Wheelchair to Catwalk - Ruchika Sharma

IJ Anita Tejwani
Published on: 20th October 2014
If a woman has been through a major accident, had a five-inch screw implanted in her leg, was bound to a wheelchair for months, completed a challenging course at the Indian School of Business, won the class honours for her business plan and then went on to walk the ramp at a beauty pageant, all this while raising a family, running two culinary institutes and hosting cookery shows on TV, what would you call the saga? You’d call it a long story, perhaps! But would you care to know that it happened in a span of less than a year?

This satire is named- Ruchika Sharma. Sure, you might have known her from the 700 cookery shows she has hosted on TV or the workshops she has conducted for the National Police Academy, the National Industrial Security Academy, MCEME and such like. You might even have known her as a food virtuoso who runs two culinary schools. But her never-say-die spirit is a surprise all the same.

Ruchika Sharma is a celebrity chef, food stylist, cookery show host and writer, and the winner of the crowns of Mrs. India Hyderabad International 2014 and Mrs. South Asia at the Crown Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia, Atlanta. Not bad for a woman who was wheelchair-bound less than a year ago.

The alumnus of Wesley Girls High School and St. John’s College was doing a Goldman Sachs course on entrepreneurial skills at the Indian School of Business (ISB) when she had an accident on the Outer Ring Road in December, 2012. She was patched up and put in a wheelchair. Refusing to curse her fate, she let the doctors do their bit and summoned her spirit to do the rest. Ruchika says, “I was confined to the wheelchair for four months. Thanks to Dr. Meer Reddy of Care Hospital, Banjara Hills, I was put back on my feet with a five-inch screw in my left leg. I was determined to finish the women entrepreneurship course at ISB. Imagine my joy when I won the award for the best business plan!”
Ruchika Sharma
The idea of participating in a beauty pageant came to Ruchika during her days of recovery when she was full of the fighting spirit. While surfing the internet in August last year, she came across the Mrs India Queen contest, wherein married women of Indian origin participate. She had never participated in a beauty competition, but had hosted a few pageants in Hyderabad. She applied on a lark and cleared several rounds to the final at the Crown Plaza in Delhi in December, 2013. “I didn’t win the title, but was crowned Mrs India Popular among the 21 contestants,” says Ruchika. “My happiness knew no bounds. Not bad for a first timer!”

She didn’t want to stop her journey in the beauty world there. She had her spirits going. It was quite a juggle preparing for the Atlanta show, with having to look after operations at her two culinary institutes named as ‘Ruchika’s Culinary Institute’ at Hyderguda and Paradise, and making plans to open another at Jubilee Hills. She has had a punishing schedule. She says, “My day begins and ends with preparation which includes training, gymming, diet. I am on my toes managing myself, my office, my baby and my family.”

But, it’s a blessed feeling just to be going. “I thank God for giving me this opportunity. I will learn a lot about other cultures and, most importantly, my seven-year-old son Rushat is awesomely excited about the whole idea,” says Ruchika.

Apart from Rushat, Ruchika can count on quite a large support team. It includes her mother Lalitha Sharma, her husband Pawan Abotti plus all the assistants, housekeepers, trainers and dieticians at her institutes who are rooting for her.

Ruchika harks back to Sushmita Sen to get an idea of how a pageant participant ought to conduct herself. There must be something in the fact that the former Ms. Universe balances a successful career and motherhood. Recalling her favourite childhood memory, the celeb chef says: “I always fancied Sushmita’s gowns, and my mother would stitch them exactly in Sushmita’s style for me and she radiates that divine feeling you have when you love being a mother.”

Preparing for a beauty pageant isn’t just a matter of naming three inspiring heroes and three honourable intentions and then walking over to wear the tiara with your mouth appropriately agape. Ruchika approached the pageant as she would the food presentations that she’s renowned for the intensity with which she read for her ISB course.

What does her victory represent? Ruchika says that it would stand for the spirit of womanhood, be it as second earners in the families or as independent women. “What I’d love to do from here on is impart independence to every woman I meet, perhaps, run self-employment programs to teach women skills that will make women financially independent. I’ll still stand as an example to motivate other women to come forward like me,” says Ruchika.
Food is Ruchika’s element, the myriad ways of preparing it and the myriad ways of presenting it, drawing out inner nuances, whether visual or gastronomic. As a Master of the Kitchen, she loves being challenged to rustle something up for unannounced visitors. It’s a thing with her to serve a five-course ghar ka khana with the accent on the healthy: soup, salad, two main dishes and a low-cal dessert. The C6 crew was treated to a sumptuous salad of cucumber, carrot, onions, okra, arhar dal, roti, rice, curds, olive pickle and chocolate mousse. She is not just a chef but a food stylist too.“I give a lot of importance to exotic plating and presentation,” says Ruchika. “I love to have a lot of colours on the plate,” she adds.

As a mother and a food connoisseur she combines duty and art. Of course, she does the cooking at home, and challenges herself to make something for her school-going son that he cannot resist. It’s a game every morning: “My son leaves for school at 7.30 AM and I have to pack two tiffins for him. His teachers and friends know his mom is a chef; so, his box is invariably inspected. I’m judged every day,” she says.

Her prized possession is her kitchen machine from Kenwood. “It can handle all the pre-preparation work without any assistant and at any given time can do three things simultaneously in 10 minutes flat. So, it is me and my kitchen machine,” says Ruchika.

Ruchika also represented at Mrs. International at Florida in July, 2014, where she was a finalist. This worked as another feather in her cap.

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