Being the only girl in a large joint family residing near Bhopal, Bhakti Sharma, 25, got into the habit of referring to herself in the masculine gender while speaking in Hindi (karunga, jaunga), surprising and amusing many.
But Sharma is now the newly-elected sarpanch of Barkhedi panchayat on the outskirts of Bhopal and has really taken the battle to the men's camp.
In the next five years she says she wants to do everything that wasn’t done in the panchayat by most men who occupied the post.
For Sharma, entering electoral politics was an extension of social work her family was into. Her great grandfather, Pandit Gyanchand Sharma, came from erstwhile West Punjab just before the Partition and became one of the prominent settlers here.
The family has commercial establishments in city and farmlands around it and has been active in many social organisations.
And the recent sarpanch contest, was not her first brush with elections.
In 2010, Bhakti was elected the president of the students’ union of Nutan Girls College from where she did her Masters in political science.
Having decided to pursue full time social work, in November, 2014, when she learnt that the post of sarpanch had been reserved for the general category women, Bhakti decided to take the electoral plunge.
"Even though we come from a conservative set up, my family was very supportive when I told them that I want to contest. There were three other candidates, all of them known by their husband's names. In effect, I was contesting against men and hardly ever saw women who were contesting against me during campaigning,” says Bhakti.
Bhakti had been going to Barkhedi with her father ever since she was a child.
"There are so many public welfare schemes but one doesn't see the benefits of the schemes on the ground. There was a time when I thought I should set up an NGO to help implement schemes but then once the panchayat was reserved for general candidates, I decided this was a better route for public service," she says.
"My ambition is to make Barkhedi a model panchayat," she adds.