Blog: Anuja Rajendra

Dancer and choreographer Anuja Rajendra, the creator and CEO of Bollyfit (Bollywood-themed fitness dance classes) puts a positive spin on downsizing in a region known for both employment woes and beefy waistlines. This week, Anuja shows how we can bhangra our way to a state of cultural understanding, good health, and good spirits.

Post 1: Spawning an "Intimate Movement"

I'm choreographing and teaching a high energy BollyFit dance in which participants of all ages and backgrounds fill an imaginary matka (clay pot) with water, the essence of life. Then, each dancer breaks the matka over her head and is drenched.  On purpose and with joy.  The conscious choreography elicits physical and spiritual fitness.  Whether an individual or community situation, when a so-called matka, or comforting shell of reality as we know it, breaks, it's so we can dance in the resulting rain.  As someone wise once said, "Nothing is good or bad, it's thinking that makes it so."  And a broken pot is less a loss of clay form and more a release of pent up life essence that twinkles and touches new opportunities.

This blog entry includes two personal cases of 'dancing in the rain' when my matkas broke. I know there are millions of "Michigan Matka Moments" and hope you'll share yours in the comments.      

Case 1:
My dear 27-year-old older sister, Rachana, was tragically killed in a car accident almost twelve years ago.  Within 12 hours of the news, I left a dream corporate job with American Power Conversion in W. Kingston, Rhode Island, where I was promoted three times in 18 months, to grieve the untimely loss.  Anguished, I channeled grief into gratitude for time shared with Rachana.  Acceptance of the reality that Rachana's reason for form on earth was realized helped foster relief to be without regret about our interactions together. She always knew what she meant to me. 

I decided to sprinkle Rachana's energy across our hometown by moving back with my parents and starting a business in Rachana's memory in Okemos.  I cherished helping the community enjoy friends and family in a beautiful space that emanated Rachana's effervescence.  Moon-baked Creations fulfilled its purpose, and it was great to be an entrepreneur and participate in the Michigan economy.  But as my passion for retail business waned, I struggled with the prospect of 'leaving Rachana behind' should I decide to move on personally and professionally.


I had an epiphany that Rachana's energy flows beyond the confines of Moon-baked Creations and, two and a half years after starting the company, I sold the business to two Michigan sisters, married my dream man and, without 'shelter within a matka,' followed my new husband to grad school in Durham, North Carolina.   

Case 2:
Two years later, back in Michigan as a full-time MBA student at the Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, I optimized opportunities to explore, participate, and lead.  Unique experiences included work with Professor C.K. Prahalad, co-authoring a chapter of the renowned book Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, leading the Global Blue organization, co-chairing the National Business School's Food Fight ( a food drive raising foods and funds for needy shelters nationwide), and speaking at the MBA commencement. I dabbled in the corporate world again working at Lehman Brothers during my summer internships in New York City and Chicago, but knew I eventually wanted to start a socially responsible business in Michigan.

While the world was my oyster after graduation, I happily bore two sons in two years and became a devoted mother.  I struggled with conflicting choices of professional and personal alignment. For me, my children were the priority and I elected to be a stay-at-home mother from the start.  Through it all though, I was (and am) immensely appreciative that my husband's job with Ford Motor Company extends me the option, unlike many Michigan women today.  However, I lamented that I'd never figure out 'what I'm really going to do with my life' and what my peers thought of me 'wasting my education.'  Unlike my typical day at library story-time or play date at the park, peers were starting 'important' companies and solving real-world issues.

My old matka was that I needed figure out something 'big' to do.  In the interim, I decided to reawaken an old passion of mine, dance, and created a class for the Ann Arbor YMCA. Although I loved every moment teaching in the studio, my ego struggled with it when I was outside.  The truth is, when people used to suggest I be a teacher, or God forbid, dance teacher, I cringed.  My matka was bigger than that and I viewed dance as simply a pastime until something 'real' came up.  I remember realizing I was actually losing money between parking and paying my babysitter, and wondering when I would have a positive NPV!  


I recognized magic in the studio when I taught—maybe even more for me than for students—I was consistent, present, alive and vibrant in a way I wasn't outside.  I let go of the relentless fear of figuring out 'my purpose' and embraced my current existence.
--The matka broke and life spiraled skyward.
--My YMCA class grew into the business now called BollyFit, which turns the traditional view of exercise on its head. Unlike dreaded, lonely workouts, my students crave the spa-like classes and emerge energized, exercised, connected, and peaceful.  My energetic spirit and gift for bringing people to their feet are growing BollyFit to an "intimate movement" of strangers-turned-friends dancing together throughout Southeast Michigan. 

--Two and a half years later, I am a BollyGirl, joyfully dripping with the water from a broken matka. Together with students, BollyFit Guides (certified  instructors who teach classes using my content and choreography), Givers (a BollyFit costume, print and design team comprised of BollyFit students who happen to be Michigan residents, professionals in their own right and devoted mothers), I am dancing "Rooftop to Rooftop!"

Michigan's Matka

Many claim we Michiganders 'broke our own matka' by relying too heavily on the auto industry and being complacent about the health of the state and citizens.  Perhaps.  But the old matka needed to break. Today, we have space for growth and resurgence - within and beyond the auto industry, within and beyond ourselves in Michigan.  Pain occurs when there is resistance to reality. Crying about the broken pot or trying to glue it back as it was isn't the solution.  We have more to offer than the old confines.  Acceptance that pots break as they should reveals rain showers unlimited by form and drought is drenched. 

--BollyFit is launching in its newest location, Clarkston, with a 6-week class at the Bella Pointe Dance & Performing Arts center. Click
here for registration details.