Some years back, while on a study tour of malnutrition in the 24 Paraganas and Sonagachi in West Bengal, my sponsors, the Unicef, put me up in Hotel Hindustan in the heart of Kolkata, from where, of course, I would begin my journeys at 7 am everyday for the week I was there. And every evening, when I returned, sapped of all energy, disturbing my sleep would be music coming from below my room. It was choreographer Hemant Trivedi teaching young guys how to walk the ramp for the Mr India contest. My immediate thought then was: don't these young men have anything better to do in life?

Now, as I watch the Femina Miss India contest live on TV, I think I was wrong. From Jhumritalaya to aamchi Mumbai, young India nurtures a dream -- to be crowned India's beauty queen or king. The money, fame and glamour associated with these pageants is stupendous. And so today's progamme, India's most coveted beauty pageant, repeat the anchors, has taken Indian beauties to global heights. It is also the reason why India is no longer called the land of snake charmers, they insist [in case you didn't know].

I was watching the show in all seriousness, but for the interruption from my sister and her snide comments. Backstage, a semi-finalist was just asked how she felt. Dripping in excitement , she replied (as if straight out of a Sabira Merchant language and phonetics class), "We were raw, now we are polished and ready to shine." And ready to be a mannequin, adds my sister. Anyway!

But as the show proceeds, as the adrenaline rushes, there is more of brawn than ready wit on display. It's the question/answer round, when you are treated to the infamous, pet 'Mother Teresa' and 'World Peace' diaogues and which Sandra Bullock played to perfection in Miss Congeniality. Loved that movie. OK tonight's show was not bereft of the cliches. In fact, they seem to be getting better each year.

Take contestant No 1. When asked if given a chance, which social cause she would espouse? Prompt came the reply, "Given a chance to adopt a social cause, Siir, I would spread awareness on AIDS, and the different types of AIDS." Clearly, this woman has a medical bias!

Contestant No 2. What is your biggest strength and your biggest weakness? "My biggest strength is that I am a dreamer. Six years ago, I dreamt I would be walking the ramp and wearing a crown, so here I am. As for my weakness, I am over sensitive but I am working on that." Reasonably good? So this is part of the young India dream I just mentioned above.

Contestant No 3. What is the one invention that has changed the face of the world? "The one invention that has changed the face of world is electricity." Sure, from darkness to light. This one answer had both the judge and the anchor commenting. The judge, in this case, a slimmed down singer Adnan Sami quips how he can't do without his microwave. The humorous anchor adds his mother lives on an electrical lifeline, the refridgerator.

Contestant No 4. Should sex education be taught in schools? "Yes, sex education should be taught in schools because we are hesitant to talk about it at home. So, yes it should be taught in schools." Now you know why we have we have so many types of AIDS.

Contestant No 5. If you are a world leader, what, apart from terrorism, would you focus on? "I would focus on global warming because it is causing so much trouble(s) to people, and they are losing their homes. The future will become very difficult if global warming happens. So, we should all look forward to global warming." I love her.

With that, I ran out of patience and went on to grab some dinner.But when I did return to my hot seat, they had eliminated most and chosen just five of the 20 beauties. Tsk, tsk, tsk! Finally, the clincher of a question asked to all the five. If you were to convince a rural woman to compete in the Femina Miss India contest, what would you tell her? "The Femina Miss India contest is the one platform where women can realise their true potential and make them confident, responsible citizens of the world," said one. The rest echoed the same thought, with the same conviction, that this was the platform to be for all women aspiring to become indepedent and responsible and, of course, make the country proud. One chose to be a bit different and added "and then I woud tell her look at what all you can do for your village if you win." I say, yes baby, the money baby, that's all that matters.

And I forgot to mention, the introductory sessions. Nothing is more impressive than this. "Main Sakhsi Gulati hoon. Main khana banane aati hoon aur meri andar jo sanskar Bharitiya nari main hona chahiye, woh hain (I am Sakshi Gulati, I know how to cook and I have the values of a true Indian woman).

The uncrowned queen was Miss Nagaland, the sole face of the northeast. For all the talk of national integration, northeasterners seldom qualify for lack of their Indian looks. She, however, won the 'Sony Miss India' prize and the fresh face of the year award. [Best skin, best hair, best figure]. Her opening line: "I am just a small town girl, aiming high in life." Original, simple, unpretentious... Need I say more?


Sabarmati View said...

i never knew you had such fantastic memory. but tell me how did you manage to remember all the answers? Did Mother Teresa come in your dreams and gave inspiration to you? i also watched the programme and why did that Sara cry so much??? Too much to digest so much tears...

Indira said...

Deepu, i was making making a mental note 'cause i knew i had to write this. call it razor sharp memory :)

za said...

loved this article....i think satire and sarcasm are back in fashion. Kudos...I know some of these ' women of substance' n i wouldnt hesitate a minute to say that they are exceedingly regressive than progressive( i think people wrongly brand the K soap is where its all working backwards). When the Q&A round is over the spotlights are off and the crown is tucked away in the corner they are busy calculating the airtime they each got and if someone surpassed them; their universal appeal for world peace is replaced by ' 5 years down the line im going to be on top of the industry!!' so much for the very important social causes.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

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