"Society often have us believe that marriage should be the end goal," said Bhavana Bahl, the winner of the 2017 ‘Mrs India – Queen of Substance’ pageant, who thought otherwise.
The pageant which was held in Delhi, India on April 14, 2017, had two main categories. Bhavana was the winner of the Regular Category (below 40 years old); the other category was the Classic Category (above 40 years old).
The founder and Director of the pageant was Ritika Vinay, a philanthropist and entrepreneur who is dedicated to making a difference in married women's lives by providing them with national and international platforms to shine. She is also the President of Handicapped Women & Children’s Aid (HWCA). Her husband Vinay Yadawa, who is also the Chief Managing Director of the show, devotes his full time to running the services of HWCA.
Bhavana currently resides in Singapore, having relocated here in 2015 due to her husband’s job - Vineet Malhota is currently the PSD Manager for Asia at BMM Compliance Singapore. Bhavana herself works as a freelance marketer, and does modeling as well. The multi-talented lady is also a certified zumba and bhangra instructor, though she is not practicing that yet in Singapore.
Bhavana took time out to meet CtoI for an afternoon coffee, to chat about her work, her dreams, as well as some of her beauty secrets.
CtoI: Why did you decide to take part in the pageant?
BB: I believe that if you have something in you that can inspire others, then might as well use it the right way. It is not just about inspiring people to take part in pageants – I can lead the way for a lot of married Indian women. While India is progressing now, there are at the same time a lot of women who are not living their dreams. They still think that marriage is the end.
So this is my answer to them – marriage is not the end of your life, and you can do so much even after marriage. In fact, I achieved more after marriage. Normally people tame down after marriage. But for me, that’s not the case. I got into modeling here in Singapore, and lots of married women don’t do that. So that is one of the things I achieved.
CtoI: What is one social cause that is close to your heart?
BB: I really believe in women empowerment and I do believe that every girl has a right to study. In India, I visited a couple of schools, including boys’ schools, which are for underprivileged kids. I distributed a lot of books, notebooks, pencils, whatever they need – because a lot of these schools run on donations and charity, so I just wanted to spend time with them and see how they function, what the kids are taught… When my husband and I came to Singapore, we continued to support the cause as well.
CtoI: What are some of your beauty secrets?
BB: I am a fitness freak, but I don’t just do it for the pageant or for modeling. I have been working out since the age of 21. For me, fitness is my lifestyle – I work out 4-5 times a week on average, and I make sure I eat healthy.
I don’t believe in diets, because it is a very temporary thing. I eat good and healthy food, and I stay off sugar. I do have a sweet tooth so I indulge in cakes every now and then.
I work out everyday for an hour, and I do resistance training – I love it, because I love to kill myself in the gym and make sure I am full of sweat. If I am not full of sweat that means I haven’t done enough. I also play with the weights a lot because I think it is important to build your muscles.
For me, losing weight has never been an issue. I don’t even have a weighing scale at home because it is just a number. In fact, I will feel bad if I do lose weight, because that is my muscles that I am losing.
CtoI: Talk about your costume for the pageant?
BB: For the traditional round, we had to represent the state. In my case, I am actually from three different states – Haryana, Punjab and Kashmir – so I had to make sure that I incorporate a bit of everything. I wore a traditional outfit, and I wore jewelry related to two different states, and because Kashmir is known for roses, so I wore a headwear made of fresh roses.
For the final round, I wore a ball gown in blush pink, with minimal jewelry. I just wanted to look very international, very different, so I wore a very subtle and pastel colour, which had a good scoring.
CtoI: What were you asked during the Q&A round?
BB: I was very lucky because I received a very nice question that I could actually relate to. The question that I got asked was, “if given a choice, what would you like to wake up as?”
My answer was that, given a choice, I would wake up as myself, because I would be a better version. I just believe that no matter what I do the next day, I have to become a better version of myself.
CtoI: What do you think is a woman of substance?
BB: I think a woman of substance is someone who is compassionate and kind. She is someone who is giving – who is willing to share knowledge, skills and talent with everyone. She has to stand up for the right thing, because a woman of substance believes in sticking to her beliefs in any situation. What she does could be against the whole world, but as long as she stands up for the right cause – she is a woman of substance.
CtoI: What are some ways in which your husband has supported you along this journey?
BB: I don’t use the word “support” a lot, because I don’t think a woman needs to be supported by their husbands. I think the journey was teamwork – my husband was walking side by side with me in whatever I do. My husband has been on board with whatever I have done so far, and he understands that whatever I am doing is for the betterment of both of us.
CtoI: How was your experience living in Singapore? How is it different from other places that you have lived in?
BB: I actually got asked the same question during my pageant. I believe that Singapore is very safe for women – that is the one thing I have noticed between India, or any other countries, and Singapore. I think Singapore hands down has the best safety measures for women, and that is one thing that I really love.
Second thing is that, there are so many cultures. I really enjoy that. I am a people-person; I love meeting people. So being exposed to all these different cultures and trying different cuisines are what I love about Singapore.