Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Dil Se :Beautiful conquest

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As the nation rings in the New Year, there is another beautiful conquest to celebrate after two long decades! It was back in 2001 that actress Aditi Govitrikar was crowned as the Mrs. World, opening the doors of the pageant for Indian beauties to make their presence felt on the platform.This year, 32-year-old SargamKoushalfrom Jammu has bought the title back to India. Beating beauties from 63 countries, shaan seKoushal bagged the prestigious title, which was presented by Mrs. World 2021, Shaylyn Ford of the US at Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino on December 17. She got married in 2018.

Koushal’s husband is an officer in the Indian Navy. Having won the Mrs. India World 2022-23 title in June this year, it was cinch for Sargamto bag the international title.In her conversation with The Pioneer’s Tejal Sinha, the diva takes us through her childhood, how her dad remains her inspiration, her husband being her biggest support, sweet memories of winning the crown, and plans to make the nation proud in the years ahead.

‘Naughty and pampered’ kid

I used to run around the house, screaming when I was very young. My mother used to say your voice could be heard two blocks away from the house. I was the only child for a long time — for 7 years; so, I was pampered and loved alot. I was shaitaan. I used to be the naakmaidumkarrakhahainkindakid. I remember I used to always spend my time on skates, rolling on trees in my house, cycling around, playing with mud, wearing my mum’s saree, dancing in front of the mirror, playing with my pets. That was Sargamas a child and that part of Sargamhas always stayed with me. I am still very naughty at home, may mellowed a bit.

Unfolding confidence

During my teenage years I wasnot much confident about myself with most people around me looking at the outer beauty and never appreciating the inner beauty. And, look where it has brought me! Since I was not believing in myself as a teenager, a fire was building inside me like. And, thatburst forth as a volcano finally. I became this confident woman, who does not care about what people have to say, who believes in what her parents taught her:  humility, being grounded, remaining true to your authentic self. I would have it no other way. I think there are certain things that you should leave to your destiny. Maybe the younger Sargam would not have achieved what this 32-year-old achieved.

Dad: the main inspiration

My dad wanted me to be a part of the world pageant from the very beginning, I was probably four years old. He used to be like ‘I have seen Sushmita Sen in the pageant and I want you also to be there, win a pageant too and you have everything; that’s required’.

And, I wasn’t confident enough back then. But I think his belief never faded. Mymother’s belief never faded. My husband, my students, my friends — everybody pushed me to try this, and I strongly believe that if there are so many prayers behind you, there is nothing that can stop you from winning. My dad has always believed in me more than anyone else. He tries to make sure I do things which no other person has done before. He likes me to be that odd one out, and he enjoys that. He lets me be that.

City of Destiny to City of Dreams

I was at Visakhapatnam and Covid was at its peak and my husband was supposed to get transferred to a different station; I didn’t know it was Mumbai back then. We were ready for it and that’s why I left my job in the previous city. We were just packing up our bags and it was then that I realised that we were moving to Mumbai. And I thought its destiny, coming to Mumbai is kind of going to change my life. Leaving my job was not because I wanted to get into modeling. The first reason was obviously that my husband was moving.

Then I realised since I’m moving to Mumbai it’s the best way to follow the pageant, and completely focus on it. Teaching was something that I loved doing, but I always wanted to do something different with my life — something new. I basically moved from the City of Destiny to the City of Dreams. I am a strong believer in destiny. In my whole journey, be it from Mrs. India World 2022 to Mrs. World 2022, destiny played a major role. I remember filling out the form and leaving it aside when I was in Visakhapatnam and then I came to Mumbai, and something had switched within me, and I just went for it.

Lecturer to Mrs. World

It has been a journey of lots of ups and downs and of extreme fun because every step of the way I feel there was one person or the other who used to tell me why you are teaching; go and do modeling, join some pageant. Everyone had told me that you should go for it. But teaching made me the kind of person that I am today.

Being around kids and being at the workplace gives you a lot of experience of life. Reading a lot of books while you’re teaching also helps cultivate personality and I’m very happy and grateful that I got the opportunity to teach for 4-5 years before I entered this world. There are no second guesses to it. I would not have my life in another way — the way it is today. I am very happy and grateful that it ended up here.

The wind beneath her wings

Of course,it is my husband. I keep saying that. He has supported me in every possible way that I can say. I wouldnot have done it without him, no doubt. This victory is equally his. I had left my job in 2020; it is not easy to go on a sabbatical and that too, for two years. During that time, I of course had my savings but during this, a lot of things changed.

There were times when you break down, this is not going to work, you made the wrong decision, in those times you need someone by your side who can guide you and tell you that everything that you’re doing is going to come to a fruitful end. You donot have to worry about it I’ll be with you. All the support that I needed be it emotional, mental, or financial, that kind of support I got from my husband.

I don’t feel any shame in saying that my husband supported me financially. I think both the partners should support each other whenever the time calls for it. He was never acquainted and that’s something I appreciate about him. Even when I was at my lowest, or even when he was at his lowest, he would never do that I did it for you. That is commendable, and you don’t easily have such kind of people in life, and if you have them just hold on to them.

A proud Navy officer’s wife, a proud soldier

When I saw him at the airport, it was like a soldier looking at a soldier. I felt like a soldier that day. Everybody was saying Bharat Mata ki jai, VandeMataram, Indian flags in their hands and Indian flag at my back and obviously there were some soldiers also. Everybody was calling my name, calling the nation’s name, and it felt so good. And yes as an officer’s wife we don’t generally get to do things; you don’t get to do for your country primarily. You’re always taking care of the home, your husband, and doingthe wife’s duty. You are always considered a trophy when you are a fauji’s wife, but this time it felt like I did something as good as him, and that felt really empowering.

First international trip to Las Vegas

My husband was more scared than I was. He has traveled internationally ofcourse as part of his work. I was supposed to travel with him, but then plans changed and I had to travel solo and trust me he was so scared. He made a whole map for me about where all I had to go for immigration, and I was like ‘Okay let’s take one step at a time’. When I reached Vegas, it was evening and you couldnot see a person out there, it was like Vegas sleeps so early? Everybody there feels like an intruder, a culprit and that happens when you are in a new place, you just become conscious.

I did not have a SIM card with me, and it takes time to do those things. I was really scared at first and then when I got into the cab, I got a sense of relief and calm that yes I am here now, let’s take a breath, let’s enjoy this drive. And I was in tears. I was like Sargam you made it. You’re the only one from the family who has been to Vegas alone! That girl who for 27 years did not even step out from the city, who was so protected by her family is now in Vegas all alone, living the dream of her life, that’s beautiful and something to really be proud of.

Beating 63 countries and bringing title

The feeling is that of extreme gratitude towards my nation and my people. I am very happy that I could make my parents, my husband proud, and, of course, Aditi Govitrikar herself had a lot of faith in me so you know bringing the crown back home feels like an achievement from my side to her as well.

Most memorable moment

So, the second runner-up Mrs. Canada Solange gave her answer; then, I gave my answer and then the first runner-up she gave her answer. We then headed back to the backstage till our names were called. I told her that her answer was so good and she’s for sure gonna win it, and I was very confident about it. But when the names were announced, I was announced as the winner. A few days later she posted on Instagram that nobody else might have believed in me, but Sargam believed me and that means so much. That’s what pageantry is all about and that’s what sisterhood is all about. And I don’t know what I did there was it good or bad, but I definitely made a sister for life.

Association with Mrs. India INC

It has been a wonderful journey with them. This was the step to Mrs. World and all the training that I got was something that groomed me for Mrs. World. Mohini Sharma, the founder- director, has been the constant support and an empowered woman beyond words. You can see the fire in her eyes that yes we have to get this, and that is what made me believe that I could do this. They left no stone unturned. I have been trained by the people who had trained Harnaaz Sandhu, Divita Rai, Sini Shetty. She has bought Mrs. Pageant at par with Miss Pageants.

Jammu ki shaan

The Jammu that I come from is the city part, but there are far-fledged places from the city where you don’t have electricity. People live high in the mountains and to reach the city it takes them hours and hours. To dream of being in a pageant, a girl from that place to dream is a dream which is very far-fetched. Talking about basic empowerment, giving them education, to make sure they have a voice, sanitation, menstrual hygiene all of that is important and that is where empowerment comes from, from the rural parts.

And that is something that once I go back to Jammu sooner or later, I would want to make sure that thing can be tackled. Jammu has a lot of talent, inner and outer beauty, and because of good or bad reasons that has not been explored.

What’s up more on the plate?

I’m open to every new thing in life. I’ve been trying a lot of new things; so, why not act? But there’s a lot more to do for the empowerment is something I would like to work on. A lot of people have trusted me this whole year. And I think it’s time to give back to society and to the people who have put their faith in me.

Rapid fire:

Describe yourself in three words: Humble, spiritual, believer of destiny

Favourite film: The Great Gatsby

Favourite actor and actress: Leonardo Di Caprio and Margot Robbie

Favourite food: Momos

What do you do in your leisure time: I enjoy playing with my dog. She is the best and try to spend as much time as I can

Happiest moment: Winning the crown and my dad calling me to say you have given me everything that I wanted in life. I don’t want anything more

Saddest moment: When I lost my grandmother

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