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From olive green to beauty queen

At an age when most women think of retiring or atleast settling down into a fixed routine,Lt Col (retd) Ankita Srivastava,decided to reinvent herself.

Written by Shalini Rai |
April 21, 2009 2:25:37 am

Effortlessly playing two contrasting roles,Ankita Srivastava,a retired Army officer,bagged the Most Vivacious Woman title at the recently-held Gladrags Mrs India contest

At an age when most women think of retiring or atleast settling down into a fixed routine,Lt Col (retd) Ankita Srivastava,decided to reinvent herself. And that too,in a field which was,for her,as contrasting as chalk and cheese. “I applied for the Gladrags Mrs India contest and got shortlisted among the 22 finalists from among 5000 applicants. Winning the title of Most Vivacious Woman at the contest was a dream come true for me and the realisation of a long-held dream,” says Srivastava.

A lady officer of the 1994 batch,only the third batch of women officers in the Army,Srivastava says the condition of women in her hometown Allahabad made her decide to join the Army. “In Allahabad,being a girl was an utter disadvantage; eve-teasing was rampant,you had to dress up in a certain manner and do only certain specified acts,else you faced a lot of flak,” she says. “By joining the Army,I hoped to change all that and become a leader of men and a role model for other women,” she adds.

Posted as a second Lt to Siliguri right after getting commissioned into the Army Ordnance Corps,Srivastava served for 14 years in various stations around the country and finally retired last year. “I was second in the all-India merit list in my batch of officers and gave my best to the organisation,” says this mother of two boys. “Incidentally,both my sons were born during two crucial operations of the Army. My elder son was born in 1999,in the middle of the Kargil conflict and the younger one in 2002,when Operation Parakram was on,” she adds.

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After serving for 14 years in a dynamic working environment,Srivastava says it was difficult to reconcile to the fact that she’ll have to “go back home and make chapatis for the rest of my life”. That’s when she read about the Gladrags Mrs India contest and decided to participate. “From being a thoroughly robust,almost masculine (in demeanour and speech) individual,here I was in Mumbai,grappling with turning into a very feminine person,” muses Srivastava. “It was a role reversal – from being told to be forceful and assertive in all that I did,to projecting a totally new facet of my personality. I had to do a 180 degree turn and learn to explore my femininity after a long hiatus,” she adds.

However,all the hard work which this spirited woman put in reaped rich dividends,when she was awarded as the Most Vivacious Woman at the pageant. “Believe me,I had never worn heels in my life before this contest. And here,I had to wear four-five inch-high heels for hours on end,” informs Srivastava. “I considered the fashion choreographer to be like my Drill Ustad at the military academy and followed his instructions to the ‘t’. In the end,all the hard work,aching heels and rigorous catwalk training paid off,when I was declared the Most Vivacious Woman. It was the most unforgettable day for me,” she adds.

Clearly,from a soldier to a sundari,it has been a memorable transformation for Srivastava and one that will inspire others to take up newer,more daunting challenges.

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