Priya Kumar Varunesh, did this name ring a bell? Yes, we are talking about the super talkative and immensely talented Dance India Dance, Season 5’s finalist! We all adored this chirping lass in the show but only some of us know about the struggle and constant mental chatter which went through her mind when she decided to quit a comfortable job and take the road less travelled. Read on to know your favourite dancer a bit better!
Priya Kumar Varunesh
“Where it all started: I am a professional dancer / choreographer now. Previously, was working with an analytics firm. I was very good in Math and Physics and I come from a family of engineers, with my dad as an IIT Kanpur alumni, so IIT obviously seemed like the biggest deal one should strive to achieve in life and also the pressure to crack IIT was immense! I ended up doing my engineering from NIT Bhopal with a spinal thought that that is what a person is supposed to do in life. I have always been dancing since childhood. I still remember when I was 3, Madhuri Dixit’s “Ek Do Teen” would come on TV and I would automatically start dancing along. I started training in Bharanatyam from an early age of just 5. I clearly remember I would pick steps up just by watching the dance two-three times. It was just that dancing as a career seemed too good to be true. As a matter of fact whenever I heard that people were full time professional dancers I would presume that their parents fund them and they just dance. I was THAT naive. It was in college where I guess I found my true calling. A couple of friends and I started this cultural society in our college called ‘Roobaroo’ and I found unmatched joy in dancing and event management. That is when I felt that this is where I truly belong. It was time for campus placements and I knew I wanted to take a job somewhere either in Bangalore or Chennai so that I could continue my Bharatanatyam classes. Eight months into my job I got out knowing what I wanted to do with my life. So you could say deep down I always knew I loved dancing. But to make it a career came only later in life.
The day things changed: There would be days where I would sit in my office feeling unwanted. My job was not all that bad to be honest, but then I knew there was something where I was not fitting the jigsaw. I would talk to the other employees who joined with me and they would tell me how their biggest priority was to get promoted the next year, or to get a salary hike. And my priority would be to wait for some cultural activity to happen at work so that I could be myself again. I was always aware of being a little different from the rest. I saw a lot of joy in things that other people there could not see. I think the decision of quitting my job just came all of a sudden. I still remember that I managed to get out of my workplace before sunset so when I came out I actually saw what an evening looked like. I came back home, made a hot cup of ginger tea and wrote in my journal. I don’t know what it was about that day, maybe it was just seeing the sun, but I wrote one line in my journal that said “When I am 70 and maybe writing this same journal, I don’t want to look back thinking how scared I was to take a risk, a risk of something that might just be my path to getting joy in life”. And that was it. I just quit. Now the next step was funnier since I had absolutely no idea about how the dancing field worked. Initially I decided I would just train for a year and then see where life takes me. But teaching dance just came about like a coincidence. In the field of dancing, I learnt that dancing improves so much when you start teaching. You get more clarity. And then one thing led to another, and then I started performing and then started my own dance company Piah Dance Company, created a dance team, succeeded in doing two annual contemporary folk dance productions apart from the various performances we did. We succeeded in bringing the idea of contemporary folk of Gujarat to Bangalore. One thing led to another and then Dance India Dance Season 5 happened. I was among the 12 finalists and could not believe that I was finally getting to live the life I just dreamed of 6 years ago. I have always been grateful about everything around and keep striving to get better. That’s the only way to go about it. I blog quite a lot about how to be happy and content, and one of my biggest dreams is to get invited by TED to talk about my journey and the path to really being happy.
The fight: Each day has been a learning process for me. Becoming an entrepreneur came with just so many ups and downs. When I started out, I hardly earned anything. The first thing I learnt was to cook home food. I had vowed not to borrow money from parents and make it all on my own. And because affordability at that time was such a question mark, I would cook Soya nuggets with dal and rice every single day since that dish had the most protein. I also learnt how to save money and how money is precious. I learnt that kindness goes a long way in building relationships as compared to shrewdness. I also learnt that sometimes with a little bit of success, we can stop being curious about things, and that is the biggest mistake we can make for our own growth. Never stop being curious.
Most importantly, I learnt that sometimes people around us will not agree to our decisions, but if we genuinely believe something is meant for us from the bottom of our heart, we absolutely should not stop for anyone. Don’t let people’s decisions bog you down. Keep going. Those same people will come around after a while. It has definitely been an amazing journey and hoping for some new ones in the future.
The success scale: I think how happy I am and how satisfied I feel with the work I do, and how peaceful a sleep I get every night determines how successful I am. Success for me is largely dependent on wellbeing, good health and happiness and the sense of pride. I don’t carry regrets. About anything. So I call this the “Priya’s Special Memory Loss Effect” where I consciously choose to erase any hurtful memories from my life. I have obviously made mistakes in the past, but mistakes are a wonderful opportunity to learn, so why regret making those mistakes?
Word of advice: Stop listening to advices from the world around you. Try to go with your gut. And do not give up. And nothing beats hard work. Luck is overrated, hard work is directly proportional to how successful you will be.
About the company: Piah Dance Company was the first company that brought contemporary folk of Gujarat to Bangalore. For some reason Indian folk is extremely underrated and people assume that it is very easy and not entertaining. I believe that Indian folk dances are so vibrant and full of energy and they have so much scope to offer but has not been explored much. Our forte is contemporary folk and we want to take this dance form to international levels.
On that note I would take your leave! Keep dreaming!”