Anuja Rajendra doesn’t live in the past, but she honors it. She is proud of being the daughter of immigrants who moved from her birth home in Lansing to India when she was just six months old. She is more than happy to talk about where she is from, growing up in India, graduating from the University of Michigan or starting her own business.
All of those topics are on the table when you sit down with Rajendra. But what she really wants to talk about, what’s really tugging at her heart and soul, and what is altering her future course are the reasons behind her decision to become a candidate for the Michigan Senate.
A loving wife and mother to four young children, a business owner with an already hectic schedule has decided to throw one giant log on the fire and strike a match on a political career.
Now that’s the question Rajendra really wants to answer. That’s what she wants to talk about and her answers are not only intelligent and well thought out but also inspiring and motivating. When she’s done answering, you want to jump out of your seat and drive her to Lansing yourself. The only thing more impressive than her reasons to run is her desire to run – one is fuel, one is fire and it’s tough to decide which is which.
“It’s something I have sensibility for and a responsibility for that I have harbored for as long as I can remember,” she says. “I always wanted to give back in two ways, one being in India where my parents came from and two right here in Washtenaw County where I was fortunate enough to be educated and given a chance to live and prosper and raise my family.”
With two sons already in the house, Rajendra and her husband decided to expand the family and wanted to adopt a child from India – her way of giving back.
“We wanted to adopt one child but were given a referral for two beautiful little girls,” she said. “Two didn’t even cross our minds. But we talked about it as a family and decided if we have space in our hearts and in our home for one we can do it for two. In the world of international adoptions these two girls were considered special needs because most people adopting want just one child and they want a newborn baby.
“We have already seen the difference in a child’s life when they don’t have to worry about whether there is going to be food on the table. And seeing that and being a part of that has made me even more determined to do that for the kids in our community. There are kids in this District who have untapped potential but the odds are stacked against. Even though we don’t always see it on the streets there are families in Michigan and in this District who are struggling to put a healthy meal on the table every day and to pay the electric bill.”
Rajendra believes her upbringing and life experiences offer a unique perspective as a leader in the community. She is founder and CEO of BollyFit, an Ann Arbor-based fitness and dance studio she started after experiencing serious health issues during and after the birth of her son. BollyFit’s mission, designed by Rajendra, combines modern science with proven East Indian techniques through a unique health and happiness index which transcends current activity trackers by combining mental and social health with physical fitness and nutrition.
She says everything changed for her after the recent presidential election.
“I saw the anger, the anxiety and the confusion and our mental health was not in a good state,” she says. “I’m a person of action and sometimes it’s not always what is the best thing for you but what does your community need from you. Our world, our country, our state changed in that moment. I started to think about how I could add value.”
Rajendra said she started to think about the people who would most be effected by this change in leadership at both the national and state level especially the underserved people like the elderly. She put her plans to develop an app for Bollyfit aside and instead turned her attention towards something much bigger, much more powerful and lasting – becoming a state senator.
“I’ve excelled in the corporate sector, the nonprofit sector and entrepreneurial sectors and every time there’s been a challenge, I have risen up to try to take that challenge and help the lives of people around me,” she said. “Issues are interrelated. We have to understand that physical fitness is related to mental health, which is related to how kids can do in school. I want to take a step back and look at things holistically and then look at where we can make the most positive impact.”
Rajendra, a Democrat, is seeking election to the 18th District Senate seat in 2018, a post currently held by fellow Democrat Sen. Rebekah Warren, who is term-limited.