We all know about Cinderella and how she spent many years without love or appreciation until one day when the world looked at her and saw a princess. Somewhere in Amritsar the fable repeated itself when a little girl was growing up in a society which has unreal standards of beauty, where people judge you at every step for how you look and not for what you are.
The girl grew up to become a person who can cheer up anyone, anytime. From getting ruthlessly judged for the way she looks to making her place in everyone’s hearts, from being deprived of little things in life to getting everything one could ask for, this cracker of a woman is tremendously inspirational.
Bharti Singh (33), with her talent and intelligence, overcame every challenge that life threw her way. She has broken rigid societal stereotypes by owning her place in the male-dominated comedy industry and she is confident enough to turn her back on the superficial beauty standards that India has been swearing by for decades.
In an interaction with KenFolios, Bharti talked about her childhood, the poverty-stricken days, and how her life changed unexpectedly in front of her own eyes.
“I was born overweight. When I was two, my father passed away. I was the youngest among three siblings and my mother started working to make ends meet. Jab se aankh khuli, tab se gareebi hi dekhi. We would buy a glass of milk only once a day for preparing tea. It costed Rs 2 and all I wished was to have one good sip.
I went to a government school where I joined NCC. I learnt rifle shooting and that is how I got into sports. After STD 10, a teacher from a very renowned college of Amritsar, who had seen me playing, insisted me to take admission in their college. I could not afford to go there but I got admission under sports quota. I remember spending my entire college life wearing only one tracksuit that was given to me from the college.
I used to be very depressed. Bhagwaan ko kosti thi ki main moti hu aur sundar bhi nahi. However, I was a very jolly, light-hearted person. I loved to mimic and make people laugh. I would do theater, perform in college, sports camps, etc.
Knocking the right door
One fine day, my sports teacher told me about Sudesh Lehri who was in town hunting for talents for a laughter show. I was pushed to audition. Later, I got a call from the show and I went for it without informing my family and did everything I knew in the stipulated time of just seven minutes.
People would tell me, “Haan ek episode toh nikaal hi logi.” Those very people were eliminated in the coming days and I went on to stand among the top three contestants.
After three months, I got a call from Endemol, an international media company. The girl on the other side told me that I was selected to go to Mumbai. Honestly, back then I did not know what a production house was. All I derived was that I had to go to Mumbai.
Endemol got me tickets to Mumbai and asked me to check the PNR number. Unable to understand anything, I took the ticket details to my teacher who told me that it was a flight ticket. Mumbai jaane ki saari khushi pehli flight ke darr ki wajah se khatam ho gayi. Somehow, I mustered courage and decided to go along with my mother.
We packed our clothes in thailas (cloth bags) and went to airport. I did not take airport trolley for our bags because I thought it would be a paid service. After battling a lot of hesitation and insecurities, we somehow managed to board our flight.
My world changed the moment it was announced that we are landing. I looked out of the window and saw millions of lights, like stars, brought down to the living. Deep inside my heart, I sensed an unknown feeling of reaching home. (smiles away)
Behind the curtain
My actual struggle began after I came to Mumbai. I started shooting for laughter reality show but just a few days later my mother fell sick. I was filled with absolute hate for myself and for making the decision of coming to this city. I could not believe how greedy I’d become for the want of seeing myself on TV! Bhagwaan kisi ko woh pal naa dikhaaye.
When I went to meet her inside the ICU, my mother simply told me to go for the shoot and forget everything else.
That day, I got a standing ovation for my performance. I knew this happened because that day I was performing for my mother in that ICU bed. I learnt that the show must go on. People sit and wait in front of their TV screens for a few hearty laughs. They do not care about backstage of an artist’s life.
I remember when I was coming to Bombay, my relatives would taunt my mother, “Sharam nahi aati, sir pe mard nahi hai aur beti ko Mumbai leke jaa rahi hai.” They were convinced that whatever I was doing was wrong. They would tell me that I am fat and I won’t be able to do anything in life. But today, the same people ask me to come back home to them.
Things that matter
I have met girls who have inferiority complex about their body and looks. I believe that most of that is because of the people who are around them. “Arey kam kha, varna teri shaadi nahi hogi.” Why is that? I think every parent must motivate their kids and acknowledge their talent.
Mumbai me agar aapke paas talent hai toh aap chhup nahi sakte. Yahaan talent ki qadar hoti hai.
Girls spend so much time to look a certain way. You just have to be fit and confident in your own body. Explore your talents, what you love, and pursue it.
Somewhere, I still feel that I am not a successful stand-up artist. I can say I am successful the day 50 other girls will take up comedy as a profession and, I hope, my name gets to be next to theirs. I want the entire world to praise and tell that these are the female comedians of India.
It all started when they were making background music for all the contestants. They asked me to say “Aye moti aa gayi oye” in Lalli’s voice. It was embarrassing for me but I could not deny. So I did that and every time I would come on the stage, people would laugh.
That was when I realized that people actually loved the way I was and that it was my big plus point. I started doing jokes on myself and eventually, “aye moti!” was replaced by “how cute and bubbly.”
Maine apni journey ko apne aankhon ke saamne badlate dekha hai. I took my first flight to Mumbai on March 28, 2008, and today, I take numerous flights to perform in dozens of countries.” (smiles on…)
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Conceptualized by Shubha Shrivastava