Breaking barriers


May 1, 2020

In her new book, Nesha Pai shares stories about growing up in the South and finding her identity as a first-generation American.

 by Vanessa Infanzon

For local entrepreneur Nesha Pai, writing down the details of her journey to adulthood healed her childhood wounds, giving her the tools to visualize a path to building confidence and identity. Her first book, Overcoming Ordinary Obstacles, a guide for personal growth and success, was released at the end of 2019. Pai believes readers of various backgrounds will relate to her story and the struggles she faced, including self-identity while growing up between two very opposite cultures. 

Pai was born in Raleigh, the daughter of Indian immigrants. She graduated from N.C. State University in 1993 and moved to Charlotte that same year. She opened Pai CPA, a certified public accounting firm, in 2011. Pai and her staff — she often hires stay-at-home moms who work virtually — provide accounting services for small businesses. 

Comments have been edited for brevity.

Nesha Pai | photograph by Richard Israel

What was your purpose in writing the book? 

To help and inspire others. I feel that a book made sense to capture a wider net of people that could somehow relate to what I went through. I always felt alone, and this created a way for me to heal through my own past and find others that felt the same. I shared [my own struggles and obstacles] through the viewpoint of a first-generation Indian woman born, raised in the South, but the “ordinary obstacles” I talk about should relate to so many human beings. 

We live in a fast-paced superficial world, and in today’s climate, we need more authenticity and vulnerability — we connect through the deepest parts of others through our authenticity and vulnerability. It is through these crossroads that we have the opportunity to change the trajectory of our lives. I wanted to share my own journey in order to show others who may feel stuck.

Who do you hope reads the book? 

My intended audience was women, however, I have found a major surprise since my launch. Men are reading my book and reflecting on their own lives. Each chapter has a set of reflection questions that the reader can go through to analyze their own journey. It was not intended for self-help as much as it is for educating people on a different culture and generation — but also for readers to deepen their own sense of purpose for themselves. 

What’s the significance of the lion on the cover? 

The lion represents courage, heart and strength. It takes those things to overcome an obstacle that comes our way. It also reflects both cultures that represent me. In the Indian culture, it represents the vehicle of Durga, who is the goddess of war — battling evil, in essence good over evil. In Christianity (which I have recently adopted), the lion is referenced throughout the Bible.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about writing a book? 

Just do a brain dump — don’t worry about perfection in the beginning. 

Overcoming Ordinary Obstacles can be purchased on

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