Amika Kushwaha is a Kathak Dancer, Harmonium Artist & Founder-Director of Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance
What does being a woman mean to you?
Being a woman is wonderful. It is difficult to define the world ‘woman’ besides the obvious physical characteristics. Words like compassion, strength, independence, humility, grace, individuality all come to mind, which can be applied to anyone regardless of gender.
What has been your biggest achievement, personally & professionally, as a woman?
I am proud that as a Canadian woman of South Asian roots I am able to pursue and manage two careers; Kathak dancer and engineer. Pursuing Kathak dance was heavily influenced by my mother’s initiatives and becoming a professional engineer was heavily influenced by my father’s initiatives. Managing the two careers of dance/music and engineering has its own challenges but thanks to my ability of self-reflection I have been able to progress in both of these two seemingly opposing careers. I strive to address situations with an un-biased approach, and improve on my own unconscious biases and the biases of others when possible.
Tell me about a milestone that defines your journey.
Growing up in a gender fair household played a significant role in my life. As a first generation Canadian to parents that immigrated from India over 50 years ago, I am thankful to have been raised trilingual (English, French and Hindi), with a strong connection to my Indian roots through language, food, Indian classical music and dance. In my late 20’s I took a significant decision that helped shape my path to where I am now. Having met my now husband, Cassius Khan, has been a milestone in supporting my musical and dance abilities in more ways that I can name. Thanks to his influence, I have become a stronger person and have found my voice in some difficult situations, something that comes more naturally to him than it does to me. Together, starting the Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Dance and Music in 2012 is a definite milestone musically and in terms of a new level of collaboration with my husband.
What projects are you working on in 2020?
On May 24, I’ll be presenting Kathak at Massey Theatre’s Global Tea room with Cassius Khan. We’re also working towards the production of the 9th Annual Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance on September 26 at the Massey Theatre.
What or who inspires you to do better each day?
Each day brings its own challenges and I keep thinking “One thing at a time” and “Progress not Perfection” to avoid being overwhelmed.
What's your advice for women who wish to follow your path?
My advice would be to tackle one thing at a time, stay humble and be a good human being, and always be open to learning something new. I recall a saying “Don’t compare your inside with anyone else’s outside,” which is even more significant in the world of social media. Everyone has been dealt a different set of cards in life, so play your best and be thankful for what you have been given.
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