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Philanthropy and Faith – Manika Kaur

Manika Kaur is arguably the world’s most famous singer of Sikh devotional music (known as Kirtan). And she donates 100% of her proceeds to her charity Kirtan for Causes, which campaigns for the eradication of poverty in rural Punjab.

Sikhism is a Punjabi (Indian) religion that goes back some 500 years, and as a devotional singer/ songwriter Manika’s goal is to modernize the context and of the old religious texts so that young Sikhs all over the world can connect to and benefit from their messages.

Manika won the 2016 Sikh Award for Sikhs in Entertainment and has amassed over 10,000,000 views on YouTube. Manika’s other passion is her philanthropic work. She tirelessly campaigns for the eradication of poverty in rural Punjab via her work with the organisation Kirtan for Causes. All profits from sales of her albums and live concerts are donated directly to the charity, which supports the education of disadvantaged youth via sponsorship schemes. Manika personally sponsors and educates 200 children.

In 2015 she gave a sold-out concert at London’s prestigious Union Chapel and she has been invited to sing in Gurdwaras around the world. Manika has been featured on the BBC Radio, ABC Australia and more.

We talked about the reality of life in Punjab including farmer suicide and cervical cancer; we talked about what drives her personally and professionally, her difficulty as a misfit child and how that has become a source of strength, how important it is to love and look after oneself. Arranged marriage. Her upcoming book. My favourite line of the interview was “A child gives birth to a mother – and he gave birth to a strong one.”

To find out more about Manika, please visit her website You can find her on Instagram @manika.kaur and Twitter @manikakaur

To make a direct donation to her charity, please visit

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

[00:01] Ladies and gents, I’m thrilled to welcome onto the show the only world famous singer of Sikh devotional music, known as Kirtan. As a singer/songwriter, Manika’s goal is to modernize the context of the 500 year old religious texts so that young Sikhs all over the world can benefit from their messages. Her videos have amassed over 10,000,000 views on YouTube. Manika’s other passion is philanthropy. In fact, 100 percent of proceeds from her music go to her organization “Kirtan for Causes” which campaigns for the eradication of poverty in rural Punjab. Manika personally sponsors and educates 200 children. We talked about the reality of life in Punjab, including farmer suicide and cervical cancer and how that drives her personally and professionally. We discussed her difficulty as a child who didn’t fit in and also as a new mom facing painful medical complications and how those experiences gave her strength and self love. My favorite line of the interview “A child gives birth to a mother – and mine gave birth to a strong one.” So let’s get into it.


[01:15] Manika, I am delighted to have you on When Women Win, so thank you so much for joining.


[01:17] Thank you for having me.


[01:18] Now we’ve known each other for a long time and I’ve seen firsthand what a positive and calming influence you have on people around you. What’s your secret?


[01:28] I meditate. That’s really my secret. If I don’t have that kind of balance within, then I’m not going to be capable of sharing that or passing that.


[01:37] And how often do you meditate?


[01:40] Daily. It’s part of my daily routine prayer. Meditation and I think the other thing that really keeps me balanced and grounded is that a lot of my work is involved with helping other people and that kind of takes the focus off your problems in your life and it minimizes it. Everything just doesn’t seem like much of a big deal when you’re dealing with children in Punjab who can’t afford to go to school, can’t afford healthcare, where so many of them have fathers who have committed suicide, the cervical cancer rates in India are so high, especially in Punjab because there’s no knowledge about how to handle periods and just trying to go there to educate people, educate their kids and let them know that there is a way out and something beyond this, so when you’re kind of dealing with things like that than the everyday problems don’t feel like problems or issues and when people approach me and they have something going on, it’s very easy to kind of just not see it in this as a big deal, but as something that if you look at it in a different viewpoint, it’s very manageable. We’re very blessed. We’re very lucky. We have so much going for us. We have help in this country. We have so many opportunities and we’re wasting our time getting caught up in small issues that we blow out of proportion.


[03:05] Now you wear your faith very proudly and very comfortably.


[03:06] Yeah.


[03:08] You talk openly and unapologetically about the power and the value of prayer. Is that what you mean when you say meditation?


[03:16] Yes, exactly, and I’m of the Sikh faith and actually Sikhism isn’t a religion, it’s a way of life. It’s a path that you choose to walk and it’s kind of the path that’s right for me and for my family and a big emphasis in Sikhism is to sit down and do that kind of daily cleansing and that comes through meditation and prayer because when you sit down and you become quiet, you actually for the first time see yourself. You recognize your thoughts. You even recognize your emotions like you recognize what it is that’s making you angry or upset. The moment you see it and you recognize it, that’s the only time that you can actually do something about it because if you’re blind to it and you’re not aware of your own behavior, your own emotions, then you become a prisoner to it and I’d rather not live like that.


[04:08] And also I suppose once you see it then it no longer has power over you.


[04:13] Yeah. You kind of then recognize how to tackle it.


[04:17] Amazing. Now you were an immigrant to Australia.


[04:18] Born there actually.


[04:22] Oh you were born. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about growing up in Australia. You and your family, you look a little different to most Australians.


[04:26] Yes.


[04:30] So how did that work out? How did, did you fit in? Were there any. Did you feel the need to fit in?


[04:36] Yes. Oh my God. So just like, you know, no one could say my name, my name is Manika, M A N I K A and it would always be changed to Monica because it was simpler. And I think that, for such a long time I would wish that I had a different name and now I absolutely love the fact that my name is different and has a beautiful meaning and defines me as an individual. I think it’s really hard when you’re younger. It’s so, there’s so much pressure to try to fit in and I wish I kind of knew the things I know now back then and I had the confidence then, but I was, I was quite shy because I did look different and I had very long hair which, you know, Sikhs, we don’t cut our hair. So I got made fun of a lot and there was definitely bullying, and you do even experience some bits of prejudice, even from teachers. I don’t complain about it because I think that all these experiences actually made me a lot stronger and I think that I actually probably cope better as an adult because of these experiences versus friends of mine who kind of maybe had it just too easy because maybe the color of their skin meant that they were preferred or privileged and now when there’s a problem they’re having a meltdown or a breakdown and I’m like, I tell my friends, I’m like, dude, you know, because you’re white, you just had it too easy so you can’t cope with anything. If you grew up a brown girl, this would not even be an issue for you. So I can say that to my close friends and they know what I mean.


[06:11] You said if you knew then what you know now, it would’ve been different. So what advice would you give the little you or other little adults, young girls in that situation today?


[06:21] Just to embrace my differences and not try so hard to fit in, you know, and try to be like somebody else just to accept myself. And that’s actually kind of been my journey throughout my life, is learning to accept myself and trust myself. And the more I trust myself, the more confident I am, the more I speak up in all areas of my life, whether it’s in my relationships or in my work and I have a lot more satisfaction, you know, even if I fail, I’m satisfied because I tried it the way that I felt was right and if I succeed, I feel proud of myself because I know what I put into that. I don’t need the world to know; I’m not desperate for credit, but I just feel like I can achieve so much just by genuinely working towards my goals and trusting that kind of guiding voice within myself.


[07:14] So then your advice to young people going through this transition period is don’t try to fit in, embrace who you are.


[07:21] Yeah, you know, embrace your difference. Let your freak flag fly as they say.


[07:29] What is that?


[07:29] Let your freak flag fly.


[07:31] I have not heard that before.


[07:34] Yeah well, you know, it’s actually a beautiful thing because as you grow up the differences that you bring into your relationships and your perspective and your point of view because it’s different, it’s appreciated, it stands out. It’s not something that people have heard. So it’s important to just kind of figure out who you are and love that person.


[07:57] And actually this, this fits in totally with the whole push on diversity in the workplace, in the corporate world, in the business world, because diversity is where you get, where you get different perspectives as where you get value. If everybody thought the same, we would be underperforming.


[08:14] Absolutely.


[08:15] You know, relative to a fully diverse team, whether it’s diversity of gender or age or ethnicity or ability, whatever that is.


[08:23] I mean, I can relate to that. You know, I sing Kirtan and I have kind of a career as Kirtan artist.


[08:32] Could you tell us a bit about Kirtan?


[08:35] I take passages from the Sikh holy scriptures, which is over 500 years old and then I compose music to those passages and I make these spiritual albums, these albums then raise money and raise funds to help me run my foundation in Punjab where I educate impoverished children. Right now I sponsor the education of 200 children and I’ve also started building homes with those living in dire conditions. So that’s what I do. Kirtan is basically the spiritual music, Sikh spiritual music I guess you could say, that is sung as opposed to read or recited, so that’s what Kirtan is yeah. And it’s mainly a very male dominated, male dominated space. Most Kirtan, Kirtanese I guess you could say, are men and they usually are in groups of three. They play the harmonium which is kind of a small organ like instrument and the Tabla, which is like two kind of drums and what I do is very different. I take these ancient passages and this kind of ancient art form and I make it relatable for people today. I have a seven year old son. I have more children on the way and I want them to actually connect to Kirtan.


[09:52] Let’s talk a bit about where Kirtan for Causes has taken you, right? Because you’ve performed at Trafalgar Square and the British houses of Parliament.


[10:02] Yes.


[10:05] How did you make that happen?


[10:06] Actually I got invited and I, I wouldn’t say that I really made it happen in my case, I just have, I feel like because the intention behind my work is genuine and I wake up everyday and I think about my kids in Punjab and I think about my goals for this year. I have a new album coming out in May and my goal for this year is to sponsor another 100 children and take Kirtan for Causes up to 300. I think that that mission in itself, it just, maybe there’s some sort of special power in the universe that just wants to make it possible and make it happen. I really feel like the key intention behind what we do, it starts with that. If that intention is, is good and is pure, there’s something beyond ourselves that just comes to make it happen. So it’s not like I think I want to perform in Trafalgar Square and that’s my goal. I do set goals, don’t get me wrong. For example, with this album, I wanted to be signed by two particular labels, which then happened. One is in San Francisco which is Six Degrees and the other one in the UK, which is Suriya records, they’re both new age labels and they are going to take me on the track that I want to get with this particular album.


[11:27] What track’s that?


[11:28] So if I get signed to a new age album, I can then compete or at least apply for the 2019 Grammys in the new age category and take Kirtan into a much bigger worldwide marketplace I guess you could say. So I do have goals for my music. I have, I have goals for my charity, like adopting other 100 kids, but with a lot of things they just come to me. They just happen. It’s like I just work on what I’m doing and then this opportunity comes and that opportunity comes and I just take it and just keep going with it.


[12:01] Well they say, I mean, what is it? You’ve got to be ready for opportunity. It doesn’t just, you know


[12:08] Hard work. I live a very privileged life, I have to say living in Dubai, but I make a choice. I don’t go for lunches and I don’t go for socials. I don’t really socialize much because I would rather get up, do my meditation, spend four to five hours on my computer, getting things done, whether it’s editing my videos, composing music, working on my blog or my vlog or my book. I’d rather do that and then be there for my child when my child gets home. Then kind of socialize. So I don’t go out much and I know that now is my time. I’m young, I’m healthy, I have a lot of energy. So now is the time. I mean those parties are not going to disappear in 10 years, 15 years or whenever I decide that I want to be at them.


[12:54] So what’s Your business model? If we were to call it, you release albums and then what happens?


[13:00] So with each album that I release, there’s it, it opens up certain doors. My first album I recorded in Dubai, the album cost nothing because everybody who worked on the project actually loved that it was for charity.


[13:15] So 100 percent of proceeds go to charity?


[13:16] 100 percent


[13:16] On all of your work?


[13:21] On all of my work. I feel like I’m privileged. I don’t need more. What do I need to actually earn money for, my husband makes enough to support our family so I don’t need to actually earn money to buy myself more stuff. I would rather use that money to then educate these children in Punjab and kind of work in this, you know, I have a connection to Punjab because I would go there with my parents as a child to visit the Golden Temple and then, it’s an ocean of despair. There’s such, so much poverty and growing up and seeing that, something when I was around 15, 16, there was something inside me that I couldn’t ignore what I was seeing. Maybe it wasn’t that I wasn’t. It wasn’t that I was ignoring it before. It was that I didn’t realize and when the realization came and I would look at myself and think, what is the difference between me at 16 and this 16-year-old girl who’s lost her mother to cancer, whose father is an alcoholic and doesn’t take care of her or her siblings, she has been split up from her family and she has no, no future, no hope. Why does she have that and I have this? So I’m really grateful for the life that I have and everything I have. I think I spend everyday feeling grateful. I mean literally if I go to have a manicure, I sit there thinking, thank you God that I’m the one receiving this manicure. I wake up even with having a hot shower and I feel grateful for that, but I kind of, that’s kind of where it started with this kind of mission to kind of go back into Punjab and try to create a difference. And we are, there have been some incredible positive changes and it’s frustrating in a certain sense because I can’t move faster.


[15:09] I mean, there’s so much to do.


[15:11] Yes, so I try not to get down about those things and just focus on what can I do, what can I do today and I just try to get it that done.


[15:21] And so you stumble across this business plan, which is I can create beautiful music around ancient texts.


[15:29] Yes. Well because my first album raised over a million dirhams and I wasn’t expecting that. I thought if the first album raises 50,000 dirhams, that’s amazing. I’ll donate it. It’s wonderful. And it raised over a million dirhams and that’s when I realized maybe I can do this. Maybe I can keep composing beautiful music to go along with these ancient words and record these beautiful albums to serve this higher purpose. Maybe there’s so many people out there who are willing to support this kind of mission and that’s what I’ve experienced. There are so many people out there who are generous, who are, you know, who care.


[16:09] And how many albums have you released so far?


[16:11] So I’ve actually released two albums. I’ve done a concert in London at the Union Chapel and then other performances, as you said, Trafalgar Square and so on and so forth. I’m releasing my third album this year in May and this is going to be kind of the biggest album and I’m also recording my kids project, my kids album in May as well.


[16:31] Oh Wow.


[16:32] Yeah. Which will come out next year though.


[16:33] Busy year.


[16:33] Yes.


[16:37] Because you’re also working on a book I think.


[16:40] Yes, I’m writing a book. I don’t know what I was thinking.


[16:43] Tell us a bit about this.


[16:49] Well, okay. The book is really holding up a mirror to how society treats women. You know, I come from a conservative Punjabi family and I get a lot of letters from girls who are, who go through similar things. They have arranged marriages as did I, and just kind of the treatment that happens because they’re women, they’re worth less. They’re often uneducated and they’re completely at the mercy of their new husband that they barely know and their in-laws. And so I got a lot of letters, about the kind of abuse that happens and I just thought, you know, enough is enough and I’ve just decided to kind of write a book about love versus duty, about arranged marriages, about how society treats women. And there’s a very strong philosophical and there are all these kind of beautiful Sikh spiritual stories in it. So if you were to read the book, you would understand a lot about Sikhism in a very universal way, but through the eyes of two girls and their stories of getting married and having arranged marriages, how different their circumstances are, but also how they use spirituality to overcome the different challenges that come in front of them


[18:07] And it’ll still be in English?


[18:09] It’s an English, yes. I don’t write in any other language. I mean I can read in other languages but no, it’s in English.


[18:16] Oh wow, I look forward to that. And when are you planning to release that?


[18:20] Well I hope to have a finished copy by July, August. But in terms of release I have probably set some point this year, but that will depend also on the publisher, if I go with a publisher, if I self-publish, so I have a lot of research to do, but when I started the book, it’s not like I thought that I want to have a New York number one best seller, New York Times best seller book or something. I just wanted to write this story that so many women live and how these girls survived these things, but also how this needs to change. Enough is enough. I don’t want my, I mean I don’t have a daughter just yet, maybe I do, maybe I will have one, but I don’t want my daughter to have to live through certain things that I live through or even how I receive all these letters from these girls that she should be subjected to something like that. I intend to raise strong independent children who have a voice and who have that kind of self love and self respect enough to speak up.


[19:28] Yeah, I totally understand. And can we tell the listeners that you’re four months pregnant?


[19:29] Yes.


[19:29] Four months pregnant with twins.


[19:29] With twins yes.


[19:35] Congratulations. That’s exciting. Actually I did have a question I was going to come to, which was you’re also a mom.


[19:40] Yes.


[19:43] And how has becoming a mom shaped you and now that you’re, you’ve got one going on three years?


[19:49] Yes. I don’t know how I’m going to manage three. Actually. Motherhood. I think it was something I was kind of born for in a way, like I’ve always loved children. It’s just a natural thing for me, but what I didn’t expect was that I would go into hospital and have a lot of complications and almost die and spend more than two years trying to get my health and my life back. I didn’t know that I would be on antibiotics for a year and a half and then all the repercussions of that on your gut health and things like that. I kind of had this delusion that I would go into hospital and then I would be walking into the sunset with my baby in my arms.


[20:35] All nice and easy.


[20:35] Yeah all nice and easy. So I didn’t, I didn’t realize actually how difficult it is and I think I actually absolutely, I wouldn’t change a thing, even everything I went through because the learnings that I had from that experience.


[20:50] Okay, Manika, so if I could, I’d like to go into that transformative phase you just described. I know it’s painful, but I think there are learnings here for our listeners.


[20:58] Yeah.


[21:00] So can you talk about that phase and what you learned and actually practical tools that our listeners can employ to get through stuff like that.


[21:09] The biggest mistake I made was I didn’t speak up. I didn’t know what was going on, but I didn’t speak up. I would say quietly I’m in pain or I’m not well, but I felt this pressure that I didn’t have a right to complain


[21:26] This is immediately after the birth of your first child.


[21:28] Yeah, pretty much the next day. The doctor that I delivered with instead of doing kind of an episiotomy where you just cut the muscle. She cut me very deep and very far, but when she stitched it, she didn’t actually stitch to the inside of the wound, just the outside. So then you have this pulling effect. So basically for 14 days I had the stitches ripping up through me, so trying to breastfeed or do anything was impossible and then there was kind of this, these comments that were being said to me and this doctor was accusing me of pretending and faking and saying things like, girls these days don’t know how to handle labor, but the labor was over, you know, this has got nothing to do with labor. And so I was kind of neglected. My husband was a first time father and he had no idea what to do either. He was just confused the whole time, like, what’s going on.


[22:25] Why is she in so much pain?


[22:27] Exactly. And I was given stuff like I was given medication and painkillers, but even the painkillers wouldn’t numb this pain because it was a constant, nonstop kind of pain. And I just tried to hold it in and just think, okay, I’m going to be better. It’s gonna heal. I’m taking medicine and I’m going to get well, when what I should have done is I should have stood up and I should’ve demanded to be seen by another doctor. I should have taken care of myself instead of expect to be taken care of and that was a mistake I made. I think what my son really taught me was to have love for myself. I’ve always lacked that my whole life. If I kind of look back at my life growing up, I’ve always attracted bullies and there was a lesson for me to learn in each of those instances, which I never really learned and it was pretty much almost dying that got me to realize that I’m going to be there for me. I’ve got to take care of myself. Only then can I take care of my son, be there for my family or do anything else instead of. And it’s kind of funny because when you grow up an Indian woman or girl, you’re told that you’re going to have an arranged marriage and then basically your husband’s going to take care of you. You’re going to have duties and your in-laws house and so on and so forth. So you, you’re kind of brought up in this gentle flower, you know, you should be a gentle flower sort of way. Yeah, that almost got me killed. This flower almost died, you know. So I changed after that. I started, I didn’t lose my gentleness.


[24:09] But you found your strength within to stand up when you need to.


[24:12] Yeah, just, just to say I’m sorry that’s not okay with me. You can’t talk to me like that or treat me like that. That’s not fair or that’s not kind or just to say, you know, that I’m not feeling well today and I need to be at home taking care of myself instead of running a thousand errands for everybody else. Just kind of realizing that I need to have some self-respect.


[24:34] And I matter too. I matter too.


[24:40] Yes. I think I was, before my son, I would say I was spineless. I would describe myself completely weak and spineless and a people-pleaser, desperate to be loved and accepted and you know, a child gives birth to a mother and he gave birth to a strong one.


[24:59] Okay. I’m going to shift gears back a little bit, back towards performing because a few episodes ago I interviewed a spoken word poet called Afra Atiq. And she talked about what goes through her head before a performance, and I asked about strategies, you know, she uses to get herself in the flow, in the space. Now you perform very special music, very, you know, niche music in very public international platform, so where people are not familiar. So how do you feel before a performance?


[25:34] So first of all, usually I’m very nervous.


[25:38] Well that’s a relief.


[25:42] Yeah very nervous and usually kind of a little bit shaky. But then I, I breathe. I mean we just forget to breathe and I just breathe and I remind myself why I’m doing this, what is my mission, what is my purpose? And then I remind myself, what am I really singing for?


[26:00] So what’s a little spooky here is that I’ve only just released the episode with Afra Atiq today and I know you haven’t listened to it. And so when I asked her what she does before a performance as a spoken word poet, her two things where I breathe and I remind myself why I’m doing it.


[26:17] Yeah exactly.


[26:20] And I’m just right now I’m just in shock.


[26:21] We all are.


[26:23] That’s incredible. You know, you do Sikh Keratin and she’s Emirati spoken word poet you’ve never met and here you are offering the same advice. Breathe and remember why you’re doing it.


[26:35] I remember being afraid to speak up in class when I was younger, just to even speak up because what will people think or will people judge. What a waste of time, you know. I would never even sing at school half of my friends are like you sing, oh my God, how come you never sang in school? Why didn’t you try out for this part or that part? Because I was so shy and so afraid I was going to be judged. What a waste of time, I could have been developing my skills and, and I could be a better performer had I not wasted all that time worrying so much about what people would think or say.


[27:10] But as you say, it’s those experiences that brought you here.


[27:12] Yeah, absolutely.


[27:16] So let’s go back to Kirtan for Causes for a second. How can somebody, a regular Jane Doe like myself, get involved and support your charity work?


[27:24] Well, I’ve just become a registered charity in the UK, so there will be a link on my website or takes you the same place and you will be able to make donation. Otherwise, I also built a website with a group that runs many schools in Punjab where all our kids are going called


[27:49] We’ll put this in the show notes.


[27:50] Yeah. You can go there and sponsor a child’s education. And I’ve witnessed personally witnessed how education can transform a child’s life right now. We actually have one of our kids, Nishan Gill, who we educated in Punjab. He’s actually in Dubai. He has a job and he can support his family and he’s the first person in his family to be educated and he no longer needs our help. We’re there for him morally and if he ever needs our help, we’re there because he’s been one of our kids from the beginning, but it’s just incredible that he’s here in Dubai and he’s left, one of the only kids to leave his village and have this job in this big city and be supporting his own family.


[28:38] Amazing. And when you say you educate them, from what age to what age?


[28:49] From four, they can start, they have to sit an entrance exam. If they pass the basic entrance exam, they start from four years and up all the way. And we also put our children through university.


[28:50] Oh Wow. Okay. So from 4 to 21.


[28:55] Yes. I mean we have like, one, one of our girls, Gurpreet, she’s probably one of our biggest success stories, especially as a girl, as a female. She’s the first girl to go to university in her entire village and she’s actually now in Chandigarh, which is a major metropolitan city in India. She’s, we helped her get into journalism school, although she started with engineering. She’s 25 now. But she wanted, she was an incredible writer, so I encouraged her and we sponsored her education in Chandigarh University of Journalism. And now she’s working at the tribune in Chandigarh. She’s got a proper job. She’s supporting herself and she’s just, she’s going to go places this girl.


[29:43] And how many girls and boys do you have in this 200 children that you sponsor?


[29:51] I would say we have more girls than boys. I can’t be a 100 percent sure in terms of numbers, but one of the reasons why we have more girls and boys is because when we go to, when, when there’s a family that needs help, they usually will educate their son but not their daughter. So we’ll go and say to them, look, you’re educating your son, you’ve got two daughters, let us put them into school. And then every year I go to Punjab and I hold this event called Kirtan for Causes where we bring all our kids and their parents into one ballroom in a hotel, in a five star hotel so that they can see what they can work towards, what they can have, what they can achieve, and we’ll, we’ll have a beautiful event with lots of food and ice-cream and just kind of spoil our kids. And then we’ll talk to our kids and their parents and will remind their parents that don’t get your girls married too young. Let them get an education, let them become independent, let them get a job. And parents can actually understand this because so many of these parents are so poor, the women are at home and they’re not educated and


[30:57] And they can’t earn


[31:00] And they can earn money. A lot of them, the husbands have committed suicide, farmer suicide is, is a very, it’s an epidemic in Punjab, and not just in Punjab, in a lot in India, but yes, it’s a very big issue in Punjab. And so we have all these families where there’s no dad, you know, so we really need to empower the girls because here is the mother who is uneducated. She’s not capable of providing for her family. She has to deal with what it means to be a widow in India, you know, and, and, and in this world, how is she going to survive? So we have programs where we’re sponsoring entire families where we’re giving a basically a salary to the, to the mother to make ends meet while we educate our kids. And then soon enough the kids are earning and then supporting their own mother. And so it’s full-cycle education. You can save a generation through education.


[32:05] Right, some rapid fire questions to close, okay.


[32:10] Alright.


[32:10] What is a book you’ve recently gifted someone?


[32:19] I gifted someone Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I actually haven’t finished reading the book. I’m halfway through it, but I think that this book is a book everyone should read.


[32:25] I agree with you 100 percent.


[32:26] Yeah. We have these perceptions about how people should be or how society should be and he just shatters that. And you find this kind of understanding, acceptance inside of yourself when you read this book.


[32:43] Yep. Do you have a morning, well actually I’m not going to ask you that because we already talked about your morning routine, but if you could have coffee with one person from history, who would it be?


[32:51] Guru Nanak.


[32:55] Oh of course. Okay. So I’m going to say it can’t be a girl.


[33:00] Well, he was, he was a born in a Hindu family, and he was totally a human and, but he was just an enlightened being as a child and he came into this society of India where women were very poorly treated, where there was a caste system where members of society we’re, we’re considered untouchables, and they lived literally in the shadows or outskirts. They were consider dirtier than dogs. And so they couldn’t have, they couldn’t come into society and have normal jobs, so even live normal lives. And he came out and he said, men and women are equal. There is no one higher or lower. All beings I loved by the same one creator. And that same one light is in all creation. So how can there be good and bad? And for me, that’s just, to say that in India 500 years ago, I mean, Parts of the world still struggle with equality between men and women. And that was just revolutionary. And yes, he became Guru Nanak, he, he, he became the founder of Sikhism. But there was a journey, you know, before he came up with these teachings, before he became a Guru. So other than him. Oh my God.


[34:16] Yeah, because no, I mean I get what you’re saying though. I mean he was, he was a man, but a very special, very ballsy man


[34:21] Yeah enlightened soul


[34:28] Spot the spiritual one here. What advice would you give your 18 year old self?


[34:30] Little, little, you know.


[34:30] have some fun?


[34:34] Have some fun. Oh my God. I’ve just always been too much of a goody goody, you know, always tried to please everybody. And so I ended up finding out a lot of things about myself later in life. But I’m very lucky to have that support at home with my husband who is just like, go for it, you know? And so I just love I, I’m very privileged to be, to be his wife.


[35:01] Actually. I really want to labor this point a bit because truly and I always say the man you marry is the biggest career decision you make.


[35:11] Yeah


[35:13] You can, you can imagine a situation where you came into a marriage, you know, arranged marriage where your chosen husband would not have supported your thriving musical career.


[35:24] Yeah.


[35:28] I mean, this is, for him to really, he’s really supported you in every way.


[35:28] Every way.


[35:30] I mean not just financially, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, just really given you wings to watch you fly here.


[35:37] I’d always tell him that. I always tell them you gave me wings, you know. I grew up so conservative. My Dad was like, basically, no, you can’t do anything. Pretty much. I mean, it wasn’t that bad, but he was strict and when I met Harjeev and I was arranged to him, my Dad would be like, ask him, you know, you want to go and record this. Ask Him. And he’d be like, yeah, go for it. And I, and I’d tell my dad and my dad would be like, really? And I was like yes. So yeah, I mean the person, I know I had an arranged marriage, but maybe maybe the universe knew what I really wanted and what my purpose is on this earth and so just God or whatever it is out there that people believe in, just joined me to the right person to help us get where we’re supposed to get. And both of us have very similar goals in this way, especially both of us have a very strong emphasis on charity work in our home and save up basically, which is a big concept in Sikhism, which is selfless service. So it’s a very big part of our life. For him at work out, he does a lot of charity work himself, so it’s just wonderful I’m with the right person.


[36:53] Yeah.


[36:53] To end up arranged to your soulmate oh my God, you know.


[36:57] That’s pretty extraordinary. Well, you know what, I’m going to end it right there. Thank you so much, Manika. This has been a delight.


[37:02] Really, this was fun.


[37:06] And oh well, how can listeners find you?


[37:17] Ah, okay. So I’m on Instagram, @Manika.Kaur and if you just google Manika Kaur, I’m on facebook, I’m on Youtube, I have a channel, I’m on twitter, I have a website so you can find out about my work, my projects, my music.


[37:28] and hopefully, as support as well through the websites that you kind of gave us, which we’ll also list.


[37:33] Yeah. Well, when you, when you download a track or you buy my album, you’re automatically supporting my cause.


[37:39] Because a 100 percent of proceeds go to charity.


[37:40] Absolutely.


[37:41] Well, congratulations and, you know, best of luck with your journey and your mission.


[37:46] Thank you. Thank you.


[37:49] I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. You can check out show notes and more episodes at or search: When Women Win on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’d also love to hear your feedback and ideas for who I should bring on the show. You can find me on instagram @RanaNawas. Thanks and have a great day!



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