Tell us a little more about yourself and why you joined the contest?
I am a doctor and currently training in psychiatry. Apart from medicine, I love dancing and acting. I have acted in an Australian short film (which is in its post-production stage) this year as the lead. I have also done some Hindi and Punjabi music videos and commercials. I participated in Raj Suri Miss India Australia pageant because I believe it will guide me in achieving my dream. I also wanted to showcase my talent on a global scale and inspire other professionals like me to pursue their passion and maintain a work-life balance.

How does it feel to win the Miss India Australia 2018 title?
Absolutely Amazing! Like the song “aaj main upar, aaj main neeche, aaj main aage, zamana hai peeche” (today I’m on top and the sky is below me, today I’m in front and the world is behind me) but in a less grandiose way!

What was your onstage strategy to win the judges over?
Self-confidence, the fact that I can do this. I didn’t go in thinking I will win but that this is a new experience in my life and I want to see where it takes me. Next thing I was on a plane to New York!

To those readers that are unfamiliar with the Miss India Australia 2018, please tell us a bit more.
It’s been run by Mr Raj Suri since 2001. It provides girls with a platform to showcase their beauty and talent, and encourages them to become leaders in their respected fields. I think it’s a great platform and I have seen the opportunities past winners have got out of winning his pageant.

Is the Miss India Australia pageant empowering?
Most definitely! Auditioning with Raj Suri boosted my confidence especially regarding my acting skills. Raj has a lot of experience in the industry and what it takes to be a good actor so his feedback really gave me the courage to pursue this forward.

Do you see this win as a stepping stone to entering Bollywood?
Bollywood is a big industry. There are thousands of people who go to Mumbai every day with the hopes of making it big in the industry. I am passionate about acting and my aim is to act. I am open to all options -whether that is in Australia or overseas. Working in Indian cinema would be a dream come true though.

Given a choice between working full time as a doctor full time or being involved with the world of glamour, which would you choose and why?
I love my work and I would never give up being a doctor. It’s a very satisfying profession. I believe it’s important to have a balance between your work and passion. If given the chance to work in films I would definitely take it and work as a doctor when I’m not filming. The acting industry can be quite challenging especially if you’re just starting, so you need some form of income to pay the bills. And the great thing with being a doctor is that you can work anywhere in the world.

What would you like see changing for Indian women in Australia?
Perhaps more inclusion within the broader community. As an actor, I would definitely advocate for better representation of women of colour on screen. This has been a challenge for me and I hope to see this change come about sooner rather than later. I believe we are capable of playing regular roles on screen and not just be the person working at the gas station or driving a taxi. We are much more diverse than that. There must be equal opportunities for new migrants in Australia.
I remember when we migrated here, we used to live in a small country town in the Grampians. Initially it was very challenging as we were the only non-Caucasian family in town. But what helped was attending community service groups at libraries and churches which helped us integrate into the new environment.

What was your takeaway from the global contest?
It was a whole new experience; the contest was at a much larger scale. It went on for five days – three days were spent on training and the other two main big days were when we had the competition rounds. There were contestants from all over the world and they were beautiful and talented. The message I took home regardless of who won is that no matter how talented you are, there is someone more talented than you. So one has to always keep working hard and keep doing one’s best.

Moving forward, what are your immediate plans?
Winning the Miss India Australia title and runner up in the Miss India Worldwide 2018 come with a lot of responsibilities. I will try and do some charity work. I am training to be a psychiatrist and there is a lot of work around mental health that I can get involved with. That is something I am focussing on, perhaps at a global scale. At the same time, I am thinking about committing some time for my acting career as well.

(As told to The Indian Weekly)