As Madan Kulkarni pursued his professional dreams, he and his wife, Shebani, found themselves at the center of an unimaginable nightmare.
Their only child, Meghna, who had joined them to bring their business vision to life, died suddenly.
“It’s very emotional for us,” Kulkarni said, looking at a table where he and his 29-year-old daughter enjoyed what turned out to be their last pizza together in February. “For the first few months we were just about existing, not living. My wife and I asked why, what’s the point?
Nine months later, emotions are still running high, but now Kulkarni plans to keep the memories of his vibrant daughter alive as he prepares to open the doors to The Matrix Club in Naperville next month.
“(Meghna) was never the CEO’s daughter; she was one of the (employees),” he said. “She breathes life into this, making her presence felt. I intend to keep her alive through this mission.
“As a dad, I picked her up from birth. I changed her nappies. We’ve always vacationed together as a family. It’s a new normal for us. She left a lot of things that we’re about. we have to act. We feel that she is even more with us now.
The Kulkarnis started a charity in their daughter’s name, Mission Meghna. They aim to work with local and international charities to support underserved children, young adults and women.
“I’m open to all forms of music and so is my daughter,” he said. “She was a great companion. We wanted to open (The Matrix Club) with a global fashion show; she had so many ideas. Her dream was to put on a talent show here for the community with people aged 2 at 92. We will certainly do so in the future, making his vision and his dream a reality.
Family has always been very important to the entrepreneur, who first came to the United States as an exchange student in 1984. He took part in a summer internship before returning three years later to work in marketing and editing the India Tribune in Chicago.
“All of our shows will be family-friendly,” he said of planned entertainment for the Route 59 business, which will be a restaurant, convention, banquet and performance venue when complete. “They will also include an educational component. I call it edutainment.
Two components of the 15,860-square-foot project will open in December: an upscale restaurant that will include Meg’s Lounge and the Dhrishti Center, a 250-seat theater named after the family’s founding in India.
Dhrishti is a yogic term which means persistent vision. The foundation trains underprivileged students in Indian classical music, dance and wellness, with the aim of bridging the gap between potential and performance.
“We believe every individual has their own talent, and we want to uncover it and give it a platform,” Kulkarni said. “Music is important because it’s a common language that doesn’t require passports or visas and crosses borders. It unites people with a common rhythm like a heartbeat.
Kulkarni insists it is a misconception that some people assume the Matrix Club will only be a venue for large Indian weddings, even though it will also host them.
“It’s a platform for global cultures, for everyone who has settled here,” he said. “America is a melting pot. It’s a place for everyone. We already have six balls booked as well as corporate events and concerts.
“We have several stages and we will be doing our own shows as well as renting out to other promoters. We hope to organize events in Greece, Mongolia, Poland, Latin America, South Asia and Europe. It will be truly representative of our international community.
Kulkarni is very pleased with the way the club has been received by the city of Naperville, he said.
“When we first met their representatives, they were very enthusiastic, but also curious to know how we were going to succeed. This has been my dream for 15 to 20 years. I have always felt in my life that this is music, art and sport that bring people together,” said the lifelong cricketer.
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“When you’re connected through music, art, or sport, those ties are long-standing and unaltered. Today, everyone is trying to outdo themselves and enjoy it. There’s a lot to say about these obligations that stand the test of time. Music unites us, heals us and excites us and when we want to silence it, it does not complain. It is our most faithful companion.
Despite Kulkarni’s obvious passion for his project, he had to be persuaded to participate in this interview.
“I prefer to stay behind the scenes,” he said. “Others here can do justice to being in the spotlight. If you step on stage, you have to accept both the bouquets and the bricks and you have to be confident enough to accept both. Who am I? I am a vegetarian who does not drink alcohol so I have experts to handle this.
He strongly believes, however, that you take back from the universe what you put into it.
“I believe if you send out positive vibes, they will come back to you,” he said. “It’s about helping others, not just the business stuff.”
Hilary Decent is a freelance journalist who moved from England to Naperville in 2007.