Meet Sikkim-born Nikita Agarwal (28), Blogger-in-Chief of ‘PenTwister’ a one-stop blog for fashion and food industry. Born and brought up in the tiny Himalayan State of Sikkim, she is making a much bigger name in the world of bloggers at this juncture. Currently, she is residing with her husband Akshay Manchanda in the city of joy ‘Kolkata’, Nikita has been exploring different facets of fashion and food – letting the world understand the taste of new cuisines and about fashion through her creative writing.
Being the eldest daughter of Suresh Agarwal and Manju Agarwal, of the capital city of Gangtok, East Sikkim she completed her fundamentals from Holy Cross School, Tadong and later shifted to Haryana to complete her high schooling from Vidya Devi Jindal School, Haryana. Her inclination towards and influence of the hospitality management can be wholly given credit to her father and uncle who were both engaged in the hospitality industry for many years, gradually ending up in her pursuing Bachelors in Hotel Management. She completed her degree from the International Institute of Hotel Management, Kolkata and later travelled to Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland to pursue her higher studies in Hospitality Management.
‘When I was in class 9, I exactly knew the then that what am I suppose to do in my life. I wanted to be a hotelier and later went on pursuing my studies in Hotel Management’ said Nikita Agarwal while interacting with ETChronicle
While all the hotel management skills were she wanted to get skilled at, Nikita did her internship from various reputed institutions and hotels. She did her first internship from The Oberoi, Banglore (2008) and later followed by Hilton Caledonian, Edinburgh (2010),
Lucid Pvt. Ltd (2011 – 2012 ), ITC Windsor, Bangalore (2012 – 2013), The Sidlon Residency, Gangtok (2014 )
After her learning and earning many experiences in hotel management from the U.K and later landing up in the native. Nikita got much settled back home and after a few months, she realized that everyone around was blogging and using creative writing skills to reach out to the world. Then ‘PenTwister’ happened in her life with strong support from her then-boyfriend and now her husband. Nikita started blogging from the year 2011 and is into writing on fashion and food, which she is an ace at. Currently, she is one of the finest lifestyle bloggers of the country. Initially, she was based at Banglore, where the work on her blog were noticed by many which later made her choose to blog as a full-time career of which she is passionately enjoying and contented.
According to Nikita, blogging is a very challenging career. There are its own pros and cons. Many around are still unaware of the value of blogging. Some even think that blogging is kind of just a hobby and neglect the fact that someone can have a career in it. Blogging is an art and is also a great platform for many to be a brand or make a brand keeping in minds on the aesthetics via content and visuals. Today, 59 per cent of professionals rate blogging as one of their top inbound marketing services. ‘PenTwister as a whole has experienced a growth in a graph and I believe the growth is for better. PenTwister has come a long way since 2011. One can visit my blog at www.pentwister.com and follow my page ‘PenTwister’ on Facebook’, added Nikita.
5 girls from Sikkim shortlisted, who do you think will make it as the finalist of VLCC Femina Miss India 2020?
It has been few years down the line that Sikkim has seen witnessing a lot many girls shining on the platforms of various beauty pageants in India and abroad. Roshni Ghimirey, Peden Ongmu Namgyal, Pramila Chettri and Sang Doma Tamang are a few names and recognized beauty queens who represented Sikkim in the most celebrated Femina Miss India competition.
Peden Ongmu Namgyal made history in 2017 by becoming the first Sikkimese to win Miss India Supranational in and representing India on an international pageant of Miss Supranational 2017 held in Holland. To see a Sikkimese girl torch bearing the hope and aspirations of Sikkimese to win any pageant in the country isn’t new or impossible anymore. No bar is too high!
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, VLCC Femina Miss India is all set to hold the pageant soon and are currently scouting for empowered girls in various states of India. Many girls from Sikkim had registered for the competition in the month of October-November out of which five girls have been successfully shortlisted, and from which the only one can make it to the finals. The five girls selected from Sikkim are Rajeshwari Chakroborty, Rudrani Bahurupi, Reetika Chettri, Pema Bhutia and Priyanka Sharma
Rajeshwari Chakraborty (22) is from Gangtok, East Sikkim. She is also a former Miss Sikkim winner and reigning Sunsilk Mega Miss Northeast. She is interested in acting, reading, writing, dancing, painting and travelling. She has been featured in various music videos of Northeast singers and acted in various ads and promos of Sikkimese brand.
Rudrani Bahurupi (22) is originally from Gujarat but has been living in Sikkim for the last four years, pursuing B.tech in Computer Science from Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology. She is a national level badminton player and was an official cultural ambassador to France for 2014-15. She loves public speaking and modelling.
Ritika Chettri (20) is the reigning Miss Sikkim from Namchi, South Sikkim. She is currently pursuing her graduation in English from Namchi Government College. She is interested in reading, writing, watching movies. Apart from modelling she also wants to pursue her academics in Psychology.
Pema Bhutia (19) is from Sivik Lingdok, East Sikkim and the reigning Glam Miss Sikkim. She did her schooling from Tashi Namgyal Academy, Gangtok and is currently pursuing her B.Tech in Civil Engineering from Reva University, Bengaluru. She is interested in dancing, cooking, spending time with family. She aspires to become an inspiration to many youths of Sikkim.
Priyanka Sharma (25) is an Interior Designer from Gangtok, East Sikkim. She completed her Interior Designing from JD Birla Institute, Kolkata and later flew down to Mumbai to pursue her training in modelling from a modelling and pageant training academy ‘Cocoaberry’. She is interested in yoga, meditation and making handicrafts. She was one of the top five contestants of Miss Sikkim 2019.
These are the top 5 girls shortlisted for the VLCC Femina Miss India 2020. The five girls will soon go for a personal interview (PI), and later on the basis of the PI, the final one will be selected to represent Sikkim and compete for the coveted title of VLCC Femina Miss India 2020.
ETChronicle would like to convey congratulations and best wishes to the girls!
Nafiza Shah – A voice under the crown
Behind the glitter and glamour of the stage, draped in designer dresses and walking in high heels, these women in their petite figures with smile plastered on their faces, are just another human under a microscope for the world to judge. Yet, some judge them harshly for their skin and the alignment of all the elements in their body that makes them beautiful. While the beauty pageants in general are believed to be a measurement of beauty that is skin deep, some beg to differ.
To Nafiza Shah, the 1st Runner-up of Mrs Sikkim 2019, pageant is not just a ramp walk, but a platform to be vocal about one’s belief and to influence the world for betterment.
“I was never a pageant girl, I am rather a speaker. My fate chose a different direction, this must be my destiny”, says Nafiza.
An enthusiastic woman with a voice and a vision, Nafiza, speaks her heart out for the people of Dho Tapu, the place where she resides.
“I came here (Dho Tapu) four years ago. The roads here are still prehistoric and it is saddening to talk about water and electricity. The reason why I chose the pageant was because I desperately wanted to speak for the people of my place who are deprived of their basic needs”, she advocates.
There’s a hint of dissatisfaction as she speaks, “I was hoping to do more with it (the title) as I was promised for media coverage. There are issues underlying that needs to be heard and seen by the world outside Syari. It broke my heart as I couldn’t much for them and I am still trying my best”.
Mrs Sikkim platform was just a beginning for Nafiza, as she was encouraged to join for Mrs India World where she bagged the title of Mrs Charity. She furthered towards Mrs Universe which she recalls being the toughest one so far.
“The best thing about pageants is the feeling of sisterhood. Competition is prevalent, but we looked beyond that. I was there not to compete with anyone. We still share a bond”, she shares.
When Nafiza was selected for Mrs Universe, her visa got rejected five times. The venue being Guangzhou city, China, thus she has her own speculation and notion towards the rejection. Nafiza is Muslim by birth and belief.
The documentation was a tedious task for her, yet she didn’t lose hope and could pass through the scrutiny on the sixth time. Unfortunately, her video couldn’t make it for the forum on 24 December, 2019 as she reached China on 25 December, 2019.
“I wore a dress that represented my state Sikkim, displaying the five elements of Buddhism, I performed a Maruni dance showcasing my Nepali culture”, she tells.
Her struggle story is different. She is a single mother of a ten year old son Aahan. “Society is docile to the fact that it has its own temperament and tantrums when it comes to women; I get to hear a lot of- ‘May be because of her’, stories behind my back. I do not support playing victim just because I am woman. We should not be submissive creatures and we certainly cannot afford to be weak. There’s no need to play victim of the circumstances. When you have a wonderful child in front of you, you have to be strong. Gone are the days when children only looked upon their fathers as idols. The world is changing. They now look at their mothers as source of strength”, asserts Nafiza.
She further talks about women empowerment with animated sincerity that women should grab the opportunities that is given and if not given, create the opportunities to see the world differently.
Nafiza got bed ridden in 2018, she had suffered spinal injury due to nerve compression. She also owned the academy of skill development years back. The academy provided women skill training, it generated employment to young women, specially single mothers and created confident individuals.
“It was a hospitality/spa training academy for girls. I was helped by my sister. There was no education bar. Anyone could join and we provided lodging at minimum fee and free fooding. It was a private institution where jobs were guaranteed. This academy was solely for women, especially for the one who had married off early and had separated with their husbands. 80% of women in my academy were single mothers. It was to encourage these women, I wanted to make them believe in themselves by saying that if you have skills you can rock the world. You don’t have to rely on your husbands or your family. You can earn. Sadly, I had to shut it down in 2014 due to some unavoidable circumstances”.
Nafiza is not just an aspirant but an advocate of woman empowerment and social development.
“Dho Tapu is a small neglected village under Syari Constituency which lacks proper road, water and electricity. The roads are the cause of many damages. There are no proper medical facilities for the people here despite having star hotels and a casino. Due to the condition of the road, there are school dropouts who labour for their family. There’s no proper sanitation and the village has limited electricity and not everyone enjoys this luxury. The village people are gullible gentle folks who rather believe in local remedy than approach a doctor who is 2 hours away”, she informs.
For Nafiza, medical issue is problematic and she’s willing to give a portion of land for a dispensary which is a must in her locality. She believes in actions rather than words. Her future plans includes events were she can make people aware of the situation in Dho Tapu, for which she feels a deep sense of duty.
Below are the pics of ‘Dho Topu’
As the world around is moving towards change and development, her main focus lies here in this small ignored village of East Sikkim which is very near to the capital, Gangtok. She has a voice and is not afraid to be vocal about the glaring issues. She cries out for help to the government and the NGOs. Her passion for people, her land is a contagious emotion.
Sure, the heels may click and the pain may aggravate or subside, but she has made up her mind. She is set to bring the change to her world that is fragmented now. She appeals for helping hands for the people of Dho Topu. And just like that, not all heroes wear capes some wear heels and walk with a crown.
Becoming the extraordinary | Shaireen
A girl who was always fond of making outfits for her dolls is now finally living her dreams of being a designer and model for various Indian brands. Shaireen grew up looking at her mother who is very artistic and skilled in crafts and embroidery. Amy from ETC brings forth to you a wonderful journey of an ordinary girl from Darjeeling who built herself into an extraordinary individual. Below is the interview:
AMY: Coming from a small town of Darjeeling, what kind of challenges did you face and how did it mold you into the person you are today?
SHAIREEN: Coming from a small town, well initially, I was beginning to feel that it’s not that hard, but as I progressed and started exploring more, like tattooing and a bit of modeling along with designing, the level of thinking, at a point started opening up to a lot of ideas. Though not all of them were great decisions or experieces, I got a lot to learn from those. And then people started having a lot of expectation from me, seeing all those posts of my related to tattoo, designs and shoots. The feeling was great and at the same time pressurizing. Today, after all those experiences, I would say there’s one thing I know and that is my strength and nothing can break me but I myself. So I keep pushing myself because I don’t want to be dependent as I feel relying on people makes one weak.
AMY: How did you think of entering in this field of creativity? Who is your inspiration and whose work do you admire the most?
SHAIREEN: My inspiration would be my parents. I know this might sound very mainstream but yes, even before I started recognizing artists and designers, the first icons to me were them. Not just in terms of what I wanted to achieve in life but through them I started understanding how to become the root to a foundation and then after leaving home for my design course when I got out of my bubble and shifted to a new place where I had to figure things out on my own.
AMY: Your best and worst phases in life.
SHAIREEN: The best phase for me would be the moment when I had just started with my tattoo studio. It was the moment when I had started believing in myself and not depending much on any other. It was the phase where I had everything planned about how I would go step by step towards what I believed in. The worst phase would be leaving it. Reasons being, my stupidity of trying to put my foot into too many different ventures following which I was not being able to focus on what was important.
But then I guess it’s never too late and I still believe I can and so I continue to resume my journey and not to return home till I achieve my goal.
AMY: What are your future plans?
SHAIREEN: Well I ‘used to’ have this target towards the fashion world as a designer. I wouldn’t say that I totally have gotton over it, but apparently with the vibe that has evolved within myself, I am more into tattooing and exploring people, places and the different asthetics of their art forms. So, planning of starting up with a studio soon then eventually move on to my own apparel brand will be my plan for the future.
AMY: Describe about your internship period.
SHAIREEN: During the times where I interned, I would say I picked up a lot of skills and also discovered I had more potential than what I normally did. But I think I took things very casually, so I feel I could have done better.
AMY: What are your designs mainly based upon and any work ethics you believe in?
SHAIREEN: My personal designs are pretty much very experimental, colour palates being very subtle. I work more around the punk/ goth/ rock subcultures, but I don’t really always stick to it because there are times (rare though) whereI end up designing somthing louder than my style.
AMY: Your greatest strength and weakness.
SHAIREEN: My greatest strength would be my parents. Initially, when I had just started with this whole journey of leaving my hometown to do what I wanted to, they were apprehensive, but then as things started moving forward they were very supportive. They said- “at the end of the day what matters the most is how happy you are” and they had faith in me.
My weakness would be me. I have realised over the years that everything that happens is because of one’s own belief and nothing or no one else’s. So knowing the level of potential I have and not being able to focus has been my greatest weakness within myself.
AMY: How do manage your time for modelling, designing and as a tattoo artist?
SHAIREEN: Honestly, I don’t really have a proper schedule till date. I somehow have been lucky enough the manage slipping it all so far. I try really hard to keep my Sundays off as I need some space and time for myself. Also taking into account, I don’t have a personal assistant to manage my schedules for all three works.
AMY: Haven’t you thought about participating in any beauty pageants ?
SHAIREEN: I don’t know yet. May be I did think about it once in a while, but not that hard enough.
AMY: Where all have you worked till now and do you have any dream work place or company or brands with whom you want to work?
SHAIREEN: There are a bunch a names or companies I have worked and also collaborated with. Kabir Leathers, Shivmani Exports, Kultprit and others in terms of design. I also worked in events. I had my own tattoo studio for quiet some time. Apparently, I am working as a designer and stylist with 145 East and also freelancing as a tattoo artist. I also indulge in designing work with a very close friend of mine at Green Fur.
AMY: Your favourite fashion brands from past and present?
SHAIREEN: MY favourite fashion brands or rather say designers from the past would be Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung, Bobo Calcutta, 145 East, Maku Textile and many more.
AMY: Name few of your accomplishments in this field.
SHAIREEN: I cannot really point out the accomplishments but I sure did get to work with a lot of very talented artists and brands over the years such as The Space 9 by 2, Diesel, Loreal, Kompanero, Bombaim, Maku, Bobo Calcutta, Studio Kasa, 145 East and others. Also I got an opportunity to be a part of Loreal Hairdressing Awards and also events like The India Story.
AMY: What would you like to say to our readers?
SHAIREEN: Nothing really counts for anything. So, try not to force anything upon yourself. You cannot force things, they just have to happen naturally. You create your own destiny because opportunities are present around you. You just need to notice them. Most importantly, be real and learn to appreciate your soul for who you are.
AMY: Thank you so much for your valuable time. We wish you the best for your future endeavours and keep inspiring people and make our country proud someday.