Always happy to have a party, especially one that puts the country into the spotlight on the world stage, India has been celebrating winning the Miss World title for the sixth time, thus proving what the savvy amongst us have always known – that Indian women are the most beautiful in the world.
The whole subcontinent has been agog, with many, many millions glued to screens of all sizes following each elegant and star-spangled sashay up the royal red carpet. After all, the country had suffered a sixteen-year drought in Miss World titles. In the West, feminism and political correctness have thrown a wet blanket over such events in recent years, but most Indians couldn’t care less about that. Beauty, glitz, fame, money, prestige and fun – what’s not to celebrate? There are already several national spin-off beauty competitions, such as Miss Femina, Miss Lulu Beauty Queen and so on.
The new global queen is Manushi Chhillar. Previous winners have generally seen the title as a short-cut to the glamour and hefty pay-packets of Bollywood. Thus Sushmita Sen, who in 1994 became India’s first Miss Universe, went on to pursue a tinsel town career, while the same year, the winner of the Miss World title, Aishwarya Rai was already a model and actress. She later ensured eternal stardom by marrying the son of the country’s most adored grand old man of the movies, Amitabh Bachchan. Aaah, ‘the Big B’, no less!
But Queen Manushi seems to be of a different cut. Despite the fact her name Manushi is one of the appellations of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, her stated aim is not to head straight for fame and gold. The daughter of a scientist, Manushi is clearly a smart cookie herself. Currently a medical student, she is passionate about female empowerment and rural hygiene and is already making plans to use her newly-won image to launch countrywide campaigns in those areas.
Astrologers who have been pouring over her natal chart put this firm resolve down to the fact she was born under the sign of Vrishabha – Taurus in the Western system - always an indicator of determination. Her signature motto is pretty bullish too, and just what Young India wants to hear: "The sky is the limit. We are limitless and so are our dreams, we must never doubt ourselves." Cannily, she attributes this irrepressibly can-do attitude to the way her parents brought her up, thus simultaneously endearing herself to the oldies as well as the kids.
And the way in which India has taken her to its heart has immediately been made clear. The mischievous Congress party politician and acclaimed writer Shashi Tharoor, who is always very happy to be in the limelight himself, made a pun on her surname to make political capital out of the beauty competition and take a swipe at the Modi government. The ever-urbane Keralite tweeted: "What a mistake to demonetise our currency! BJP should have realised that Indian cash dominates the globe: look, even our Chhillar has become Miss World!" (chillar is the Hindi slang for ‘small change’). But his cheap ruse backfired spectacularly; within hours there was an outraged uproar all over the twittersphere, as fans rushed to defend the heart-stopper from Haryana against such demeaning puns. Manushi played the gallery to her advantage, neatly turning the tables on Tharoor by tweeting back she wasn’t offended one bit because no-one should under-estimate the ‘chill factor’ in Chhillar.
Smart, understated, sincere and optimistic, Manushi Miss World is very much The Hermitage’s type. We hope she will come down and visit us soon; we guarantee she will love the chhilled-out atmosphere we have created here!