Inspiring greatness is a way of life for Vincent Maphai Scholarship recipient, Ms Siddharthiya Pillay, whose achievements are not solely academic but include being selected as one of UKZN’s Top 40 Inspiring Students for 2015 and recently performing for the Indian Prime Minister as a qualified Bharathanatyam (Indian classical dance) dancer.
Pillay is currently reading for a Masters in Medical Law - very different to her undergraduate and honours qualifications in Medical Biochemistry which she obtained summa sum laude.
She says her dream of contributing meaningfully to society through community engagement starts with understanding the challenges people face when their human rights are infringed.
‘My future plans are to start a non-profit organisation based on engaging and finding our collective humanity through compassion and community engagement.
‘The Masters qualification opens my eyes to the struggles others go through, and the barriers to fully protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable in society. Knowing how the law works is a weapon in the hands of those willing to fight for a better world,’ she said.
Being selected by the University community as an inspiring student whose contribution goes beyond her academic achievements with the hope of inspiring other students to follow suit, typifies Pillay.
Not only is she passionate about community engagement but she also aspires to work for international civil organisations with the hope that she may create positive structures to benefit marginalised groups.
‘The most rewarding year I’ve had was spent teaching at my old school, Westville Girls’ High. It was a year of inspiring and being inspired by my students. It made me realise the potential that lies dormant within us, and the fear of failure that keeps it that way. I want to be more fearless, and I want to encourage others to be the same.’
Outside of growing her knowledge through education, Pillay enjoys dancing Bharatha Natyam which she started at the age of three and graduated as a qualified dancer aged 16, following in the footsteps of her late mother, Shamala, who was a Bharatha Natyam graduate and dance teacher.
Pillay is currently pursuing studies in another form of Indian classical dance called Kathak.
‘Dancing for the Prime Minister of India during his visit to South Africa in July was an incredible experience because we were literally a few metres away from the leader of the world’s largest democracy.
‘I danced as a freelance dancer with the Surialanga dance company under the direction of Professor Suria Govender. I enjoyed working with dancers of different styles such as traditional Zulu, contemporary, and hip-hop performers and felt the frustrations of an artist. People do not realise the difficulties artists face behind the scenes. I hope I’ll have a future role in creating a culture of respect and protection for artists in South Africa,’ she added.