By : Juhi Bansal
Happy Mother’s Day to all you lovely ladies out there. While I am not a mum yet, I understand every bit of work that goes into it. I’ve observed my sister and sister-in-law bringing up their kids closely, and I understand that while raising your child is very fulfilling and satisfying, you are still an individual at the end of the day and need to be your own person. And why not? Why should you feel guilty for wanting to have some “me” time or trying to be more than a “mother”?
What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than getting the most beautiful mum in the country (quite literally) to open her heart out for us. CB caught up for a heartening chat with Shilpa Bhagat, the reigning Mrs. India World who is also the mother of two beautiful kids and a hands-on wife.
Mrs. India World 2013, Shilpa Bhagat
This beauty comes with brains too, Shilpa is a gold medalist from Jadavpur university and completed her post graduation in Finance from Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development. She then worked with HDFC bank in their Financial Institutions Group in Mumbai for a couple of years
Shilpa is also the co-founder of The
Cuddles foundation. The Foundation ‘s work is focused on improving the lives of children from low income groups by giving them access to best medical equipment, medicines and an environment that aid faster recovery.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
CB: Shilpa tell us about your life when you were growing up.
Shilpa: I started life with humble beginnings. I was born in a conservative Marwari joint family where getting the beti of the house married off in a good household was a priority. However my parents, especially my mom was convinced that she did not want my future to be like hers ..which was spending the day in the kitchen from sunrise to sunset at that time. She set my aspirations really high. I realised that the only way i could break the law legally was study hard and set myself apart.
I took up academics really seriously and was fortunate enough to be a gold medalist in Jadavpur University. After completing my MBA from SCMHRD, i got a job with HDFC bank.
CB: Did you always dream to be a beauty queen?
Shilpa: In every form you could have called me a geek at this point of time in my life. Fashion and beauty was never on my to do/wish list.
CB: So what triggered the transformation?
Shilpa: After my twins, i had to take a forced sabbatical. My commitment to them was of a bigger priority to my full time job. Although I was thoroughly enjoying motherhood, somewhere deep within there was a strong urge to build my own identity. I realized I was capable and hungry to carve my own niche once again. My campus friend Richa encouraged me to apply for Mrs India and there I was, yet again exploring a new territory. I was a little unsure of pursuing at the beginning but in my husband’s words ‘ just treat it as an adventure camp’.. put all my doubts to rest. I was ready to take the plunge and enjoy it thoroughly.
CB: Two kids, husband, household duties and an NGO to run, how did you manage the time to prepare for the contest? What all did you do?
Shilpa: Once I was preparing for Mrs World, I got tete a tete with reality. What looks so glamorous from the outside is only a result of sustained healthy lifestyle and focus. It was a life changing experience. I had to work very hard to lose weight, sleep early so that i don’t get dark circles and always keep my enthusiasm high and keep my stamina in check. I have to say that I am blessed with an extra ordinary family. My Mother in law flew down from Kolkata so that I could focus on my preparation. My kids , although all of four years old, were mature enough to give me my space. They knew that I was doing something important and never demanded anything. Its incredible how mature 4 year olds are. My daughter who loves art drew my picture with the tiara on it just before I left for China. It was overwhelming. My husband helped me with everything incessantly and my NGO was completely taken over by my partner. They all simply understood and filled in my space.
Shilpa with her twins
CB: Do you think the Mrs. India crown is high-maintenance? That you have to live up to it everyday? How will you manage that?
Shilpa: When I was crowned Mrs India World, I suddenly become a diva from an ordinary girl. I am the same person, doing the same set of things which most of us strive for, but the title brings in so much of credibilty and recognition. It does come with its own set of responsibilities and frailties. You are perpetually under the scanner because people are continuously taking cue from you in how you conduct yourself, what and how you say or do everything, so on a daily basis I strive to maintain that balance. It has pursued me to become more disciplined , responsible and thence happier as a person.
Shilpa with her husband and kids
CB: You run an NGO which works for children suffering from cancer. Tell us more about it? How did that happen?
Shilpa: My NGO Cuddles foundation just happened as a result of a conversation with a friend. She had gone to the hospital she donated to regularly, and saw a little baby who reminded her of her own daughter. That was the eureka moment. She asked me if I would be interested in doing something about these kids who suffered so much and my instant reaction was a yes. That’s how the journey began. We realized that there were enough NGOs who provided aid in treatment but nobody was providing protein and nutrition supplements. When a child is injected with chemo, his internal frame has to be rock solid to be able to absorb its impact. These kids, however were so undernourished that they would die not because of cancer but because of other diseases that they are prone to since chemo results in a steep drop in immunity levels. in layman terms they were expected to run a marathon after having starved for over 30 days. You can imagine the agony they go through. Hence we decided to equip them enough to fine cancer better.
CB: Any words of advise to CB readers-specially overworked mothers and wives?
Shilpa: As a woman you play multiple roles and in each of those roles, you have to give in your 100 per cent. We women are constantly endeavoring to be the perfect role model for our kids, the prized trophy of our husband, the exotic hostess, the invaluable daughter , the CEO of our domestic affairs and at work, the genie who fulfills all targets with the blink of an eye. I feel we are powerhouses packed with multi-tasking abilities without any limits on our energy levels. However , more often than not ,we are taken for granted and as a result our self worth is compromised. My only advice to each one is invest in yourself and don’t wait for a pat on your back. We struggle so hard to keep everybody around us happy that we often forget about ourselves. So, indulge in things which make you happy, give it your best shot and always stay humble.
Thank You Shilpa! I am sure your words will give mothers the courage to let go a little and be their own person
A final word for daughters, sons and fathers-give the mothers in your life the much needed break, and not just once a year!
Stay Gorgeous Mothers and Thank You for everything!