Two Friday evenings ago Sangeeta Bahadur copped the Miss India Guyana 2017 crown, besting nine other beauties in front of a packed audience at the Marriott Hotel. But what many did not know is that the new queen has always been a queen but it took a coronation night to make it official.
Although the Canadian, who is of Guyanese parentage, only gained the official title of queen a day over a week ago, this remarkable young woman has always possessed the qualities of a queen, engaging in many charitable activities in and outside of Guyana for a number of years and it was only a matter of time before she was heralded and what better stage to do so than that of the Miss India Guyana 2017 pageant.
In a sit down with The Scene Sangeeta gave us the 411, beginning with what it feels like to be Miss India Guyana 2017.
“It is a phenomenal feeling. I put a lot of hard work in to getting here, a lot of practice, coordinating with the Miss India Guyana Organisation. That moment hearing my name called was just absolutely amazing and it’s still very surreal to me that I am the queen but I’m very proud to be the queen.”
She tried to remain confident throughout the pageant and felt very confident about making it to the top five but to win came as a surprise especially since the other contestants were strong contenders. She singled out first runner-up Ashmini Ramnauth for special mention as she had a lot of experience with pageantry including Miss World Guyana.
Sangeeta first competed at pageant level in the Miss West Indian Canadian 2016 in October last where she was the third runner-up. However, according to her there’s vast difference between the two pageants when it comes to the production and training which were considered to be of a much higher level at the Miss India Guyana Pageant.
“Running up to the pageant was a lot of hard work, the training was very intense. We had rehearsals every night about four to five hours into about two weeks running up to the pageant with our pageant coach, Derek Moore. We learnt our proper poses, to perfect our walk, how to carry our clothing and our opening dance routine”, said Sangeeta.
Training started two months prior to the pageant though it wasn’t as rigorous then. Sangeeta didn’t make it to Guyana however, until the two weeks leading up to the competition night due to work commitments back in Canada.
Sangeeta went on to say that winning has in no way changed her personality but has kept her humble. Part of having the title is realising that one needs to be down-to-earth and be a people person interacting with others from various levels.
The new queen said she bonded with the contestants some of whom she became very close to and maybe it is her friendliness that resulted in her being voted Miss Congeniality.
“In that short time, from that award alone you can tell how much we bonded and got to know each other and I really believe I’ve made some lifelong friends, they’re my pageant sisters….”, Sangeeta shared, speaking on what she gained from the pageant experience.
Her platform ‘Preserving the Traditional Indian Arts and Culture while Encouraging Positive Youth Development’ was in sync with the humanitarian efforts she’s been executing all along, a plan she will continue to implement throughout her reign and after. She’s actively involved in the Nirvana Humanitarian Society situated at Kastev, Meten-Meer-Zorg on the West Coast of Demerara.
For five years Sangeeta has been back and forth between the two countries, making visits to Guyana sometimes three times a year in order to carry out her humanitarian activities and teach youths Indian classical dance through the said organization.
The self-described humanitarian plans to execute her platform in three major ways.
Firstly, in an effort to have high levels of professional performances she will be in Guyana in July to perform a Bharatanatyam (a dance of Tamil Nadu in Southern India) piece and execute the various forms. Secondly, she will be teaching the students not just the technical skills of the art form but also many transferrable skills like poise, dedication, commitment and learning to have stage presence.
According to her all of these are skills that students take through their lifetime and put towards their careers.. Finally, she hopes to later train instructors in Bharatanatyam, in music and drama so that it doesn’t just remain at the Nirvana Centre but can be taught in smaller pockets in Region Three and hopefully expand to other areas.
She recalled that in July 2012 and August 2014 she taught a two-week-long intensive workshop of Bharatanatyam to the youth in communities surrounding the Nirvana Centre.
During 2014-2016 when the Nirvana administration roles were limited, she took to teaching the children at the Nirvana Centre via Skype every Saturday mornings.
“A lot of time and monetary donations have been given to my community in Guyana. A lot of time goes into planning the shows as well as rehearsals for them, preparing all of the local actors and actresses who also volunteer their time. We put on plays and shows to raise funds to support global needs such as earthquakes and medical cases as well as to support the local and international Indo-Caribbean community. We promote Indo-Caribbean arts such as music, dance and drama. We perform in Canada (Toronto), USA (New York, Florida) and Guyana (West Coast), South America prominently. The funds generated in these areas go to support respective local initiatives,” she said.
Sangeeta was born in Canada and first visited Guyana when she was eleven and was immediately smitten by the people and their deep-rooted culture resulting in her returning over the years when school was out. This led to her becoming a naturalized citizen. Academically Sangeeta pursued studies at the Brock University where she attained a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Business Communications.
Growing up Sangeeta wasn’t pageant conscious. She was always into sports but felt she developed the values required to be a part of pageantry and saw it as a platform to promote her cause. Among the sports she participated in were soccer, touch football, volleyball and track and field. Apart from that she threw herself into her education, dancing and her humanitarian work.
“My role model first and foremost would be my mom….she’s the person who has taught me a lot of the foundational things I know and she is my number one supporter no matter what. If she thinks that it’s something that I might have a little bit of difficulty with she’s always there to support me and push me on and say ‘yes you can do this, you can achieve this, go for it’. She’s always there to say ‘experience different things in life’; she has a really open mind and from that I’m then able to grow and have the mindset that I have…is really from her teaching”, the new queen said.
All through the competition before every segment she went to take blessings from her mother. Although the final segment for her was a bit nerve-wracking, she kept reminding herself to stay calm and try not to think ahead but be herself and whatever question is given to her to answer honestly.
So when the question for the pageant finalists ended up being : “If you will be winning the crown tonight what will be the very first thing that you will do?”, her response was that she’d go bow at her mother’s feet and take her blessings thanking her for her love and support and guidance. That was the first thing that came to her mind she said.
Speaking about this and her mother made her emotional and brought tears to her eyes and the eyes of the beloved lady she spoke of who sat nearby throughout our interview.
Her other role models would be here gurus (teachers) because of her relationship with them and the philosophies and knowledge they would have imparted to her. Had she the opportunity to meet someone who has been a great philosopher, it’d be the great Mahatma Gandhi.
“….he’s such an influential person and not only for religion but also for the development for people and he fought and stood for a lot of righteous things and even though he passed people may think that his death was in vain but I think he left a message that was very important; that you have to love humanity, you have to serve humanity because that’s why we’re all here because if we can’t help one another, who is going to help us. We have to be down-to-earth, we have to help each other move to the next level and that’s why I strongly believe in doing a lot of humanitarian work because if we are in a position to help others we most definitely should help….,” Sangeeta said.
She added that there are people who are very poor and need assistance to be given a chance to make it in this life.
“You never know what small gesture can influence or motivate somebody to learn something, move forward in their education or be a better person. I think it’s all a very big chain effect and if everyone can take that lesson and move forward with it, it would be huge for humanity”.
The eldest of three children, Sangeeta enjoys dancing, music, painting (acrylic paintings mostly sceneries), sketching, sculpting, photography, sports, reading self-development books (such as The Secret written by a number of authors including motivational speaker Bob Proctor), mountain biking, hiking, engaging in different cultures and traveling.
Starting from Monday she’ll be going on a strict workout and diet to prepare for the international leg of the pageant which is in five months’ time. As hard as that’ll be she certainly will take it as it comes.