October 22, 2019 Asmita Aggarwal

Out of the Shadows

Burn victim Sharan Mishra finds hope in FDCI’s inclusivity campaign for LMIFW SS’20 as she makes a courageous return to the catwalk

By Asmita Aggarwal

When you are at your lowest, some people come out of nowhere when you least expect it and serve as a reminder that humanity is still lurking around the corner of our psyche even though we don’t use it as often as we should. That is the role of make-up artist Ambika Pillai in burn victim and model Sharan Mishra’s life.

When she was at the pinnacle of her career Sharan, who had been declared the face of the year in 2005 by leading newspapers, a freak accident at home in Kolkata left her with 65 per cent burns, struggling for life. It took six months of bed rest and several years of therapy and self counselling for Sharan to finally be able to want to meet anyone.

Ambika was persistent; she tried to help her see a plastic surgeon and offered her a job in her salon, which she accepted. But people can be cruel and during a bridal makeup session, someone commented on how inauspicious it is for a bride to be dressed by a burn victim. That broke the already vulnerable proverbial camel’s back and Sharan retreated to her shell. She never came back to work in the beauty business despite many requests. “Ambika called me and wanted to help, I just wouldn’t want to venture out. I would tell my husband to get me a burqa, so that no one sees me. I longed to be invisible. Life has been a struggle coming from a middle-class home and working since the age of 17 to support my family, but I never gave up,” remembers Sharan. It was a dream to get her parents a home, which she has achieved, as all her life her father toiled, but couldn’t save enough money to buy his own roof.

Her first assignment was when she was in class 9, and got selected for Ms. India, family opposition stopped her from venturing in it, as her father believed education had to be a priority. In 2001 she finally summoned enough courage to begin what she really desired, to be under the spotlight. Most of Kolkata’s greats from Sabaysachi Mukherjee to Shantanu Goenka wanted her to be the face of their campaigns, so she moved to Delhi and became one of the most recognisable models, signed on by Elite. “Burns left less scars on my body, more on my mind as I lost my self-confidence. I took up meditation, handled a small child on my own, my husband was supportive even though he also struggled with a debilitating disease. I wish my family could have done a lot more for me emotionally, it was a time when I needed them the most,” she says ready to walk for Lotus Make Up India Fashion Week, in association with EbixCash.

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A believer in the fact the soul is what matters and not a beautiful face, she admits when she started she was consumed by the glamour, it was only after working in the industry she evolved and understood, spirituality was the essence of life. She wanted to move away from fashion, but knowing what her skill set was, she turned her gaze to films, and started working with costume designer Niharika Khan and did Kartik Calling KartikPatiala House and Game. After her accident, she changed gears and shifted to a travel company Makemytrip for six years, but life wasn’t the same, she longed to do what she was good at —- modelling. Even though she could start her own travel agency.  “A friend told me about Mrs India contest in Delhi, I decided to give it a shot and that really changed my perspective towards how I viewed myself. What followed was the desire to come back and I did with FDCI’s inclusive model audition, which I think was a wonderful opportunity and a confidence booster,” explains the runner, who has clocked almost 1,800 km till now and hopes to reach the 2,000 mark soon.

Now a woman on a mission she hopes to help people, who have suffered similar fate, and aid them in accepting themselves first. “Beauty is not skin deep, it is about character and being spiritual and getting out of your comfort zone. I trained myself to be positive and not get hurt by the jibes and comments from those around me. We have to change ourselves and not the world,” she concludes.

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