For Manasa Varanasi, who was crowned Miss India World 2020 at a glittering ceremony in Mumbai a couple of days ago, the announcement of the winner’s name is still echoing in her ears.
Did she expect to win, we ask the ecstatic girl who hails from Hyderabad, Telangana. “In a way, I expected to win and also to lose,” she says. Stressing that she was hopeful and confident in her abilities and preparation, she points out that “Winning is out of one’s hands — destiny, luck, the competition — they all have a say. The nerve-wracking thing about a contest such as this is that everything can change in an instant. So, while I am very proud of my achievement, I am also humbled and grateful that the stars aligned for me.”
The 23-year-old feels that winning the pageant title has enhanced her belief that something greater is in store for her. “It affirms my belief that it is important to surrender to the energy of the moment and that hard work, a kind heart, and true intentions do not go unrewarded,” she shares, adding that she sees the title as both a gift and a responsibility. “It means that I must now work doubly hard to make this opportunity meaningful — to me, and also to those I will have the opportunity to help,” says Manasa, who works as an analyst in a financial firm in Hyderabad.
What part did Hyderabad play in making her what she is today, we ask. Manasa says she is inseparable from the city that has shaped her immeasurably. “I have grown with this city and to live in it is to carry a sense of balance, respect and culture. Hyderabad is in my mind, my heart, the poetry that I write, and I dare say, in my belly — I mean, how can you talk about Hyderabad and not think about the incredible food you get here?” she says with a laugh.
She describes Hyderabad as an incredibly complex city — modern and dynamic, yet a time capsule of history, with its mix of faiths and traditions.
Manasa ascribes her victory to her upbringing. She was drawn to the arts from childhood. Her parents Shailaja and Ravi Shankar ensured that Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music were an integral part of her growing up years. However, she says she was never interested in modeling. “I come from a background where such careers are not really seen as aspirational, and I was a pretty studious child, always focused on academic achievement and building skills for a traditional career,” she says.
Manasa studied at Global Indian School and Vasavi College of Engineering, Hyderabad. It was only after she participated in and won a pageant in college that she realised her potential, the young woman says. “The win showed me a different side of life, and that was the spark that got things started,” she smiles. She started preparing for beauty pageants in earnest after the victory.
It was tough, preparing for the beauty pageant while continuing her career, she says, but adds that balance is key. “It (the competition) required a full-time commitment, and I am very grateful to my employer for being supportive in my journey,” she acknowledges.
Getting into films seems to be a natural progression for beauty contest winners. Although Manasa isn’t sure what the future holds for her, she tells us that she has learnt to embrace opportunities. “More importantly, I think that the young women (and men) of today can and should be multi-faceted,” she signs off.