Overcoming her struggles, this Indian woman in Japan dons many hats to heal the world
Life isn’t always a bed of roses. Living in a remote village, Nupur Tewari had her share of adversities, but what sets her apart is how she turned her life around to change the lives of many across the globe.
Nupur is a motivational speaker, a spiritual healer, a philanthropist, a performance coach and a yoga instructor, who grew up in a small village in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district. Despite education being of primal importance to her family, obtaining it was arduous.
She walked four kilometres to school every day, and studied under the dim flow of night lamps, as her village did not have electricity.
She now lives in Tokyo, Japan with her husband and daughter, and takes on life with a smile.
To Nupur, learning the English language was a struggle. However, in an engaging English conversation with SocialStory, Nupur inspires us with her efforts.
“I had very low self-esteem and I lived in my own world,” Nupur Tewari says, reminiscing the initial years of her life. “I always thought I was different from everyone else, and always believed that my life was distant from what I was living. I wanted to finish my education as soon as possible so that I could explore the world outside the village.”
In her village, like many others in India, a woman was expected to marry and be a homemaker, but Nupur didn’t give up on her plans. Post Class 10, she moved into the town, and things took a turn.
“Coming from a village, my clothes were traditional, and English was not my cup of tea,” she explains. “While every other girl wore ‘modern’ outfits and had their own conversations, I felt completely out of place.”
Young Nupur in traditional attire.
Nupur recalls the time when she would pretend to be occupied in a cosy corner with a book, just to avoid a conversation as her interests were entirely different. While most girls talked about boys and the latest TV shows, Nupur only had inputs from the Discovery and National Geographic channels.
Throughout her school life, she had never learnt a word in English. She passed Senior Secondary with flying colours, despite these odds.
As soon as she completed her schooling, a rich man tried to force her into marriage. Angered by her constant rejection, he pushed her into a drain, in broad daylight. By a stroke of luck, she was saved by a woman nearby who witnessed the entire scene.
She immediately went to the police station with a friend and reported the traumatic incident. The policemen, influenced by the man, mocked her. Once the Superintendent of Police walked in, he took matters into his own hands and arrested the man, dismissing his empty threats.
“That gave me a sense of confidence, that my voice was heard. I knew my destiny was not limited to this setting,” Nupur recalls.
To keep her safe, her parents sent Nupur to her grandparents’ place, due to which couldn’t take up History as her major. Instead, she took up Tourism and Management in the same college under Calcutta University.
She consecutively topped the class every academic year. In the last three months, she even took up a small teaching job from which she earned a total of Rs 500.
She wanted to pursue her master's from the Indian Institute of Travel and Tourism Management (IITTM), but due to family objections, she left that dream hanging.
“Moving out was not something that women in my village dreamt of, but I knew that if I had to progress, this wasn’t enough,” Nupur affirms. “If I wanted to get somewhere, I knew that the first steps would be outside the village.”
So, as soon as she read about a temporary job at a hospitality company in Kolkata, she packed her bags, and left for the city - only thanks to her mother's permission and blessings. If it wasn't for her, the rest of her story wouldn't exist - she wouldn't have been what she is today.
The ‘Land of the Rising Sun’
“My parents were very traditional, but they left with me with wisdom for life,” Nupur says, her voice breaking. “They taught me life with the best examples, and supported me in my dreams. What can make me stronger than that?”
Her family used to practice the Indian way to heal the body, mind, and soul – dance, music, and yoga. Little did she know that this would play a crucial part in her life.
In 2003, not too long after she landed a job with Mitsubishi, her hard work and perseverance, despite workplace harassment, got her an opportunity in Japan, which completely changed her life.
Japan became Nupur’s second home. The rich and welcoming culture gave her a sense of belonging in the country. Nupur soon became very active in incorporating the Indian culture into the Japanese lives at the International Centre.
Nupur would often organise events to bridge the gap between India and Japan
“I taught them what I knew best – music, dance and, most importantly, yoga. Along with this, I conducted cooking workshops and taught them the Bengali language.”
Nupur’s efforts in representing India in Japan soon earned her the title of ‘Unofficial Ambassador of Japan’.
In 2015, the country encountered the Kumamoto earthquake, devastating a large area in Kyushu. The people were distressed as many lost their homes and livelihood.
“Japan changed my life, and I knew I had to give something back,” she says. “The country didn’t need money, but needed healing, and that was exactly what I could provide.”
Healing sessions in Tokyo
Nupur began free yoga sessions and counselling en masse to help the grief-stricken crowds. Every session had a voluntary donation box into which anyone could contribute, all of which would be directed towards rehabilitation.
HealTokyo and HealIndya
In 2017, with the increasing suicide rates and the overtly anxious atmosphere in Tokyo, Nupur established the HealTokyo movement to help ease the suffering with free yoga and counselling sessions.
In 2018, she extended her efforts into her motherland through ‘HealIndya’, starting with the adoption of a school in Aligarh.
With the funds from HealTokyo, she renovated the school, which is now a place for with brightly coloured walls and happy faces. She provides the students with all the necessary stationery, books, and uniforms.
The students of the school in Aligarh
She does not want children to face the struggles that she had to endure.
Nupur works as a motivational speaker and a counsellor as well. She has conducted many sessions for collegiate students at universities across India and Japan, including her formerly dream college, IITTM.
“I want to empower the youth,” Nupur says. “Even though many people think of financial empowerment, I make it a point to emphasise mental health and give them the confidence to realise their own potential.”
Nupur’s efforts were recognised by the United Nations, which appointed her to help many countries like Sri Lanka and Africa mentally recover from the devastating effect of floods.
The philanthropist has received recognition for her efforts from The Womanity Foundation by SBI, Global MICE, India Star Book of Records, The Nargis Dutt Foundation, among many others.
The COVID-19 healing sessions
To tide over these difficult times, Nupur offers free and paid online sessions for all those who are isolated within their homes. The money that is raised from these sessions will go directly to the PM-CARES fund.
The free sessions will be broadcasted on her Facebook page, while the paid sessions will be conducted through Zoom.
To know more about these sessions, click here.
Plans for the future
“Through HealIndiya, I want to have a space where I can take care of underprivileged children and elderly people,” says Nupur. “From food and lodging, to their empowerment – I want to make sure that these children feel no less than the others.”
Nupur wants to introduce the Japanese way of learning in these schools, the roots of which lie in self-empowerment – from cleaning their rooms to polishing their shoes, training to be self-sufficient.
Another important mission that Nupur looks forward to is starting a healing session for prisoners, with the obvious fact that they must be going through a tough time as well. She has taken efforts through her own contacts, but in vain. She wants to go ahead with the plan on a larger scale.
Nupur is working hard to empower the youth.
Despite the challenges, her optimism has helped her find a way in this world. She tries to find the best in people, and makes them believe in themselves.
“I think I owe it to my struggles as a child,” she adds. “Maybe if I had grown up in luxury, I wouldn’t have stepped out of those comforts.”