“Do kadam aur” and with mantra, Manya Singh, the daughter of an auto driver, became the Miss India Runner Up 2020. Humility, grace and determination are embodied by this 19-year-old who ran away from home when she was only 14! She just didn’t win the crown, her inspirational story has also won the hearts of many. From working at Pizza Hut to fund her education to gracing the stage at one of the most prestigious events, Manya has come a long way. And TC46 celebrates this extraordinary journey of Manya Singh with some inspiring milestones she has traversed.
She Never Stopped Dreaming
“My parents were shocked when I told them I wanted to participate in Miss India. They were not sure of this profession because where I come from, girls either get married or take up a government job. My mom told me ‘aukaat se badhkar sapne nahi dekne chahiye‘, that’s when I decided to chase my dreams and prove to myself and everyone that I have it in me to achieve the impossible”, says Manya.
This charming girl has been dreaming about a day like this since she was born. Convinced she can’t live an ordinary life, she wouldn’t let her background come in the way of her big dream. Struggle was a part and parcel of her life, but despite challenges, she never gave up. Even when people around her tried to pull her down, she picked herself up and moved forward because she knew that was the only way she can achieve what she always believed she was capable of.
Proud Of Her Humble Beginnings
From watching her dad make ends meet by driving an auto to arriving at her college in her dad’s auto, Manya’s life has come full circle. She is extremely proud of her background despite the fact that it brought her many a difficult time. Even though she had to go without food or sleep and walk miles just to save a few rupees, she is appreciative of her parent’s hard work. When she arrived at the felicitation ceremony at her college in Mumbai, she made sure she stepped out of the autorickshaw that her father was driving and posed with it.
As Manya Singh’s parents escorted her to her college for her homecoming, she touched her mother’s feet for blessings. And wiped off happy tears that rolled down from her proud father’s cheeks. This poignant moment is a reflection of her humility and gratitude.
The Journey From UP to Mumbai
Manya was born in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar. Her parents and Manya worked hard to put herself through Lohiya Inter College in Sahwa, UP. Feeling caged at her home in Uttar Pradesh, which felt too distant from her dreams, Singh ran away from her village after she completed high school.
“I took a train from Gorakhpur to Mumbai and arrived at Kurla station. I was born in Kandivali so I immediately came to the area,” she said. Her family followed their daughter in Mumbai soon but the battle in the big city now awaited the small-town girl. As she didn’t have enough money, Singh got a job at a Pizza outlet, which helped her complete her junior college. “I would mop the floor, do dishes, and also sleep in the storeroom.
Fighting Patriarchy To Pursue Her Dreams
In an interview, Manya said, “I was 15 when I watched the Miss India Pageant for the first time–I thought, ‘I’m going to win that crown someday and make Papa proud.’ But coming from a patriarchal family, I was told that women are lesser than men. Tauji would say, ‘Ladkiyon ko padhai karke bhi shaadi hi karni padti hai.’ But when I told Papa, ‘I want to compete in a beauty pageant’, he said, ‘Keep working hard and you’ll get there!’ So during my graduation, I auditioned for over 10 pageants, but they’d say, ‘Shakal achi nahi hai’ or ‘You don’t even know English’ Things weren’t easy at home either–Papa had mortgaged our jewellery to pay my fees. So if I’d need money to buy clothes, I moped floors and observed how people carried themselves, how they’d dress up, and talk to each other. It was a massive learning for me for the entire year that I worked there.”
Privilege and money do not guarantee success and Manya Singh is the perfect example of this. Her perseverance, determination, hard work and zeal have brought her lifelong dream to fruition. Her humble background is not representative of chains bounding her but depicts her strength. Manya Singh is not only an inspiration for girls and women from an underprivileged section of Indian society but also a hero for those who seek to break the rules of patriarchy and prejudice.
Read the editor’s column about the rise of a small-town girl here.