I’m a driven and ambitious researcher and soon-to-be entrepreneur who still dances. Freestyling is my thing and Hip-Hop/Urban are my favorites. I work on next-generation wearable devices enabled by nanotechnology to better health monitoring.
Dancing was never something I thought I’d be so involved in and so passionate about. I sucked at dancing during my childhood. It wasn’t until senior year of high school that I got into dancing.
I owe it to my mom for encouraging me to dance at my cousin’s wedding. I mustered something up after getting inspired from a contestant who was really good at popping on a popular dance-reality show on a South Asian channel (Dance India Dance). People loved it for some reason, and that was definitely encouraging. I went on and became really passionate at it, practicing for hours in front of a mirror with an old Dell computer speaker.
Dance was my way of forgetting about all the struggles of life and living in the moment. It was a sort of meditation for the mind. I didn’t have the money growing up to take dance classes, so YouTube became my library of dance. I would watch videos on jerking, tutting, and waving for hours and attempt to replicate the same moves. It was amazing to see so many helpful videos on this art.
For college, I was able to gain enough scholarships to pay my undergrad with minimal takeout of loans. When I came to The University of Texas-Austin to study physics in 2010, I joined a Bollywood-Fusion team (a fusion team that does styles varying from Bollywood, hip-hop, bhangra, raas, contemporary, etc). As much as dance was a personal thing, it was also a social thing. The friends I made were one of the biggest reasons I stayed on the team after my first year.
The national dance circuit was another big reason. The desi dance community was growing, and it was all run by college students, which was amazing to see and be a part of (the South Asian dance community is very big and spans all of North America). Going to national competitions is pretty much the driver for this community. There are mixers on the Friday before the competition, and the show is on the Saturday - hospitality is held at a high standard and it’s all run by college students.
In my freshman year, we placed 2nd at our first national competition that season and it felt great running up to the trophy and hearing our name. Winning is great and all, but that wasn’t really the pinnacle of our experience - it was the fact that we all had worked so hard for one 8 minute performance and had a ton of fun leading up to it and after it. My second year we decided to try for an online dance competition and that took more than 40 hours of filming a week to get done. We ended up placing 2nd for that, and went to another national competition.
The following year was more of a breakthrough year, as we began getting into more national competitions - we got into all the competitions we applied for and ended up placing at 2 out of the 3. That year was transformational for me, as I began to implement more of my choreography concepts into the routine. I attempted to combine Bollywood with urban new-style choreography to create my rendition of “urban Bollywood”. It was something that was picking up in the Bollywood industry and was more of my strength.
The following year I decided to serve as a Co-Captain and implemented my full vision of urban-Bollywood with a lot more new-style hip-hop and urban concepts tied with Bollywood songs. This routine was something I poured my life and soul into. I was able to lead my team, along with my amazing co-captain at the time (Priya Thomas), to World of Dance-Dallas 2014 (Upper-Division) as only the second Bollywood-Fusion team in the world at the time. For me it was an amazing feeling getting admitted and finally being able to have the chance to perform on a stage that inspired me so much throughout the years. World of Dance stood as an event that inspired dancers across the world to dream of creating their own art. It was an amazing moment for my team and I to perform and get such a great reception to our routine.
After I graduated with a B.S. in physics (concentration in radiation physics and nuclear engineering) and a minor in philosophy of physics, I went off to graduate school at North Carolina State University to study nuclear engineering. I spent a year in NE but quickly found out that it wasn’t the right fit for my interests and skills, so recently I switched to a PhD in textiles engineering to work on next-generation, nanotechnology enabled wearable devices for health monitoring. I’m also very entrepreneurial minded, so I plan on launching a start-up someday. Recently I started an organization with a friend to connect all the resources available in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area (aka Research Triangle) for graduate students to inspire a more innovative mindset.
After graduating, I had a chance to be on the North American version of the same dance-reality show that inspired me to dance. I made it to the top 10 contestants and was blessed to have the chance to be on TV. It was a surreal experience and came at a difficult time in my life as a positive highlight. Thereafter, I joined an alumni dance team called Aluminati, made up of graduate students in medicine, law, science, and engineering and successful working professionals. We are a humble, talented, smart, and hilarious mix of dancers who still try to keep up with the dance life. Our biggest performance is performing as the exhibition act at Bollywood America. We will also be competing at a certain urban dance competition ;)
However, getting to where I am now was not at all easy. Hard work was what I lived by and over my undergrad career I worked 12 hours every single day studying, practiced dancing for up to 6 hours a day at times with the team, and only slept for 4 - 5 hours a day. Studying physics was one of the most challenging things to take on while dancing, and yes I did fail exams and yes, at times things got depressing (in physics it’s not the failing grade that matters - it’s the scores relative to everyone else). I had to sometimes sacrifice my social life but in the end, I did something I loved and saw a vision become reality with people I loved.