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Sushmita Sen, Miss Universe
Sushmita's homecoming
On top of the world
A true picture
Tory scandals
Ulster hopes
Ulster truce
A reprieve for Pawar
Goa to Gummidipoondi
Benazir returns
A manhunt ends
Escobar's end
Guns and Roses
Banking on Dini
Rwanda's death camps

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'Tiger' Pataudi
Anita Ratnam

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Frontline

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On top of the world

By V. Venkatesan

TIED in the final of the Miss India beauty contest earlier this year, models Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen were each asked a clincher: if they could change one event in history, what would they choose?

"My birth," said Aishwarya, somewhat tamely. Sushmita's less self-centred reply--she chose Indira Gandhi's assassination--gave her the title and a chance at the Miss Universe crown, which too she won, in Manila in May (Follow this link to read about it).

After last fortnight, however, Aishwarya will presumably have no more desire to change the circumstances of her birth. On November 19, the green-eyed brunette from Bombay bested 87 other women from across the globe to become Miss World at this year's pageant in Sun City, South Africa. Only one other Indian has won the title: Reita Faria, in 1966. Aishwarya, 21, who was also crowned Miss Photogenic, won $500,000 in cash and prizes.

Sailing through the early rounds of the pageant, in which contestants' ability to spout syrupy correct-speak at short notice is as much on test as their physical allure--sometimes in skimpy swimwear--is on parade, Aishwarya said that if she won the crown, she would be "an ambassador of peace, goodwill, harmony and compassion for the underprivileged." Thanking India for "this opportunity", Aishwarya, a Bharatanatyam dancer, said that over the next year, when she will be associated with humanitarian work, she would devote herself to "problems of hunger and malnutrition."

In Bombay, batchmates at the Academy of Architecture, from which the woman with the most expensive face in Indian fashion industry had dropped out to prepare for the contest, planned a big bash for her. Friends gave adjective-happy journalists their impressions of the "warm, down-to-earth girl."

Two beauty crowns in six months; more than three years of strenuous globalising have earned India not the promised place in the sun, but some temporary indulgence in the Sun Cities of the glamour world. n

(Published in Frontline, December 16, 1994)

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Sushmita's homecoming

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