindu spiritual organization, and the Yardley center provides Sunday school classes for children from K-12 with teachings on religion and culture. The religious leader, Swami Siddhananda, inspires adults and children within the community to live aligned with noble ideals, and there is a strong emphasis on Seva, a Sanskrit word that means “selfless service.”
“With the pandemic sweeping through the nation in 2020,” says Rupa, “I was heartened to see that both of these organizations close to our heart were reaching out to make a real difference to local families in need from running food pantry drives, creating blessings bags, grocery drop-offs to essential workers and collecting toys for children whose parents had lost their jobs,” Rupa explains that her girls got involved in making cards for local healthcare professionals during the first lockdown. The Chinmaya Center volunteers sprang into action initiating a variety of projects, distributing masks to USPS workers, food, and personal care item drives to benefit TASK, FSABC, and Ivins Outreach Center. “They also helped by providing summer activity items for children unable to attend summer camp, writing letters to essential workers through a local congresswoman, and providing hot meals every weekend to Ivins Outreach Center since March 2020.”
With such aligned goals, Rupa felt it would make sense to propose that both organizations could come together and work on specific projects to benefit the community, and to build bridges between people of different cultures. “In August of 2020, I led a Back-to-School drive where Chinmaya families donated money to purchase 125 backpacks for children in need,” says Rupa. “Chinmaya community leaders Vishwajit Pillai and Asha Ramachandran coordinated donations, and young Shakti Ramnath led a special Instagram campaign to raise more funds. Youth volunteers who worked on the drive then proudly delivered the backpacks to Neighbor in Need before the start of the school year.
In Sept 2020, Rupa arranged a meet and greet, and a tour of the Center for the Neighbor in Need crew and the Chinmaya Madhuvan crew. “We all shared updates on the good work being done, and the enthusiasm to work on more joint projects together,” Rupa explains. “Swami Siddhananda then presented Neighbor in Need with a $500 check to go towards future Neighbor in Need projects. The plan is to work on more joint programs in 2021 and beyond.”
This summer, the Mohan family also realized a longtime dream. “We finally built a house together from scratch, just a few minutes away in Newtown,” says Rupa. “Moving during the pandemic was bizarre, but we’re glad we did it. It is fun to have a fresh start with new faces, and our littles playing with our neighbors’ littles.” The Mohans’ new home captures the global influences of their families and showcases the work of some talented designers and artisans from Bucks County. “One important criterion for the family moving,” says Rupa, “we still wanted to be near our friends in Yardley and Lower Makefield. Our friendships and community are a cornerstone in our lives.”
The pandemic made regular neighborhood activities a little more difficult than usual, but the Mohans still looked for ways to give back and bring joy to their community. “We recently invited neighbors to join us for a socially-distanced fireworks display for Diwali, which was great fun,” Rupa shares. “And in August, Ram finished the GVRAT run, a 1,000km (636 mi) virtual run with 19,000 other runners that raised over a million dollars for charity.”
As they look to the year ahead, the Mohans look forward to meeting neighbors and staying connected with their friends in Yardley. They love great food, whether they are cooking at home, or exploring and supporting our wonderful local restaurants. “We have been known to travel long distances or wait in insanely long queues for the right dish,” says Rupa. “But we are fortunate that Yardley, LMT, and Newtown all have a variety of good eats, and we don’t necessarily have to go to Philly or NYC for a great meal!”
As difficult as the pandemic has been, Ram and Rupa have learned to, “Look at what is possible, not what we miss about how life used to be.” The Mohans have used their time at home to reflect on the things that matter most. “A year ago, while on vacation, big sister Jia was super alert and helped save her younger sister, Arya from nearly drowning in a hotel pool,” Ram explains. “It was a great lesson on how precious life is, and how important it is to love, and hug, and care.”
When asked if their family had a special motto they live by, Rupa said, “Own your difference.” We love this sentiment! Each family is unique, and embracing those differences is a wonderful thing. We are grateful to Elizabeth Kearney of Neighbor in Need for introducing us to the Mohan family, and to Rupa and Ram for sharing their family story.
Do you know a neighbor doing great things in our Yardley or Newtown communities? E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about it, we may be able to share it in an upcoming issue.
Story by Heather DiPrato. Photos by Cindy Fatsis.