Vijayashree Ramesh is a Molecular Biologist with double Master’s in Medical Microbiology. Over the last two decades, she has been conducting extensive research in the field of cancer biology, especially studying the biology behind Tumor metastasis. Research to her is nothing but “repeat your search” until you reach your goal, which is also her philosophy towards life in general.
Viji, you have been living in the U.S. for almost 30 years. The fact that you are wearing a saree suggests you are still very well connected to India. How do you sustain that?
Though I have been living in U.S. from the 90s, I have never missed anything from back home. This is because of two main reasons. The first is my continued passion in dance and music. I have been learning bharatanatyam from the age of eight and until this day, I continue to dance. When I am dancing, I feel I am back home in India. I also sense complete freedom and am truly at peace. I also coach dance students preparing for their arangetram. When I see my students bring out a particular emotion, I feel the satisfaction of having played a part in passing on the beautiful art to the next generation.
My second umbilical link to India is our Indian traditions and festivals. We celebrate all the festivals here in exactly the way we used to do when we were growing up in Chennai. I am particularly passionate about the Navarathri festival. Thoughts and ideas of the theme for every year’s golu arrangement are always at the back of the mind through the year. I love all the hustle bustle of the ten days of celebration, dressing up in beautiful, colorful sarees and golu-hopping from house to house.
Between your research work and your dance classes, you must be leading a full life. How do you keep in touch with the Indian community here?
I am deeply involved with the Chinmaya Mission and have served as a slokathon teacher and session co-ordinator for more than 15 years. Being part of the Mission has immensely helped me stay grounded and connected to my roots and fulfill my inherent desire to give back more than I take. I am very satisfied that I have been able to inspire my children as well to give back to their community by becoming Chinmaya Yuva Kendra members and volunteering.
That’s a lovely saree you are wearing. Tell us about it.
This is a classical Kanjeevaram pattu saree. It is very special for me, as it is the saree I wore for the oonjal ceremony at my wedding. Old, but truly gold.
In general, I absolutely love wearing sarees and I don’t discriminate, I love all sorts of sarees. To me, a saree is a most beautiful outfit that suits everybody, at any time, in any place, for any occasion, in any mood. I always make it a point to wear sarees when I am volunteering in Chinmaya Mission or moving around in art circuits. To me, a saree is at once classical and fashionable.