Bengaluru dentist wins Miss Popularity title at Miss Wheelchair World 2017 pageant in Poland

Rajlakshmi says she is very happy to have won Miss Popularity Wheelchair World 2017.
Bengaluru dentist wins Miss Popularity title at Miss Wheelchair World 2017 pageant in Poland
Bengaluru dentist wins Miss Popularity title at Miss Wheelchair World 2017 pageant in Poland
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Bengaluru-based Rajlakshmi SJ, who represented India at the recently concluded Miss Wheelchair World, was adjudged Miss Popularity 2017 at the pageant.

Held on October 7 in Poland, the contest was won by Aleksandra Chichikova of Belarus.

"I am very happy that I won Miss Popularity Wheelchair World 2017," Rajlakshmi says, a day after returning to the city.

By Marcin Kuraś; Source: Miss Wheelchair World/Facebook

For the 31-year-old dentist and professor, the journey has been an enriching one.

All the participants attended a 10-day workshop, engaged in several activities, visited many places and met government officials during their stay.

"And then there was the gala event. It was all amazing. It was a beautiful journey," she says.

For the main event, the participants had three rounds - national costume, cocktail dresses round, and evening gown. It was for the national costume round that Rajlakshmi put in the most effort. She included as many elements she could in the most creative ways to represent the country.

"India is very vibrant. And when it came to the national costume, I incorporated as many elements as I could. So I had the national bird, the national flower, Ashoka Chakra, Bharatnatyam and Kathakali included in the design of my costume. And since I am from Karnataka, I also wore the Mysore peta. I was also wearing lots of gold jewellery," she explains.

By Marcin Kuraś; Source: Miss Wheelchair World/Facebook

To be able to implement her ideas on stage, Rajlakshmi took help from her physiotherapist at Mobility India. Together with the team, extensions were added to her wheelchair, something that the dentist says, none of the other contestants had.

Rajlakshmi's mother who regularly accompanies her on her trips was unwell this time and she travelled to Poland with her brother. This was a learning experience for her.

"I have evolved in so many different ways in the past few days. Since my mom wasn't there, I had to do most of the things by myself. My brother did help me in whatever way he could, but I had to manage the rest by myself. That said, I understand my disability and was happy to do it," she proudly states.

The other thing that touched her was the spirit of her competitors.

"They were very warm and I loved that. There were women (with severe disabilities) who could not move at all. But one look at their profile and you know they are incredible. There was one person who couldn't move her body, except her eyes. She and her husband work in the field of disability. Can you believe her determination to go on stage?" she says.

Rajlakshmi's story is inspiring in itself. In 2007, then just a student, she met with an accident which paralysed her lower limbs.

"It was a whole new body I had to deal with. I was a whole new person physically," she had told TNM in an earlier interview.

Instead of giving up though, she decided to focus her energy on following her interests and passions, one of them being modelling. And her first true taste of success in the field came when she won Miss Wheelchair India in 2014.

At the pageant in Poland, participants also shared the problems that persons with disabilities face in their respective countries. While some nations are better than others, Rajlakshmi found, they all have issues to deal with.

"The grass always looks greener on the other side. A contestant from the US talked about the difficulties they faced. Now it may not be on a scale as large as in India, but it is present there too," she recollects.

Now that she is back from the trip of a lifetime, Rajlakshmi plans to get back to working as soon as possible.

As she signs off, she reads her busy schedule. "I am expanding my clinic, there are a few disability-related projects that I am working on and then there's a wheelchair tournament happening later this year."

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