This Women’s Day here are six young sheroes who’ve stepped into the limelight as they set about changing the world with their work and achievements.
(March 8, 2022) They’re young, they’re fun and they’re raring to go. These young women know exactly what it takes to make a difference in a rapidly changing world and they’re channelising their talents in the right direction. From Karishma Mehta taking story telling to a whole new level, to giving performance art a new dimension, and conserving endangered languages, these women are in a league of their own. Global Indian turns the spotlight on some of these young movers and shakers as they gear up to take on the world.
Shruti Rijhwani, researcher saving endangered languages
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Ph.D candidate at Carnegie Mellon University was named in the 2022 Forbes 30 Under 30 in science. Shruti Rijhwani researched, and has won accolades on the conservation of endangered language around the world. She pursued her BS degree in computer science at Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani in 2015. Selected as a research intern in applied science at Microsoft Research India, in 2015, Shruti developed search software for retrieval and deduplication of misspelled entries. Interning at Microsoft, and later at MIT Media Lab- Google Summer of Code, her forte in language conservation was to be her main stay.
In 2018, she was awarded a Bloomberg data science PhD Fellowship, and with that she became an expert on data science.
Shruti, who has been working on developing natural language processing technologies to help communities revitalise endangered languages, tweeted, “Incredibly honoured to be recognised on the 2022 @Forbes 30 under 30 list in science!” The Forbes moniker is just the beginning for this deeply research-oriented mind.
Absolutely thrilled to host three incredibly inspiring researchers in #nlproc, Shruti Rijhwani, Ivan Vulic and Jonas Pfeiffer at @NeuralSpace this Thursday for our platform launch event!
I can't wait!😍
— Mehar Bhatia (@bhatia_mehar) February 14, 2022
Her goal is to rejuvenate endangered languages. According to Unesco, about 40 percent of the world’s 7,000 languages are endangered. Rijhwani’s algorithms helped extract text from non-digitised books and handwritten documents and make them accessible online. At the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, advised by Graham Neubig, she says, “My main research interest lies in natural language processing (NLP) and I have worked on various NLP tasks across a broad spectrum of domains and languages. My current research focuses on developing deep learning models for multilingual and low-resource NLP.”
- Follow Shruti Rijhwani on Twitter
Sriya Lenka, 18, first Indian K-pop artiste
An 18-year-old is just a step away from becoming the first-ever K-pop artiste from India. Meet Sriya Lenka, the singer who is among the two finalists set to grab a spot in the South Korean girl band Blackswan. The Rourkela-born dancer and yoga practitioner, beat thousands in auditions to gain the top spot. She is currently in Korea for a month-long training under DR Music company before the final showdown with Brazil’s Gabriela Strassburger Dalcin to win a spot in the girl band.
“Surreal,” is how Sriya describes her journey from Rourkela to Korea to train under the best in the music industry. DR Music recently shared photographs of the singer on Instagram and introduced her to the world as a Blackswan probable. A trained singer, Sriya initially had a tough time finding the perfect vocal trainer, but she eventually found a way. “I’d request everyone to support me and help me achieve my dreams,” the singer said.
- Follow Sriya Lenka on Instagram
Vrinda Chadha, 26, young Odissi dancer spreading art and culture
Vrinda Chadha has dance flowing through her entire being. The senior disciple of renowned Odissi dance exponent Guru Ranjana Gauhar, Vrinda has been training under her for the past 20 years since she was six. Vrinda, an alumna of Lady Shri Ram College for Women, also received a national scholarship for Odissi dance from the ministry of culture and is empanelled with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Doordarshan. Her mudras and expertise have taken her across the globe – Spain, Argentina, Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, United Kingdom, Madagascar, and Seychelles. Conferred with the Nalanda Nritya Nipuna Award in Mumbai, the Young Talent Award by the International Academy of Mohiniyattam in Delhi, the title of Odissi Ratna in Bhubaneswar and the Kameshwari Award in Guwahati, her talent is much talked about.
“As a dancer I have always valued the ability to express and connect with one’s innermost being through the medium of art. The liberation and joy of surrender in such an experience is unparalleled and is also what connects me not only to myself but also to those watching,” says Vrinda. As she continues to stretch artistic brilliance every time she takes to the stage, she adds, “My art empowers and frees me both on and off stage. It is my identity. Through it, I hope to spread love, peace and consciousness in the ensuing days of 2022.” This accomplished dancer also believes in giving back and works as a fellow at Teach for India.
- Follow Vrinda Chadha on Instagram
Mohini Dey, 24, youngest bass player
She picked up the bass guitar when she was three years old, egged on by her jazz musician father. The youngest bass player in the country, Mohini Dey has recorded music for over 100 films and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including AR Rahman and Zakir Husain. She’s a star in her own right too, with her striking appearance, marked by wild curly hair and prodigious technique, Mohini is quite unmistakable. By the age of 11, she was performing professionally and even designing her own outfits.
Described as the Most Successful Musician Under 30 by Forbes India, Mohini, now 24, has spent 16 years in the industry. It’s a tough field to be in, especially as a bass player in India. More so as a woman. Dey has loved every moment of her journey, however. “I am very selective about the work I do and I have lots of fun doing it… My life has been always been adventurous and I like it that way.”
Two of my favourite bassists are Mohini Dey & Nilanjana Ghosh Dastidar, both accomplished Bengali women.
Here’s Nilanjana rocking it out in a sari 🎸🤘🏼pic.twitter.com/LvFx0xx9CD
— Milind Deora | मिलिंद देवरा ☮️ (@milinddeora) February 28, 2021
Her father, Sujoy Dey, also a bass guitarist, was her first teacher. “My dad was so busy and would come home late at night. But he would wake me up, even if it was 1 am and teach me,” she said. “I didn’t have friends! All my friends were uncles and brothers.”
Her latest offering, Damaru directed by LA-based JS Arts, was conceptualised by Suchismita, another of AR Rahman’s proteges, for Maha Shivratri 2022. An up-tempo number, Damaru uses Indian vocals, hip hop and EDM and also features Grammy-award winning composer Ricky Kej as well as London-based rapper Maya Miko.
- Follow Mohini Dey on Twitter
Aditi Chauhan, 29, goalkeeper of the Indian women’s football team
The goalkeeper of the Indian national team is known for her resoluteness guarding the Indian goal. Among the most talented and experienced in the final line-up, Aditi has a fervour and singlemindedness that is evident on the field. She is the first Indian woman from India’s national football women’s team to play internationally at an English premiere league club, West Ham United. She was also named Asian Footballer of the Year during her stint playing in the United Kingdom.
Chauhan moved to Delhi as a nine-year-old, and schooled at Amity International School. Always sporty, she tried her hand at many games before “the beautiful game” stole her heart. At 15, Aditi appeared on the team for the Delhi women’s football team U19 squad.
The girl, who studied MSc in sports management at Loughborough University, joined English premiere league club West Ham United Ladies where she spent two to three seasons. Aditi was a part of the Indian women’s team that won the 2012 SAFF Women’s Championship in Sri Lanka. She also played at the recently concluded 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
India's Jersey no. 1️⃣ Experienced Aditi will be crucial in our chances at AFC Asian Cup.
— RaJ🇮🇳🏳️🌈 #CWC22 (@Proud_gayboy) January 19, 2022
“Those that shoulder the biggest dreams, face the biggest challenges. Maybe this team’s biggest victory will be in overcoming this, and still going – still playing with heart, still dreaming! The blue tigresses will be back and roar louder than ever, we promise. Keep supporting,” she tweeted.
- Follow Aditi Chauhan on Twitter
Karishma Mehta, 29, founder, Humans of Bombay
She was all of 21 when she decided to launch Humans of Bombay, a social media platform inspired by the Humans of New York page. Today, as her platform clocks in over 2.2 million followers on Instagram, it brings to life stories of grit, determination and the resilience of human nature. With tales of battling abuse, racism, and overcoming tragedy, her posts manage to touch hearts and inspire across age groups. Being able to get a hold of these stories was no easy feat for this University of Nottingham alum. Strangers would shy away from speaking to her, till she finally made her breakthrough. Today, the 29-year-old’s platform not just highlights stories, but also helps its subjects through crowdfunding campaigns.
From social media influencer to entrepreneur and author, her journey is nothing short of remarkable. And as she marches on, Karishma has also been featured in reputed international publications like Forbes. As she surges on in her mission to bring to life stories that matter and extend a helping hand along the way, Karishma posted on Instagram, “I was 21 when I founded Humans of Bombay and through these eight years, I’ve had what seems like multiple MBA courses simultaneously. But sluicing through the myriad of business, finance, and the whole shebang, the one invaluable skill we have honed, is the art of storytelling.”
- Follow Karishma Mehta on Twitter