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“Who is the poorest in this world?”


who does not dream, one who does not love, is, alas, the poorest!”

This robust reply to the judge’s delicate, deciding question led Nibir Shabnam to the podium; she is now the Miss Amway North East! Beauty is in the eyes of Maini, the beholder and judge!! Beauty connoisseur Maini Mahanta, who edits the premier Assamese women’s monthly Nandini, is impeccable at recognizing splendor in photographs she picks up at her office. Twelve issues a year of the glossy monthly for the last eight years and it is clear that Maini upholds quality. Because cover-page discovery by Nandini invariably leads to wider approval, Nibir sought the Nandini pick with a selection of her best photographs. Maini Mahanta encouraged her. Nibir Shabnam’s cover photograph in a recent issue of the magazine after she won the Miss Amway North East award also validates besides the winner’s worth and audacity, an editor’s commitment to readers who seek her guidance and inspiration.

Maini has known her reader Nibir for several years.  Nandini is a habit with Assam beauties; I mean the Assam girls who nurture beauty, the Assam women who cherish beauty as well as the Assam men attached to beauty. So Maini received a photograph of Nibir at an unspecified date and it was published, though not on the cover. Thus, Nibir defined her mission and eventually in December 2008, Maini was the proud witness to Nibir’s crowning. Maini Mahanta incidentally was one of the judges whose deciding question in the Amway Miss North East pageant at a jam packed Guwahati auditorium sprang this delightful surprise.

Nibir does not come from any elite segment of the society. After growing up in the small town of Jamugurihat in Sonitpur district, Nibir is now a student at Darrang College in Tezpur. Dance, acting and modeling have fascinated this girl from a tender age. Once she invited a photographer to take some glamour pictures and she sent them to the Assamese glossy. It was in the year 2001.

Beauty breeds envy and it annoys insecure guardians. Nibir too instantly drew aspersions for her foray into the realm of beauty. People around her castigated her demeanor and the ambition revealed in the Nandini pictures. However, she remained calm with steady support from her mother who faced unpleasant encounters of conservative, green-eyed people. Consequently, in 2003, Nibir found herself a student at Assam School of Drama in Guwahati although she was unable to complete her training. She then had a stint as an anchor in a private TV channel and at the same time hit the fashion ramp.  In the quest for success and fame, regrettably Nibir once missed a flight to Paris. She was selected to represent Assam in Femina Miss India 2006 and this required her to travel to Paris for the Grooming Round. Sadly, she did not possess a ready passport. Following this, the gifted beauty turned to VCD and Doordarshan to cultivate her acting prowess. Apart from her acting assignments, Nibir has in the meantime opened a book publishing house, I assume, in a bid to blend her beauty with brain.

Nibir’s road to beauty is a touching saga of decision, determination, inspiration and accomplishment. She drew her inspiration from Nandini, the glossy magazine dedicated to beauty. Nandini is a woman’s magazine—planned, visualized and edited by Maini Mahanta for the last eight years, redirecting the feminine worldview to the Assam’s nook and corner. An editor and an established author of Maini’s stature is unlike others of her kind who usually cultivate public awe by denying their fans easy access. Unconventionally, Maini Mahanta welcomes people from diverse spheres to address her with their aims and wishes.  Nibir was just one of them when she came to the editor a few years before wearing the Miss North East crown in December last year.

The shared jubilation of Nibir and Maini, in the end, gently roars -
Let us learn to dream and love, it makes us beautiful.

By Dhruva Saikia, With inputs from Shruti Jain
Photo Courtesy: Maini Mahanta, editor, Nandini


Nazrul Islam Mondal
Rai Business School