Not everyone can become a Miss Universe or a Miss World. For starters, you need to have sound knowledge of public administration, international geopolitics, human psychology, social anthropology, and development economics. Secondly, you should be open to, and skilled at, answering tricky questions that won’t be disclosed to you in advance — something you can avoid only by becoming the prime minister of India.
Maybe because I’m a pre-2014 journalist who loves a good Q&A, or because I’m a sanskaari Indian, the only round of beauty pageants I like to watch is the Q&A where the finalists answer questions from a panel of judges. I’ve always been struck by the deep wisdom of the responses the contestants come up with, that too at the spur of the moment.
It is, of course, an open secret that even though these events are described as ‘beauty pageants’ they are actually competitions that evaluate super-smart, empowered women on who is the most super-smart and most empowered of them all. And some of the answers are so profound, and in our polarised era, so startlingly non-polarising, that I feel all of us can learn a lot from Miss Indias, Miss Worlds and Miss Universes.
My own stress levels have come down drastically ever since I started responding to every question posed to me like a Miss World finalist. In the larger public interest, I’m pleased to share below samples of my most de-polarising ‘beauty contestant’ responses to tough questions that each one of us faces every day. Feel free to use them after modifying for your own personal context.
Closet-bhakt-officially-liberal journalist at press club: Mr. Sampath, we all know BJP will keep winning so long as Rahul is in charge of Congress. If you were Rahul, will you quit today and save Indian democracy, or will you quit politics only after turning India into 100% Hindu rashtra by ensuring BJP’s victory in 2024, 2029 and 2034?
Me: I think winning and losing are part of the game, and as Mother Teresa said, politics is also a game. And every game has its winners and losers, and the true winner is the one who feels undefeated by repeated losses. I therefore strongly believe that, just like whenever India loses a match, cricket is the winner, whenever democracy loses, Mother of Democracy is the winner, thank you.
Wife: The AC in the study is not cooling at all. You go off and enjoy AC in your office while I suffer here every single day. You’ve been saying for the past 10 days that you will call the technician, but you’ve still not called him and you won’t give me his number so that I can call him. What’s wrong with you?
Me: I personally believe that suffering is a part and parcel of life. That doesn’t mean that we should not avoid suffering if we can. But as the Buddha said, the path to wisdom begins with suffering. Also, we are all concerned about the growing hotness, not just of the rooms in our homes, but of the planet as a whole, from Africa to Antarctica and America to Galactica. It is only by working together, as husband and wife, as friends and companions, as fellow citizens, and as co-victims of climate change who have empathy for each other, that we can both grow into higher spiritual beings. As we evolve into improved versions of our best selves, our mutual bond will only grow stronger as we function in harmony like the two halves of a split AC. Thank you very much.
RWA uncle asking me to donate money for a special function to celebrate India’s historic achievement of landing Chandrayaan-3 on the moon: Mr. Sampath, if patriotic residents like you don’t contribute generously, it will be difficult to raise enough funds to make this important function happen.
Me: I personally believe that the secret to success in any endeavour is to believe in oneself. Consider the moon: it believed that it can reflect the light of the sun and host space missions from the earth at the same time, and lo and behold, it has achieved what no other heavenly body has been able to do in the past four billion years. If you believe in yourself, stay in the present by practising mindfulness, and feel gratitude for all the contributions from other residents, that will be your and my biggest tribute to the scientists of Chandrayaan. Thank you very much.
The author of this satire is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.