Manya Singh watched the Miss India Pageant for the first time at 15 and now, four years later, she is recognized by her alma mater while wearing her crown and sash, with her parents and her father’s rickshaw by her side. Singh was crowned Miss India Runner-Up in a ceremony last week, according to India Today.
In a viral post by Humans of Bombay, Singh shared the story of her own hard work and her parents’ sacrifices. They moved from their small village in Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai.
Singh comes from a low-income family of four. She felt as if she had a calling to move to Mumbai, with a population of over 18 million. She ran away from home at 14, frustrated by the lack of opportunities, according to Her Story.
“I didn’t know where it would lead me, but I knew I was meant to achieve great things,” she said.
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Two days after calling her parents to tell them where she went and the part-time job she secured at Pizza Hut, her parents moved to be with her. Her dad drove a rickshaw to put her through school while Singh attended Thakur College of Science and Commerce, studying banking and insurance.
Singh was also working part-time while studying, earning about 15,000 rupees (around $200) a month. Her mother sold her anklet for Singh to be able to afford exam fees for school.
Through mopping floors at Pizza Hut, sleeping in the store room, and studying with her friends in college, Singh learned how people carried themselves and developed a persona for her pageantry.
When conducting interviews via video chat for over 10 pageants in December of last year in her house in the slums, Singh would be chastened for telling her father’s humble story. Singh disregarded those comments and was “proud of her roots.”
Two months later, she secured a victory for her family and herself as a runner-up in the national pageant. Singh wanted her victory to be a voice for women in lower social levels, according to Hindustan Times. Growing up, others would be sorry for her parents for not having a son as their first child.
With a crown on her head, Singh celebrated her win at her alma mater, with her father leading an 18-deep rickshaw team as she and her mother sat in the back. Singh can be seen thanking her parents in an emotional video documenting the special moment.
Singh’s father remembered he would drive his daughter to school every day. This time, it was different.
“Today, I was taking her with the crown on her head. I feel like I’ve gotten my life’s worth of happiness,” he said.
Singh’s mother encourages parents to support their children. Her parents were initially shocked at what their daughter wanted to pursue, telling Singh people like themselves didn’t even dream.
“I hope all parents encourage their daughters to touch the sky. Please support your daughters, so that they continue to dream,” she said.