This Dubai Banker Quit His High-Paying Job To Volunteer At Abu Dhabi BAPS Hindu Mandir


(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Mon 26 Feb 2024, 9:18 AM

Last updated: Mon 26 Feb 2024, 11:35 AM

As the Middle East's first traditional Hindu temple took shape in the UAE Capital, Vishal Patel, a Dubai-based investment banker, started volunteering at the BAPS Hindu Mandir. And last year, the 43-year-old family man quit his high-paying job at the Dubai International Financial Centre to serve full-time at the Abu Dhabi temple.

Born and raised in the UK, Vishal has been closely associated with the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha since childhood. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, has been a guiding light in his life. He moved base to Dubai, coinciding with the Sanstha being chosen to construct and administer the Abu Dhabi temple project.

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“Since 2016, my family and I have lived in the UAE. Before this, my career was always my primary focus as I held positions at prominent investment banks and hedge funds. However, in the UAE, supporting this Mandir allowed me to make a meaningful impact on society and engage in endeavours that contribute to the greater good. This opportunity was too significant to pass up,” said Vishal, a former executive director at a leading investment research firm where he worked till last year.

Vishal Patel volunteering during the construction of BAPS Hindu Mandir. Worked at construction site

Vishal has been actively involved with the Mandir since he settled in the UAE. Participating in the construction process, he worked on the building site, from placing protective fences when the land was nothing but sand to heaping concrete. He has also been involved in serving food to guests and visitors. Now, as the chief communications officer in a voluntary capacity for the Mandir, Vishal oversees various responsibilities, including media relations and strategic communications.

Vishal provided a fascinating insight into why thousands of volunteers like him are willing to give up their jobs and dedicate their time and energy to the Sanstha.

“Our spiritual leaders, Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj, have left a lasting impact on young minds and inspired many to devote their time and efforts from all corners of the world,” he told Khaleej Times.

Vishal at the construction site

Vishal emphasised that Mahant Swami Maharaj consistently reminded them of the importance of serving and living by the principles of“samp, suhradbhav, and ekta”, i.e. unity, fraternity, and solidarity.

He recollected how Pramukh Swami Maharaj ensured a playing area during the construction of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, in 1995. Then the spiritual head, overseeing the project, suggested reducing the size of the Haveli cultural centre to accommodate a gym in the complex – a facility that would eventually draw children like Vishal to the temple.

“I used to play football and cricket inside the London Mandir's gym. That's how I began my association with the Mandir. Later, I became involved with volunteering activities, and my understanding of how BAPS served society deepened. This is how the foresight of a spiritual guru like Pramukh Swami Maharaj positively impacted children like me.”

Vishal poses in front of the newly opened BAPS Hindu Mandir. KT Photo: Neeraj Murali Volunteerism helped his career

Vishal, a second-generation Indian expat from Gujarat, was brought up in London. Like many Indian immigrants, his father sought a better life and financial stability in the UK. After graduating with a degree in economics from the University of London, Vishal faced challenges in the job market during the dot-com bust and stock market downturn of 2002. Fortunately, he encountered a breakthrough while volunteering at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London.

Vishal with other volunteers

“I met a senior director at Merrill Lynch who offered invaluable advice on entering the investment banking industry. It was a pivotal moment for me, and I'll always remember that the opportunity arose not because I was actively seeking it but through my dedication to volunteering at the Mandir.”

Subsequently, Vishal and other young volunteers organised a career fair at the London temple to guide students and job seekers.

“It was our method of assisting youngsters who lacked social capital. The Mandir in London has had a profound impact on my life and others associated with it. That's why you see youths dedicating themselves as volunteers in BAPS. The Mandir has provided them with a strong foundation in their lives. And that's precisely what this Abu Dhabi Mandir will provide here. We aspire to serve society so everyone can progress, fostering harmony and unity,” Vishal underlined while praising the UAE leadership for their generosity in supporting the Abu Dhabi temple project.

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