The 22-year-old is a medical student, academic scholar, environmentalist, social entrepreneur, Bharata Natyam dancer, and passionate volunteer.
Aishwarya Roshan plays various roles in her daily life. The 22-year-old is a medical student, academic scholar, environmentalist, social entrepreneur, Bharata Natyam dancer, and passionate volunteer. Aishwarya recently completed her third-year in the Faculty of Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC) studying Immunology, Physiology, and Public Health. In August, she will be commencing medical school at UBC having received early acceptance. She is also a recipient of the Schulich Leader Scholarship, the largest science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) scholarship in Canada.
In addition to her academics, Aishwarya is an active member of the environmental movement and is passionate about finding solutions to marine and land waste. Her initial interest in environmental issues stemmed in 2009, when she saw that an international climate change conference had not made commitments to reduce emissions. “I realized that the ability to foster change was in the hands of my peers and I. I realized that social change would not start from lawmakers, but would have to come from community leadership, collaboration, and inspiration,” says Aishwarya who was recently named as one of the ‘Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 in Canada’. As part of the environmental movement, she has organized several awareness events, community clean-ups and has spearheaded the construction of two fully functioning community gardens in Burnaby.
In 2014, Aishwarya founded Vancouver’s Largest Clothing Swap, an annual event that seeks to reduce the amount of textile waste accumulating in landfills. “Vancouver’s Largest Clothing Swap has been one of my most fruitful endeavors yet. The idea of organizing a clothing swap came to me after learning that 12 million tons of textile waste is generated each year in North America, while 90% of that clothing is perfectly reusable,” shares Aishwarya. Since then, Vancouver’s Largest Clothing Swap has become an annual event, and has diverted over 50,000 garments from the landfill, and attracted and engaged over 600 attendees in education regarding waste management. “The most recent Vancouver’s Largest Clothing Swap, in October 2017, took place at UBC, facilitating a partnership among the various community and collegiate environmental organizations that I am a part of,” adds the young founder.
Beyond her academic prowess and social initiatives, Aishwarya is a professional Bharata Natyam dancer, a form of Indian classical dance. She started learning Bharata Natyam at the age of five and fostered a deep appreciation for the art over the years. “Consequently, I viewed dance not simply as an art nor sport, but a way of life and an entity greater than myself. My interest in this art also grew immensely from the inspiration I drew from renowned dancers, particularly my Guru, Jai Govinda. Witnessing the physical, emotional, and mental mastery of the art by such dancers is a force of motivation I employ to enhance my practice, state of mind, and goals,” she expresses.
Even after completing her Arangetram (graduation) in Bharata Natyam in 2014, she was not ready to end her passion and decided to pursue it as a profession. “There was so much more that I wanted to experience – performing to and influencing a wider audience, developing my own choreography and productions, learning the underlying spiritual themes of dance, and reinforcing my techniques. As well, I also wanted to use Bharata Natyam as a platform to open conversation on social issues and themes,” recalls Aishwarya, further asserting, “As an aspiring professional, I have the opportunity to perform for diverse audiences and positively influence their conception of this art – an idea that appeals greatly to me.”
On July 7, Aishwarya presented her first full-length professional show titled ‘Satya: The Ultimate Reality’ at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. “The term ‘Satya’ in Sanskrit means ‘truth’, and as such, the show consists of items that demonstrate sentiments of truth and reality,” discloses the talented dancer giving a glimpse of the show. Her inspiration behind Satya came about after identifying the duality inherent in spiritual concepts and Hinduism. She elaborates, “While at the surface level, a story may seem to simply tell an event, there exist metaphors within it that provide us with a deeper understanding of human nature, society, and the world. This deeper understanding is the truth, so to speak, that I hope to explore and discover with my interpretations and conception with contemporary Bharata Natyam.”
Last year, Aishwarya co-founded Asta Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing awareness to the Indian classical dance traditions through community engagement in the form of workshops, lecture-demonstrations, academic outreach, performances, and productions. “The term, Asta, in Sanskrit means ‘eight’. This number is significant for our organization because it symbolizes the eight existing Indian Classical dance forms that have originated from various parts of the Indian sub-continent,” explains Aishwarya.
By facilitating open dialogue and artistic collaboration within the growing field of classical Indian dance arts, the non-profit intends to bridge the gap between public exposure and community resources. Asta Alliance’s most recent endeavour was the inaugural show ‘Advaita’. It presented dance forms from various schools and dance companies in Vancouver. Her advice to youth is “to start with a goal, no matter how small or large. Despite any difficulties you may experience along the way, this goal will always lead you back on the course of pioneering positive change!”