FLAME University alumna Saloni Panda is an accomplished Odissi dancer and has been felicitated in the Malaysia Book of Records for Abacus. But that’s just the beginning of her long list of achievements and accomplishments. Starting her journey as a food blogger only a few years ago, she has won widespread fame and recognition in a short span of time. Winner of the Super Womaniya Award and being called Inspiration For Youth at the age of 21 would make anyone giddy with success. But not Saloni!
What strikes you about this effervescent youngster is that not only is she levelheaded but also has a heart of gold. Moved by emotional response to her gesture of handing over a bag full of vegetables to a kid on the street, she decided to give part of her salary to buy them weekly food supplies. That’s how ‘Spreading Smiles’ initiative came into being, and is followed by many, who do their own acts of kindness. “My father was a social worker and was known for the work he did. I have learned it from him,” she shrugs off her own acts of kindness. We dig deeper.
Her inspiration and moral compass
Saloni attributes her early success to the support of her family members, with a touch of emotion. We realize that her father passed away last year and left a gaping hole in her life. But she speaks with composure, “My life was shattered but it also made me stronger because of the way he had raised me. So many people came forward to help us because of the respect he had gained in the society. It has also made me realize one important thing – money isn’t everything. Seeing the smile on people’s faces would be my biggest achievement.”
“Learn something new”, the rest will follow
Unlike many youngsters shooting for Insta(nt) fame, Saloni took to food blogging in a bid to learn something new. The Instagram blog has grown tremendously since and has earned her the label ‘Plating Queen’. “I never thought of the outcome when I started the page and worked hard at it every single day. I started with my passion for food by cooking my own dishes before going into restaurant and street food. Initially it was all about simplicity, but when I changed my plating styles my visibility increased. Says a lot about Social Media presentation!” she chuckles.
Taking the bouquets and brickbats in her stride
Sharp and savvy Saloni stresses that if a social media feed looks appealing it will draw attention. But anyone who has been on social media for only a few minutes will know what a cesspool of negativity it can be with trolls descending on your page. How hard would it be to deal with it at such a young age! “I have faced a lot of negativity in this journey but I have never let it affect my work. The less you respond to negativity, the more peaceful your life becomes. If you get demotivated by it, you let them win,” she says wisely.
Reigniting the FLAME for classical dance
To go against the tide seems to be the mantra for Saloni, who remembers her early days at FLAME University. There was very little presence of classical dance on campus as western dance forms held sway. “I started looking for other classical dancers on campus. Three of us did our first performance on Foundation Day and soon we launched our classical dance club. Today it has more than 35 members and they perform at every big event. I received a lot of support from faculty members and management in those three years,” she reminisces with fondness.
The success story continues
Saloni calls FLAME University her second home. Her first home is her mother and younger brother, for whom she wants nothing but the best. She has started her corporate career but still pursues her blogging passion. “Time management was crucial at FLAME, where you have many talented students, who find encouragement to pursue several interests. I was away from home and couldn’t cook, which is when I started covering restaurants in Pune. I would save the invites for weekends. I have learned to balance my professional life and passion,” she ends with a smile.