I wasn’t surprised when I won Miss India’

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GUL PANAG, Actor

Tell me about your childhood.
Coming from an army background, I got to study in many different schools and that definitely had an effect on me. It made me more adaptable to any kind of situation. It made me more accommodating, outgoing and versatile. It was great and enabled me to experience life in a unique way. Even though I was a bright kid, I always hated mathematics till the 7th grade when I shifted to Wellington and a teacher made me fall in love with the subject. Being saved from the inertia of a single school has helped me form my mindset.

What’s your earliest memory?
My earliest memory would have to be climbing a tree with my father at our village in Punjab.

How has your father affected your life?
It would be an understatement to say that my father is the central influencing factor in my life. The integrity, honesty and the professionalism he has always shown at work are exemplary. If I were even half as good as him, I would think that I’ve been successful in life. I don’t mean monetary success because being in the army, my father could hardly qualify as a monetarily successful person. Whenever I go to the army club in Mumbai, people inevitably come up to me to tell me how my father had affected their life and taught them something. My ethics and principles are influenced by him.

Views on love and marriage?
I am a firm believer in the institution of marriage. Love, I think, means different things to people at different times. What love meant to me at 16 is very different from what it means to me now. Right now, love for me is respect, trust, gratitude, fondness, faith and friendship.

How did winning Miss India change your life?
At that time, there were very few ways of making yourself visible. Nowadays we have reality shows and talent shows, but in those days, only Miss India was a sure shot way to popularity. I was in my second year of college at that time. I was already top of my class, and had won the inter-state university debate two years running, but life was still not exciting enough. After watching that show I realised that you didn’t only need looks to win this sort of a contest, you needed brains too. I was just enjoying the entire journey. Winning didn’t come as much of a surprise as I had long realised that I was one of the front-runners.

ISHA MANCHANDA

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