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'Thank God I didn't win!'
Rupa Vachaspati

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
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July 20, 2007

Sure, everyone goes through life wishing they had done numerous things differently, or even their parents' way.

I wish I did, but I also wish that, in June, I had stayed true to myself and my family.

We all enjoy winning; wanting the big win is human nature. And wanting a crown is also every girl's secret dream. I began competing in pageants for Indian-Americans in the summer of last year. My first was the Miss India Mid-South Pageant. I performed well but was labelled "too American'"and didn't even make it to the top three. I understand my faults, but let me win next year, okay?

Now, this year, I walked into the competition ready and confident, until I saw a girl five inches taller than me. I wanted this so bad and this scenario had become a pride issue. I knew I wasn't going to win, and worst of all, I actually let it get to me. I was frowning throughout the whole orientation to a point where the co-director had to say, "Rupa, we
are all tense, but this is just a good experience. Yes it is a competition, but we are here as friends to have some fun." I didn't realise it, but I was taking the fun out of meeting new girls and learning new things.

The night of the pageant, I found myself bossing my mother around screaming, "Hurry up with the make-up. Give me my bangles NOW! You can't put this on right, just let me do it." No one else was making a ruckus. Every other contestant was having a blast putting on the make-up, jewellery and clothes. They actually enjoyed dolling themselves up.

The whole time I was onstage, for the introduction, talent, and evening gown rounds, I kept thinking about that 5' 7'' tall girl in my category, who was going to steal MY crown. I was irritated and thought, "Why am I even doing this stupid pageant?" I lost confidence and my agitation showed on my face.

Finally, the last stage of the competition was the Q and A segment. I was asked: "Who taught you the most important life lesson and what is it?" I immediately stated that my mother had taught me the most important lesson, of learning to love yourself before you can learn to love others.

"What was that?" I thought -- I had already let myself down and was ready to lose this pageant. I had hated myself for not being capable and I didn't believe in myself. So, how could I have had any love for the woman who spent all her time teaching me this lesson?

I didn't win. And thank God. The crown went to someone more deserving, who understood the true meaning of a competition; work with passion and love, but win with humility.

Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about my meanness that night except to tell my parents I'm sorry. I think one should compete without regrets so one can win without guilt.

And live every moment of one's life with happiness towards oneself and everyone else.  

Rupa Vachaspati is a freshman from Tennessee.                                                    

Sketch by Uttam Ghosh                                  

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