Mr India South Africa celebrates intellect, not looks

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Beauty pageants should shift their focus from “looks to intellect”, believes the new Mr India South Africa who hails from Rylands suburb in Cape Town.

Mohammed Israar Osman, 23, a fourth-year law student at the University of the Western Cape, returned home with the national title on Thursday. He beat 13 other contestants last Saturday in Durban.

He said this contest, which focuses on nurturing young leaders, “does not have looks as part of the criteria to enter”.

Cape Town law student Mohammed Israar Osman (centre) returned home this week with the Mr India South Africa title. Nerin Govender from Johannesburg (left) was named first runner-up and second runner-up (right) was Keegan Chetty from Durban. Picture Supplied

Cape Town law student Mohammed Israar Osman (centre) returned home this week with the Mr India South Africa title. Nerin Govender from Johannesburg (left) was named first runner-up and second runner-up (right) was Keegan Chetty from Durban. Picture Supplied

“I had to submit pictures when I entered. I also had to write an essay on how our Indian and African culture integrates,” he said.

“We went to Durban last week and over fours days we had to do various activities. We had to cook a traditional Indian meal and met with the Indian consul-general.

“Judges looked at how we spoke and interacted with different people.”

He added: “If other beauty pageants could change and be like this, then it would help the youth.”

Interestingly, organisers invited any male aged 16 to 30 to enter, “as long as you have a love for Indian culture and you are South African”. The contest launched in 2011.

The majority of last week’s 14 finalists were Indian while some were mixed-race.

Osman is from a family with mixed-race roots. His great-grandmother was a white Afrikaner, while his mother’s family has Malay heritage.

As title holder, Osman is expected to promote Indian culture at various events.

“I have to show others what the Indian community is and what we do. There’s a lot of diversity in the Indian community. You get Muslim, Hindu, Christian and even Jewish Indians,” he said.

“It’s important to me that we don’t have segregation. We want to show that we can integrate. We can merge our Indian and African cultures. It’s something amazing.

“In African culture, there’s something called ubuntu which is linked to brotherhood, and that is something that I would like to incorporate that into everything.”

Osman said Indians in South Africa “grow up following our culture strictly”.

“You need to be proud of your culture,” he said.

He said he aimed to continue charity work and social activism.

“I now have a perfect opportunity to network and create links with other charity organisations,” he said.

“I’m part of a group called People of Peace. We spent time at orphanages and old age homes, to interact with people who stay there and make the day a bit better for them.”

Osman said he was also “very involved with the Palestine issue”.

“I feel strongly about justice, as I’m a law student. I believe South Africans should support the Palestinian struggle because it’s very similar to what we experienced under apartheid,” he said.

“I’ve been to all the marches for Palestine. I’ve also been involved in our university’s Palestine Solidarity Association. We organised events with international speakers this year.”

Osman said he wanted to know more about “what happened in Marikana” because it is “also very close to my heart”.

“I went to events where people spoke about it. I am still learning about the mining issues and labour practices in South Africa. Studying law has gotten me more involved with these issues,” he said.

For the next year, the contest’s organisers would expect Osman to make appearances at various events. He said they understood though that his last stretch of law studies was his top priority.

“My studies will come first. If there are any events that I can’t make the two runner-up winners would attend,” he said.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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