Dr. Jasvant Modi is a retired gastroenterologist and philanthropist in Los Angeles. He was born in India and moved to the United States in 1975, after completing his medical studies in Ahmedabad, located in western India, in the state of Gujarat.
Jasvant Modi is a practitioner of Jainism, an ancient Indian religion which counts among its central tenets nonviolence and respect for all living creatures. Last month, along with his wife of over 40 years Dr. Meera Modi by his side, Jasvant Modi pledged $1 million to fund an endowed scholar of Jain studies at Cerritos College, a community college in Norwalk, California.
Giving back and remembering where he came from has always been a part of Dr. Jasvant Modi’s life. Since 1983, when he started a private medical practice in Los Angeles, to over a decade successfully managing a long-term care facility and helping those with very serious health issues, a commitment to service to others and his community has been central to Modi’s identity.
I had a chance to speak to his son, Dr. Rusha Jasvant Modi, who is a well-respected doctor in Los Angeles.
But today, Rusha didn’t want to speak about himself. He wanted to talk about his father, Dr. Jasvant Modi.
“My dad and I took a trip to visit a medical missionary camp in India he help start with a close colleague of mine. I remember my Dad telling me that people were waiting for weeks in the hot sun until the Western doctors could come. We both were shook by this fact. For me, it was the raw novelty of this knowledge that was truly an inflection point in my life. For my dad, it was a reminder that things hadn’t changed all that much since he had grown up in India in the 1950’s. Half a century later, and large parts of the country were still in abject poverty.”
“I’ve talked to my dad at length about the journey he took, geographical and emotional, from India to America. He would be the first to tell you he worked hard ‘as hell’ (as he’d sometimes like to say) to get here and be successful.
However, on more than a few occasions, he’s been struck by the incredible luck and good fortune he’s had on the way. I think that’s why he emphasizes personal responsibility and work ethic so much. It’s also why social justice plays such an important role in his life.”
“My father has a liberal spirit, but a conservative mind. He knows that he drew the lucky card at a few key moments and he just ran with the opportunity.”
“I remember Dad being just touched with the people around him – both the medical volunteers and the patients. For such a sad place filled with a lot of suffering, he smiled a lot – usually in the evenings talking with the kitchen staff and he sat around and ate locally prepared food in a makeshift cafeteria. We both laughed as we enjoyed one too many Indian milk desserts after dinner. He showed me the camaraderie that exists in collaborative service.”
“On the plane ride back to Los Angeles my Dad wasn’t reading his usual stack of newspapers and magazine articles. That’s one of his tells that something’s really affected him. I never did ask him what he was pondering all those hours when he was above the world with me. I think he felt humble to have helped, but also grateful to have escaped.”
I had a moment to ask Dr. Jasvant Modi to look back on his journey from India to America and what stood out most for him over the past 45 years.
“My wife and I are first generation immigrants and we faced many challenges, financial, professional, personal, but we combined hard work with great dreams and I think that is what has made us successful.”
“Success does not necessarily bring happiness. Happiness comes from faith, inner blissfulness and helping others,” Modi said, his eyes shining bright, and smiling wide with contentment.