By Gurleen Khanijoun Chawla
“During the ramp walk,
I could hear my heart beat and it made
me feel alive and youthful.”
When Anjana Ghogar accepted the crown during the Mrs. India-Thai 2017 competition, no one was surprised by her victory. Confident, charming and clever, this 48 year old embodies all the qualities of a winner. However, she is more than just a pageant contestant, for behind this delightful woman lies a passionate IB Biology teacher with dreams that are yet to be fulfilled. As she coyly says,
“Don’t let this grey hair fool you. I am a combination of diverse natures.”
What inspired you to compete for the Mrs. India-Thai 2017 title?
I like to add excitement to my life. I like to be part of group projects that empower me and help me become a better version of myself.
What were you hoping to gain from this platform?
It is funny, but at my age I feel more ready to fulfill my dreams than ever, one of which involves acting in films. I felt that this platform was apt for me to announce it to the world, in hopes that someone would take me seriously.
How did you personally prepare for the competition?
I became more careful about my exercise and diet. I watched a lot of previous pageant Q & A sessions to get a feel of how to answer and how not to. I also tried watching news clips, but soon realised that my mind is not programmed to record topics that don’t help my physical, mental and spiritual growth, especially if it is out of my control. Watching news clips is a long-term training of the mind and I didn’t want to do it just to sound smart and up to date.
Despite doing your homework, were there any challenges that you couldn’t evade on stage?
One of the challenges was to make a speech in 30 seconds — to make a genuine point about myself that was interesting. Wearing four-inch heels during the catwalk was a killer, while wearing an off-shoulder dress was something out of my comfort zone. However, when my family and husband, who are my true critics, supported me, I found the courage to wear it and ended up loving it.
It was a totally new look!
What was the highlight of the whole competition?
Meeting 24 women from various Indian communities and walks of life, and connecting with like-minded people. There was healthy competition between us, as everyone worked on improving themselves, while helping each other overcome our fears and inhibitions.
Were there any life-changing incidents?
We were told to make a speech and answer questions in 30 seconds. During the preparation, we realised that women talked a lot, but never really got to the point. We kept going round and round the bush and, in the process, totally forgot what the point was. This realisation was very important for me, so I started staying on track when I spoke with other people in my life, such as my husband, domestic helper and colleagues. I would think and restructure what I needed to say to anyone or in any situation, even while shopping. This was my take back and will be an ongoing practice till it becomes a part of my nature.
What other principles define your life?
I love to seek spiritual wisdom from Guru Granth Sahib Ji and apply it in my life through common sense. I have a very scientific approach to life and usually accept nothing until it passes the fair test. I also get very excited about organising Sikh camps to share Guru’s simple, yet practical ways of living, especially to the youth as they are our future. I have a creative heart which I express through art, lyrical dancing, and writing analogies to simplify difficult concepts of science and spirituality.
Were you surprised when you won?
Oh yes! I didn’t expect to win the crown. I was very overwhelmed. During the ramp walk, I could hear my heart beat and it made me feel alive and youthful. People’s cheers and screams made me genuinely happy.
Now that you have this recognition, what are your future plans?
Now that I have announced to the world that I want to act in films, let’s see if any opportunity knocks on my door. I am also open to any responsibility that comes with this title — to participate in various community service activities in order to help the Thai and Indian communities. The organisers of the competition, Eventology intend to reach out to underprivileged children in orphanages to make small contributions. I would like to help out in any way I can to positively influence society.
Pageants are fraught with negative connotations. Did you have to deal with any negative reactions?
In general, yes, perhaps there are some negative perceptions attached to pageants. But right from day one, when project manager Renu Bhatia first shared her thoughts about how the pageant was being planned with an emphasis on elegance and maturity, I was convinced to join. Having said that, there were a few people who did ask why I felt the need to compete and what would I gain from it. Without really having to, I dealt with their questions because it helped clarify my own intentions and purpose. I feel the reactions of people are just projections of yourself, your subconscious mind wanting more clarity, and once clear, no negativity comes your way. At a personal level, I am extremely thankful to my husband who supported me unconditionally and gave me the wings to soar.
How do you inspire other women?
To be beautiful inside and out, we need to express and not suppress ourselves. I believe life is love and identity fully expressed. We should also face the world with courage and confidence, yet not lose the feminine qualities of compassion and humility. I try to live by these values and would like to inspire women through my expression and behaviour.
What is your advice to women who plan to participate in next year’s competition?
To be yourself and enjoy the process. It’s a win-win opportunity.
As a contestant, you will grow as an individual, make new friends, create wonderful memories and, most importantly, feel a sense of accomplishment.
Mrs. India-Thai 2017 was the first competition of its kind in the Thai-Indian community. Organised by Eventology, this competition aims to bring Indian and Thai cultures together, as well as to empower women from all walks of life. The 25 contestants were between 35 to 55 years and are professionals, entrepreneurs, teachers and housewives. Other winners include first runner-up Pooja Mirchandani, a homemaker and hands-on mother to two teenage kids, as well as second runner-up Aishwarya Kapoor, a working single mother with a passion for interior design, travel and Bollywood dance. After the resounding success of the first pageant, members are already eagerly looking forward to Mrs. India-Thai 2018.