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|October 27, 1997||
Pamela Bordes is now Pamela Singh, professional photographer who has travelled many lands and undergone a baptism by the press
"Didn't you have to prepare for the Miss Universe contest?"
"No way," she says with a smile. "I didn't even care. I was just going along for the ride ad having a good time. I think my winning the Miss India was a stroke of luck and that definitely changed my life. But I didn't get butterflies in my stomach or anything."
"Do you remember the contest?"
"It was held in Lima, Peru. It was my first time abroad and I was having such a good time that I don't think I was motivated enough to want to win. It's vague now, but I remember there was some unpleasantness at the contest. There were separate cliques of Asians, African-Americans and South American contestants. I was very disappointed, I had hoped we'd integrate and have fun."
One day, she surfaced in England as a researcher in the House of Commons and the whole world knew about Pamela. The press hounded her for months afterwards and she lived like a fugitive from the tabloids. She's terribly bitter about these experiences and makes no effort to gloss it over when I ask her if she has any regrets. "I've got loads," she replies. "People who say they have nothing are lying. Sometimes I made really bad decisions, trusted people who let me down. I can do without hassles in my life. I'm not going to turn round and say, 'Oh, every experience enriched me', or any such cliché. I honestly wish I hadn't met certain people. The accident with the press was horrible. I was on a motorcycle with a friend in Bali and they kept banging their jeep into our motorcycle. Ultimately we crashed and our faces were badly burnt. And nobody helped us to a hospital! My friend was a nurse, and boiling a needle, we stitched each other's faces using a bootlace, which ruined the injuries even more. Three weeks later, I was in hospital because I was so sick I could have died. I got septicaemia and it took a year for my skin to grow back. After surgery in Hong Kong, I used lavender and rose aromatherapy oils. And later in Africa the skin just cured itself."
She has had enough excitement to fill several lives, yet when I ask her what is her most memorable moment she surprises me, and perhaps herself. "Strangely enough, when I won the Miss India crown. Bizarre as it may sound, it was so unexpected that I was just stunned! There were so many other girls who were far taller, more beautiful and more elegant!"
Excerpted from Pride of India by Persis Khambatta, Rs 1495, Parijat Media Limited, with the publishers permission. Special copies, signed by many of the Miss Indias and priced at Rs 5000, are also available. The proceeds of this special copies will go to the Missionaries of Charity.
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