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article imageFrom arranged marriage in India to self-made millionaire

By Raluca Besliu     Jan 30, 2013 in Politics
After fleeing from Calcutta, India, to the United States to escape an arranged marriage at the age of 17, Chanda Zaveri, now 49, returns to her hometown as a self-made millionaire.
She was so determined to avoid becoming like “most Marwari girls of my age” that she preferred to trust an American tourist couple from Boston two years in advance rather than her own family who was supporting the marriage. She had become friends with David and Karen, when she helped the woman reach a doctor, after she fell unconscious on the street from a heat stroke.
When she found out that her parents were trying to marry her, Zaveri contacted the couple, who had returned to Boston, requesting their assistance and mentioned that, as a recent graduate, she wanted to pursue a master’s degree. They decided to offer her a sponsor letter.
She had no money, only a pair of earrings, which she sold in order to get airplane tickets to Boston, where David and Karen were waiting for her. In order to support herself, she worked as a maid for elderly homeowners, one of whom generously offered her an impressive gift of $30,000 to attend Harvard, where she completed the need two units to pursue a master’s degree.
Soon afterwards, Zaveri was introduced to David’s father-in-law, who adopted her and took her to California, where she joined the California Institute of Technology, conducting research in biochemistry with Linus Pauling, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.
Initially, as he did not have any work available, Pauling allowed her to clean the petri dishes. However, quickly noting her keen sense of observation, Pauling started giving her practical lessons on how to create peptides. The first one she made, the B2 Actigen, improving collagen in the skin, became an instant best-seller.
Today, Zaveri owns a Los-Angeles-based skin care company, Actiogen, creating scientific peptide-based skincare products on anti-ageing, acne, cleansers, toners, day and night creams, sunscreens and stretch-mark removers. Her latest product is expected to generate a $100 million turnover. Zaveri was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard University for her breakthroughs in skin pigment formation.
She is also a humanitarian, as she uses some of the funds raised from her product sales to pursue curing cancer, healing wounds and sequencing the proteins in the human body. Her studies aim to ensure that genetic disorders and diseases can be diagnosed without invasive, uncomfortable and expensive tests, scans and radiology.
Every year, Zaveri returns to her hometown. She confessed: "I am happy to see more Marwari girls pursuing higher studies, but the priority of finding a good groom still remains. Having gone through that and having worked as a maid, I hope for a day in India when people, irrespective of their status and gender, will treat each other as equal."
More about chandra zavedi, India, Arranged marriage
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