“Beti ne Bharat ka naam roshan kiya hai (Our daughter has made India proud).”

Manushi Chhillar, Miss World 2017

These were the words used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he met with newly-crowned Miss World, Manushi Chhillar.

And make us proud she has indeed done. Hailing from Haryana, which has not been really in the forefront of women’s empowerment and on issues relating to the girl-child, Manushi brought back the Miss World title to India after a long drought of 17 years and became the sixth Indian to do so.

But has winning a beauty pageant, albeit at the international level, been the only reason that the PM sought to laud Manushi? Not really. Manushi is truly a woman of substance. We have seen countless beauty pageant winners mouth platitudes to world peace and several ‘good’ causes but Manushi was walking the talk long before Miss World got added to her name.

Early days

Manushi was born in Rohtak, Haryana, on 14 May 1997. Her father, Dr Mitra Basu Chhillar, is a scientist at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) while her mother, Dr Neelam Chhillar, is an Associate Professor and Department Head of Neurochemistry at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences.

Manushi studied at St Thomas’ School in New Delhi and is pursuing a medical degree at Bhagat Phool Singh Medical College in Sonipat, Haryana. She is also a trained Kuchipudi dancer and has trained under legendary dancers Raja and Radha Reddy and Kaushalya Reddy. She has also attended the National School of Drama. She also loves to write poetry and paint whenever she is free.

Manushi is currently studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and Surgery. She has ambitions to be a cardiac surgeon and would like to open a chain of non-profitable hospitals based in rural areas. Manushi has a passion for outdoor sports and actively participates in paragliding, bungee jumping, snorkelling and scuba diving.

Her personal motto is: ‘When you cease to dream you cease to live. Courage to give flight to your dreams and the ability to believe in yourself makes life worth living.’

The way to the top of the world

On 25 June 2017, Manushi represented Haryana at the Femina Miss India 2017 competition. During the competition, she was crowned Miss Photogenic, and went on to win the competition as well, earning the right to represent India at the Miss World 2017 competition.

At Miss World 2017, Manushi became a semi-finalist in the Top Model, People’s Choice, and Multimedia competitions, and was the winner of the Head-to-Head Challenge from Group Nine and co-winner of the Beauty with a Purpose competition.

On 18 November 2017, Manushi was crowned Miss World 2017 in the finals in Sanya, China, competing against 122 participants from across the world. She became the sixth Indian woman to win the crown, and the first since Priyanka Chopra won Miss World 2000.

In a moment that has now become history, when asked which profession in the world deserves the highest salary and why, she replied, “My mother has been my biggest inspiration, so I have to say, a mother’s job. It is not always about cash, but love and respect as well. A mother deserves that the most.” In that one statement which clinched the title for her, Manushi laid bare to the world the special relationship she shared with her mother and the respect she has for mothers across the world!

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Naresh Karmalker

Naresh Karmalker

Naresh Karmalker is a consultant in the non-profit sector. He is currently the Asst. Area Director (Mumbai West) for Business Network International (BNI) India, part of BNI, the largest business referral organisation in the world.