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|October 29, 1997||
"In 1992," Pooja Batra remembers, "I took part in the Summer Queen pageant in Pune, and I wasn't even amongst the finalists. I was terribly dejected and thought to myself, 'I'm not that bad, I must do something to prove myself.' Three months later I was Miss India/3."
From and unknown college student to model to budding film star, Pooja Batra has glided through the glamour with the same grace with which she walks the ramp. Before the contest she had participated in two local fashion shows, but in the year after, she did over 40 major shows. In the four years since the pageant, she calculated that she has done over 700 prime fashion shows in India and abroad, and she knows whom to thank: "The Femina Miss India crown gave me such a push in my career that I can say that whatever I am today is because I was Miss India/3 in 1993. "
Like Namrata (Shirodkar, who won the contest that year), it was to fulfill her mother's unfulfilled dream that Pooja says she participated in the beauty pageant. "My mother was one of the 10 finalists in the Miss India 1970 but she did not win," she explains. "I was not even interested but she filled up my form and made me practise walking. She even designed my dresses for me. One was a lovely silver gown, but times had changed. When I showed Madhu (Sapre) my gown she told me I couldn't wear it with 40 nations watching the contest live. Since I was really in need of a nice outfit, she gave me the red gown that she had worn for Miss Universe. She even made me try it on and said it fitted perfectly. She told me not to tell anyone, and wished me all the best for the contest."
Madhu's generous gesture to Pooja was misunderstood by Namrata,
whom Madhu was supposed to be helping, and the contest experienced
some unpleasantness. In the end Pooja was judged Miss India/3
and represented India to the Miss International contest in Tokyo
where she was placed in the final 12
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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