A McMaster student will represent two cultures this year as the newly crowned Miss India-Canada.

Mallika Kapur, a 21-year-old health sciences student, will merge her Indian heritage with her love of Canada after winning the crown on Aug. 18.

Kapur has won numerous prizes, including a $1,000 scholarship, round-trip airfare to India, jewelry, acting classes and a bevy of gadgets that includes a camera, phone and iPad.

"There were so many beautiful girls, and they were all so capable," Kapur said of her fellow competitors. "I'm just really happy they picked me."

With her crown, Kapur hopes to merge her cultural and academic interests. At McMaster, she is part of a research team looking at the impact of diabetes on the south Asian community.

"In some parts of India, it seems like diabetes clinics are as common as McDonalds is here," said Kapur, who works with researcher Gina Agarwal. And she has seen it impact family and friends.

Lived in Canada and India

Born in Calcutta, Kapur has lived in Canada and India. She spent part of her childhood in Mississauga before moving to Bangelore with her parents, Jaideep and Sadhana, and her younger brother Nikhil.

She returned to Canada in 2009 to attend McMaster.

"I had to come back to study," she said. "I love Canada."

She submitted a written application and a handful of photographs to Miss India-Canada organizers. She attended a regional event before she was chosen as one of the final 16. 

She had to learn choreography for the pageant's traditional Indian dance, which was aided by her 14-year background in dance. During the competition, she competed in interview, evening gown, traditional Indian and talent segments.

Surprise visit

In addition to winning, the pageant brought another surprise.  Kapur's father, who she hadn't seen in eight months, flew to Toronto to see her perform. He arrived just in time for the ceremony.

When they hugged afterward, "there were a few tears," said Kapur, who is an avid volunteer and a member of McMaster's varsity golf team.

Amrit Rai, a McMaster medical student, was one of two friends who went to cheer on Kapur.

"Having lived so much of her life in India and Canada, she's fused the two cultures very effectively," Rai said. "She epitomizes Indian-Canadian culture.

"It was nice to see her up on that stage because it's what she's always wanted, and she's a star."