Meet Devanshi Vyas, who freed herself from the trap of bullying, depression and anxiety to fly high in the sky
Bullying is a serious problem that exists in schools, colleges or even at the workplace. All those who become its victim, suffer. Some raise their voice, however, a lot more suffer in silence and get mental health problems. Tragically, many sensitive teenagers have even committed suicide. But there are many real-life heroes around us, who instead of giving up have tried to fight this difficult situation.
Devanshi Vyas is one such example of a courageous survivor. The 20-year-old, aspiring pilot from Surrey, was bullied during her school years. However, she turned all that pain of rejection and exclusion into a purpose, to achieve her dreams. Devanshi has come a long way from locking herself into a room and being depressed all the time, to pursuing aero-science to be an international pilot and be a cop at the same time. She is also a self-taught dancer who won a bronze medal for Canada in the Dance World Cup Competition.
She belongs to an immigrant family originally from Gujarat, India, that came to Canada from Dubai. But due to her father’s job she was always moving cities. “My childhood has been literally spent everywhere. I have been to over 7 different schools in three different provinces and four different states. Having to move places numerous times always meant that I would have to be the “new student in class” every time,” she said.
Although an outspoken, confident and an outgoing girl who loved music, Devanshi’s childhood was overshadowed by darkness and fog for a few years when she became a victim of bullying. “Bullying existed then and it certainly exists now. I was made fun of being of a South Asian. The kids would ridicule me of the way my hair was braided. I was all alone during lunch or recess. I remember crying every single day when I came home from school. I’d make up excuses every morning and avoid going to school. Going to school suffocated me and made me feel as if I was an artifact in a museum that went wrong where everyone would stop and stare and make a mockery out of.”
But out of all those days, there is one day and one incident that terrified her inside out and changed her life forever. “I was in grade 2. I was lining up to go inside after the recess — when a girl whom I thought was my friend came with a group of kids. She pulled my skirt down in front of all the students. I was shaken and my mind couldn’t process how I should respond. Not a single person took a stand for me and I didn’t take a stand for myself either because after all I was the new kid in town.”
She didn’t share her situation with anyone and remained a victim. “Bullying didn’t stop even when I was older. Whether it’d be friends leaving me out of the group making me feel unwanted,
getting prank calls on my phone where all I would hear were ruthless things and bad words that’d sink my heart. I felt isolated. I was left at a point where I was hit by anxiety and depression.”
The anxiety led her to an eating disorder in which just the thought of going to school made her sick. “I wasn’t fit and healthy as nothing would stay inside of me. As a result, I even let go of things I loved like dance. I withdrew from teams and extracurricular activities.”
Devanshi feels her biggest mistake was that she suffered in silence and never discussed her problems with anyone. “One day my parents caught me crying in my closet. That is when I vented out and told my story that was undercover since years. I ask everyone to share their story. Because if you don’t, you’re giving bullying a chance to escape; there are 7.6 billion people in the world, why should we let a few of them bring us down?”
Her parents played a vital role to direct her back to life. They motivated her to get her confidence back and motive to love life again. She says coping with depression and anxiety was not easy but doing what you love can really pull you out of depression. For Devanshi that healer was music. “I’d listen to music and it would instantly calm me down. “Even a piano has black and white keys, they make a crescendo of melodies together. Just like how the black keys compliment the white keys, I took that thought as a metaphor that all the obstacles i’m experiencing are the black keys but the lessons I have learnt and the good that has happened to me are the white keys. Without struggles and challenges, life becomes bland.”
Then one day she watched story of Remo D’Souza (Bollywood choreographer). “He struggled so much regardless of all the chaos and obstacles in his life to get what he wanted. It inspired me significantly. If he was able to let go of absolutely everything and still pursue dance then why not me? It was that day that I knew I had to turn a lot of cards, be on track and do what identifies me the best.”
Dance and music is what Devanshi says describes her best. She started participating in dance competitions again, something that she loved doing since she was 3 and something that she left when she was being bullied. After surpassing all of the anxiety and depression, I auditioned for Shiamak Davar’s Rise of the Champions Dance Competition 2013 and received 2nd place. She ended up competing in 2017 and got 1st place in Regionals and 4th place at the Dance World Cup Finals. “I was disappointed at myself for getting 4th therefore I competed again last year and I brought Canada home a bronze. That moment was surreal and I was immensely proud to have done something so big.”
There is no looking back for Devanshi. She has been a dance instructor who was selected as one of the few dancers around the world to attend UK’s biggest dance Move It Convention, part of the London Spring Dance Tour. She had the opportunity to compete and be scouted by talent scouts and learn from the industry’s best choreographers like Tara Jean Popowich and Menina Fortunato. She was also invited to perform at the world’s oldest dance theatre in Athens, Greece.
Along with dance she is pursuing aero-science to become an international pilot and training to be a cop. She has learnt how to fly a plane. “It is the most amazing feeling to be up in the clouds at an altitude of 8,000ft, where it’s just me, my Cessna-152 and the scenic view around me. I am going to school, training, and working full time as a ramp agent at YVR all at the same time.”
She says time-management is the key if you want to do different things in one day. “My schedule is super tight and if I don’t manage my time wisely, everything goes haywire. Everything that I plan is set accordingly a week prior in my planner so that I have plenty of time to go to school, work, go to the gym, train, and have some leisure time.”
Devanshi sees herself as a pilot and fly internationally. “What can be more daring than flying across the world and being in a new place almost every week?” She also wants to be a role model for women and prove that women can have more titles than just being housewives.
Her ulterior message is for those who who suffer in silence everyday. “Do not stay quiet. One voice raised has the power to silence thousands. No matter what any other individual says, just remember that you are here because you have a purpose to serve be it for yourself, for your community, or for your family. Don’t let the fire within you diminish, instead let that fire inside of you ignite and light your path towards victory. I didn’t raise my voice because I was scared. I was definitely wrong because real friends don’t make the other person feel inferior. Real friends stick together through anything. BE Y.O.U. — BE YOURSELF, BE ORIGINAL, BE UNITED”
— As told to Surbhi Gogia