Before I became an international investor, I intended to become a doctor. While I was premed at Stanford in the late 1990s, I decided to field‐test my dream of serving the impoverished. I told my father that I was going to India—the same place he had escaped after fleeing the massacres during the Partition and growing up in a refugee camp without running water.
“Asha,” he lamented, “you cannot imagine what you will see. The poor are poorer than you think.”
Emboldened by my passion, I went, nonetheless. In Lucknow, a huge city in northern India, in one of the country's poorest states (Uttar Pradesh), I felt perceived as a renegade. In some ways, the city was a modern metropolis, but it was still governed by a very conservative culture. Women in pastel‐ and jewel‐toned saris looked disapprovingly at my jeans and uncovered arms, taking rickshaws by myself with no male chaperone.
“Iske lardke pagal hai,” they would mutter. I worked out with my limited Hindi vocabulary what that meant: “She's a crazy girl.” Men and young boys would unflinchingly ogle me as they sat beside me. I would just look away.
I was staying with a host family, and it was my intention to follow the father to his job at the hospital and shadow his work. By Indian standards, the hospital was a modern facility. The hospital administration was proud that they offered procedures as advanced as kidney transplants. But I wasn't in Palo Alto anymore. What I saw were chipped instruments, ...