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Sushmita Sen, Miss Universe
Sushmita's homecoming
On top of the world
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A reprieve for Pawar
Goa to Gummidipoondi
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Outlook Money
Frontline

The Frontline features

Sushmita Sen, Miss Universe

By V. Venkatesan

WHEN Miss India Sushmita Sen, an 18-year-old fashion model, was crowned Miss Universe 1994 in Manila on May 21 after besting 76 other participants from around the world, she became the first Indian to win the title since the beauty pageant began 43 years ago.

Even as women's rights activists, wearing sashes marked Miss Unemployment, Miss Landless and Miss Political Detainee, made a bid to storm the pageant venue to protest the staging of such "sex shows", the first-year English Honours student from New Delhi delineated her idea of the "essence of being a woman" to win $225,000 (about Rs.70 lakh) in cash and prizes--and the use of a luxury apartment in California during her reign. Watched by mother Subra and brother Rajiv, who were in Manila, and by father, Wing Commander (Retd) Subir Sen, at home in Delhi, an overwhelmed Sushmita was sashed and crowned.

The event was telecast live in 60 countries, including India--where it was done after much official time and energy was expended in debating the political correctness of beaming images of less-than- adequately-clad women at about the time when government officials would be taking an anti-terrorism pledge to mark Rajiv Gandhi's death anniversary. And Income Tax officials very helpfully detailed the prcise procedure for Sushmita to avail herself of tax exemptions on her entire prize earnings.

Sushmita's winning of international acclaim sent some Indian dailies into a fit of gushing as they vied with one another in dishing out Miss Universe minutiae in merciless detail. But Ganashakti, the official newspaper of the West Bengal unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), carried a part-satirical, part-perspective piece decrying beauty contests in general as unhealthy manifestations of "bourgeois culture" and pointing out that many Third World women were forced to live as "sex slaves" of developed nations (Frontline, June 3, 1994). n

(Published in Frontline, June 17, 1994).

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