Life hasn’t been easy for me, says driver’s daughter Manya on journey to Miss India
Miss India 2020 runner-up Manya Singh with her father.
“PEOPLE like us don’t even dream, and you’re thinking of Miss India crown?” Manya Singh’s recalls the reaction of her parents who were “gobsmacked” when she shared her desire to win the title with them. But Singh said she wanted to be a voice of women belonging to lower social strata and believed Miss India would give her the platform to achieve her goal. Born in Mumbai to an auto rickshaw driver and raised in the small town of Hata in Uttar Pradesh, the 19-year-old was crowned VLCC Femina Miss India 2020 runner-up in a ceremony last week.
“I realised that there’s this platform called Miss India where I can voice my stand and beliefs. Be the voice of those women who are told they don’t have the right to speak, who are confined. “Especially in villages, where they don’t even have freedom to choose what they wear, what to study. I realised long back I have to make it to Miss India, so all my hardships, all my steps were towards just this,” Singh told PTI. Post her win, Singh said her parents are “extremely proud and overjoyed”, but her journey to the pageantry was riddled with obstacles. Singh said coming from a lower middle class family of four, they were struggling to make ends meet. Her parents somehow managed to continue her schooling on “admission basis” and were only able to afford exam fees.
“Life has not been easy for me but I’ve been harder on my life. At 14, I saw girls around me enjoying their life, wearing good clothes, attending school. I was aware my life isn’t like theirs because I didn’t have the same privilege.” Singh, who has a younger brother, said while growing up she was also made aware of the gender discrimination in the society by people who would feel sorry for her parents for not having a boy as their first child. “It would pain me a lot. I decided to let my parents feel that their daughter is more capable than anyone else.
I was quite determined to rise above.” A bright student, Singh decided to go against the tide and follow her Miss India dreams rather than aiming for a “simple life, working as either an engineer or a doctor.” However, her career plan stunned her parents as for them thinking beyond daily needs seemed like a privilege. “My parents were gobsmacked and felt I had gone crazy. ‘People like us don’t even dream, and you’re thinking of Miss India crown?’ they said. My father would always tell me, there are more heels in my bag than books. Somewhere they were scared because I didn’t even have a Plan B.”