Moulded by her Indian identity and defined by her US upbringing, Revati Puranik defies typecasting. On the one hand, she understands the nuances of shashtriya sangeet while on the other hand, she runs an oil empire from her home in Houston. She enjoys dancing whether it is doing Lavani, Allaripu or Ballet and effortlessly combines classical Indian and contemporary western dance practices, creating fusion moves.
Revati or Rani to her friends, first came to India in ninth grade to ‘immerse herself in Indian culture’. Poona became her de-facto choice since not only did her mother’s brother live there but it was also the city of her father’s youth. She visited St. Mary’s and Jnana Prabhodini but opted for the latter; a choice that became the catalyst for her process of self-discovery. It sharpened her awareness and changed her life forever.
She spent a year at Jnana Prabhodini and vividly recalls cycling all over Poona with her friends. They would go from Sadashiv Peth to Nigdi without a second thought. Early morning hikes to Parvati, pani-puri at Kalpana bhelwala and visits to Saras Baug became her weekly routine. But life beckoned and she returned to the US to complete high school. However, the taste of India left her craving for more. She returned to Pune after 12th grade; ostensibly to pursue training in Indian classical singing.
Walking the streets of Deccan Gymkhana, Revati finally met the guru who honed her passion for classical singing; Shobha Abhyankar, mother of popular Shashtriya sangeet exponent, Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar. The nuances of Mewati Gharaana became her world. Revati trained for between six to eight hours a day and within seven months, she was ready for her first performance. At the same time, this multi-tasker also enrolled at COEP, College of Engineering, Pune, to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering. She lasted two months since her studies did not give her enough time for her practice and singing was her life. She had promised her father she would return to Houston after training for a year so she decided she needed to make singing her focus. In the meantime, as a back-up plan she had also enrolled at BMCC, Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, to study Business administration.
Those two months were a bit crazy with singing and attending two colleges. However, BMCC was not as demanding. She managed to continue singing while at the same time sitting for exams without bothering to show up for daily classes at the college. Revati was literally singing through life and her platter was overflowing. The plan was to return to Houston and continue at a US engineering school. However, during her second year at BMCC, life took another trajectory and Revati got married to a Pune-based boy.
Pune was no longer a stopover for the Desi American girl. It became home. She played her role of wife and homemaker to perfection, abandoning jeans and skirts for salwar kameezes and bangles. Anyone meeting her in those years would have imagined this beautiful, light-eyed Maharashtrian beauty was Pune born and bred. That is until she opened her mouth and out streamed a slew of words, in an unrecognizable accent. There were many who did a double-take when they realized this girl with the perfect Marathi, the one who danced more gracefully than most and the one who sang a perfect ‘Sa’ was actually a Yankee.
In 1993, the same year her first daughter was born, she graduated BMCC with a Bachelors in business. She joined St.Helena’s as a dance teacher so she could be close to her daughter. In 1997, Revati became the founder and principal choreographer of ISHA, Indian Search for Harmony through Art. She was perfect in this role given her ten-year Bharat Natyam training, short stint in Kathak under Guru Rohini Bhate, four years in Western ballet dancing and years as a competitive gymnast in Junior High. ISHA blossomed, becoming a recognized path-breaker in contemporary dancing and as a platform for expression and leadership development through movement. She was certified as a movement therapist and leadership coach.
Revati’s one year promise to her father extended from 1991 till 2007. When her marriage fell apart, the Indian-American returned to Houston to rediscover herself. She joined her father’s business, WOM, Worldwide Oilfield Machine. That world was not entirely unfamiliar since she had worked there as a child, helping her mother in the accounting department. She had interned there in 11th and 12th grade as a part of her high school internship programme. AT WOM she started in HR and as Admin for operations and processes going on to become HR manager. She went to Rice university to pursue an MBA, post which she handled Finance, Admin, HR operations for WOM in Houston and took over global control of Finance and operations processes. In 2016, Revati was made global CFO for WOM.
It was a long journey for the ninth grader who first went to Pune with stars in her eyes and a desire to immerse herself in her Indianness. Today she has a home in Houston and Pune. She travels between all WOM locations while at the same time, making a name for herself in Houston. She founded Lead women, an executive women’s forum mentoring peers and young women professionals. She is active in political steering committees and has been appointed as an advisory board member at her local bank. That apart, Revati has ensured her link to Pune remains steadfast by starting Not for Profits; Impact India and Bridge India under the umbrella of the Puranik Foundation. They conduct mentorship programmes for US High school and college students who want to intern in Pune.
But the city that made a lasting impression on this mother of two grown daughters, still tugs at her heartstrings. She frequently bids au revoir to her two dogs and her home and travels to Pune. Work is an excuse. She enjoys stimulating conversations with well-read and informed Punekars. She believes they always have a different take on things and though passionate about a cause they are entrenched in practicality and logic. Some things do rankle. The small town feel has gone. The less than clean air means she can no longer bike to her favourite haunts. The twin problems of pollution and proliferation of development means getting a clear view of Parvati and Sinhagad from any part of the city is impossible. But she still enjoys her pani puri and loves reconnecting with her family and friends.
There’s a chamber in this Houstonian’s heart that is exclusively reserved for Pune.