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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Punjab’s crowned glory

Khushwant Singh   April 21, 2013
First Published: 17:14 IST(21/4/2013) | Last Updated: 00:22 IST(22/4/2013)

“Oh teri di,” I shouted with excitement the moment I heard that Miss Chandigarh had been crowned the new Miss India. “The girl who I had judged along with four other judges as Miss Chandigarh has been declared Miss India,” I exclaimed so that my wife could hear it loud and clear.

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“Yeah! We all know that you’ve always had an eye for ravishing women,” she replied with an equal thunder and a largish smirk on her face. The thunder and the smirk suggesting: relax you old Sardarji, now that you’ve already picked the prettiest as your wife, you better mend your ways.

Ignoring the stern warning, though, at one’s own peril, I was soon interviewing the 20-year-old Navneet Kaur Dhillon, who, by winning the most-coveted Indian beauty title, had once again brought to focus the age-old adage of Sikh girls being one of the most ‘sohni kudis’ around.

The hour-long interview saw this young and gorgeous Sikh model, who originally hails from Haryana (village Kathwa near Shahbad-Markanda), speak about her family, upbringing and education. And, of course, about her childhood ambition to become Miss World one day. “I was only two years of age when Aishwarya Rai won the Miss World title and my father always believed that his daughter could become Miss World one day.”

Daughter of Akvinder Kaur and Col Bharpur Singh, a serving Indian Army officer (Group Testing Officer SST, Bhopal), Navneet, like any good ‘guddi’ (daughter), attributes her success to the constant encouragement by her parents and her older brother Gurjot.

Cosmopolitan in their approach, Navneet found no problem in discussing her ambition with her family and even recollects making a prophetic statement in front of her father when she was all of eight. Navneet remembers telling her father that how she thought she could become a Miss World in 2013.

So, is Miss India just a stepping stone for her to fulfil her ambition? Perhaps yes, she says, her faith in Waheguru at an all-time high. “When I became Miss Chandigarh, I went to Amritsar to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple. I did the same when I was crowned Miss India,” she says.

Wow! I am just imagining the jostling amongst the various Gods, who will be out there to get the girl of their respective faith, the Miss World crown.

Jokes apart, with arsenal such as God, awesome parents, exceedingly good looks and determination already on her side, does she still need more to achieve an aspiration as huge as this? Yes, and Navneet, one gets the feeling, is blessed to have it all — an attitude which generates positive energy, laughter that is infectious, a grounded demeanour, a mature mind and a yearning to explore and adapt.

Perhaps, these are the very qualities which made her overcome a major condition called nervousness. During the Miss Chandigarh event, I recall that her lips wouldn’t just stop quivering each time she would walk up to the judges.

As a judge, I can share, I struck off loads of marks because of those moving lips. “Yes, I was extremely nervous, but I couldn’t do anything about them. I was helpless,” she confesses. “However, the grooming to the run-up to Miss India helped me tremendously to get rid of the butterflies,” she claims.

A student of Punjabi University, Patiala (that’s how she was called Patiala girl), where she is pursuing a BTech course in TV production, Navneet has been a keen sportsperson too, equestrian being her favourite. “I loved to hang out with the
guys, and would play the sports they played.”

Try asking Navneet about her schooling, and she rants out names like Ambala, Coimbatore, Bathinda, Manipur, Imphal, Siliguri. “Basically, wherever my dad got posted, I belonged to that place,” she says.

A true Miss India!

The columnist is a Punjab-based author and journalist.

singhkhushwant@hotmail.com

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