It is said, we become the juncture of each of our aspirations. Meet Pallavi Sirohi, an alumnus from the StartingBloc Community, who has been to paragliding schools, joined design labels and is a finalist of Miss Earth India 2016. The woman who comes from an army lineage holds a strong affinity towards adventurous sports. She has been a part of parasailing, shooting, trekking and NCC camping. Read this exclusive interview with the stalwart.
What caught your interest in paragliding? Can you share your experiences with us?
Being an army daughter, I am an adventure junkie always on the lookout for new experiences- I had been a national shooter, done parasailing, rafting, rappling, trekking and quite a bit of camping before I was introduced to the world of free flight. In my first year of college, a friend -also a pilot- casually showed me a picture on Facebook. Instantly, I knew I had to fly solo!
Paragliding is one of the best takeaways from my college days. For me, it’s beyond a sport. It is a sacred experience that lets me connect to my soul. To feel your feet lift off the ground and let the wind sweep your face, looking down at a lake, a ridge, a sea, minuscule houses and dots that you know are cars and people.. to leave all of it behind and soar into the sunset like a bird.. weightless! It is surreal like one of my many dreams. Like any other adventure activity, it has its risks but with a proficient instructor you’re quite safe. I was lucky to have one of the best acro pilots in India, Tanaji Takve, as my trainer and guru who taught me to love, live and respect this sport. Even today when I see a colorful canopy in the sky or in a backpack, it’s an instant connect.
You were also awarded as the RSAMI May Queen 2016 title, a few fashion shows and a finalist of Miss Earth India 2016. What motivated you to pursue modelling? Can you share your learning from this profession?
I am an abstract artist and I shall love my paints to death. Modelling only happened after I forayed into pageantry and I realised that I could also create and express art using other mediums like my own body. I would love to be a ramp model in the near future, but presently I’m doing concept shoots and portfolios that I’m quite excited about. I’m still exploring this realm and there’s s much unfolding each day.
My biggest learning so far is an ongoing one, which is that the camera never lies, the mirror does (laughs). In the mirror, we get comfortable with seeing our beauty and flaws a certain way and on it goes. When you start shooting hundreds of pictures in a day, you begin to notice and accept new “good” and “not-so-good” things about yourself through others’ eyes. It’s marvelous. As a model I feel very aware of myself and stronger in embracing my flaws.
You are a sportsperson, a kathak dancer, and a drummer among other things. You also made history when you got the NCC JW Best Cadet trophy to your Directorate for the first time. How has this exposure helped you in your life?
Each of these experiences has taught me life lessons that lay the foundation for the person I am today. In all these roles, I had the space to grow as an individual. To find what I love doing the most, I tried out everything that came my way!
If we talk about sports, skating, hockey, swimming and badminton have been my favourites. As a sportsperson I’ve ingrained a never-say-die spirit- I never give up. On the other hand, NCC gave me the exceptional opportunity to push my physical and mental limits during the TSC and RDC camps- hours of training in the sun, sleepless nights for months, countless interviews- doing everything from tidying the barrack and learning folk dance to giving presentations to Cabinet Ministers and yet ensuring that my uniform was as crisp on the last day as the first.. I salute my instructors and trainers like Col V Z Sharma who made me capable of getting the Best Cadet trophy home. This experience honed me as a leader as well.
I strongly feel that more of us need opportunities to seek ourselves amidst the chaos. One such opportunity is The Young India Fellowship which has been instrumental in opening me up to different perspectives, enabling me to introspect my own beliefs and prejudices and gave me a community of Fellows who understand me like no one else. It’s also where I found my love for painting.
Do you think more students need to come forth to pursue unconventional professions?
Oh yeah! I believe artists in any field have a great responsibility to represent the times in which they live- to depict the greatness and achievements of our times as well as to voice the injustices and tragedies with sincerity. Art speaks to everyone. It transcends all boundaries. It is a very powerful tool with a massive potential that calls out to strong, opinionated and talented individuals. We definitely need more people who want to co-create a more beautiful world.
You were also a StartingBloc Fellow 2015 New Orleans. Can you tell us about your experience of this fellowship?
StartingBloc is a thriving community of handpicked Fellows across the globe who are doing great work in start-ups, social sector and unconventional career streams. The days are an initiation into the larger Fellowship which continues well beyond the institute itself. New Orleans 2015 was the first year for NOLA institute and what a city to host the Fellowship in! Art galleries, voodoo, jazz, delectable food and vibrant evenings in the company of some wonderful people! From club-hopping to sharing life stories that leave a permanent mark, the experience is unparalleled.
I am glad to have found a steady support system in these crazy Fellows who are trying to create a better world through whatever they do. This buzzing network is alive with so many ideas, resources and opportunities every single day that making connections, sharing work and even hosting Fellows is a treat. All this, only because the team behind this effort (Cesar, Kristine, Kat you guys are incredible!) gives each new batch the reassuring feeling of belonging with this tribe.
Who have been your greatest mentors in your journey?
This journey has been rewarding due to some people who believed in me when few others could. I remember when I started my FB page as a model and Miss Earth India contender, the general reaction was outright shock and even disbelief because most people had known me in capacities that didn’t quite fit in with this aspiration.
To wear the tiara as a beauty queen is a dream I have seen through my mother’s eyes while my father and brother have been my anchors. These beautiful people and some close friends make it possible for me to dream fearlessly and pursue relentlessly. Professionally, The Tiara has been integral to my journey as a pageant girl. Ritika ma’am is a mother figure for me who has guided me selflessly every step of the way.
How do you think your unconventional past helped you to connect with your startup career?
I believe people who start their own ventures are often independent thinkers with a strong sense of purpose and the need to create value. Doing unconventional things and striving to do them well has made me realize that I’m only limited by my thought, everything else can be learnt. Startups demand an appetite for failure and the aptitude to bounce back from it, which one develops while experimenting with new avenues.
Before I even graduated with my Bachelors in business, I knew I wasn’t one for the 9-5 job. After college, I worked with different start-ups – a paragliding school, a designer label and my own event management firm. My past exposure to diverse fields gave me the confidence to believe that I could expand my competence to those areas that I hadn’t touched before. This trait is essential to thrive in a start-up. We need people who find solutions, and that can only happen when we can move beyond our limitations.
I love the environment in a bustling startup, it is infectious- there’s the opportunity to set your own terms and nurture your creative energy. Even alongside this pageant I’m constantly engaged with people in different start-ups and am planning to launch my own venture soon, ideally in the up-cycling space.
What is your message for our readers who are mostly the millennium youth?
How incredible to be the millennium youth! Be the best version of yourself that you can be, every day. Be shameless in chasing your dreams and everything else will fall into place.