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Chanda Zaveri, Indian Girl Who Fled Arranged Marriage, Becomes Millionaire Entrepreneur

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CHANDA ZAVERI
Courtesy of Chanda Zaveri
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An Indian girl who took a blind leap to escape an arranged marriage has returned home a millionaire.

In 1984, Chanda Zaveri met a couple on Park Street in Calcutta who offered her a different fate from "most Marwari girls" of her age, according to India's Telegraph newspaper. If Zaveri found herself in Boston, they said, she would have their help.

"I had no money, just a pair of diamond earrings," said Zaveri, whose parents had arranged her marriage. "I sold it, got myself tickets on British Airways and landed in Boston."

There, she took various jobs as a maid for elderly homeowners. One employer was impressed enough to give Zaveri a huge gift: $30,000 to go to Harvard, where she completed the two units necessary to pursue a master’s degree.

Next, she headed to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to begin biochemistry research under visiting professor Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist.

She dreamed of working in his lab, but the professor didn't have much available.

"I will clean the petri dishes," she told Pauling. "I would just be happy to be around you."

Right away, Pauling noted Zaveri's keen sense of observation and put her to work developing peptides, the Telegraph reported. The first one she made, which improves collagen in the skin, became an instant best-seller.

Today, Los Angeles-based skin care company Actiogen, which she founded, its website states, anticipates a $100 million turnover from their latest product. Some of the profit will fund continued research.

"Money she makes from the sale of her products goes to her true passion: curing cancer, healing wounds and sequencing the proteins in the human body," reads her biography on SkinHealix.com.

In particular, Zaveri's innovations can treat gunshot wounds and second-degree burns, among other skin issues, according to SkinHealix.

"I used to dream about receiving the Nobel Prize because it meant I had helped the world," Zaveri says in the biography.

Every year, Zaveri, who is now 56, returns to her hometown.

"I am happy to see more .. girls pursuing higher studies, but the priority of finding a good groom still remains," she told the Telegraph. "I hope for a day in India when people, irrespective of their status and gender, will treat each other as equal."

"If you want something and you don’t have ifs or buts, you will get it," she added. "No matter what."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Zaveri's current age. She is 56, according to brother Mohit Bhualka. This post has also been updated throughout with additional information and sourcing.

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