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In Search Of The True Miss India

In Search Of The True Miss India

April 04, 2013
Where has the grace and well-enunciated English gone?


When I was but a little girl, I remember my father mentioning Reita Faria, the first Miss India who went onto win the Miss World, in 1966. He held her up as a role model for my sister, and me as a true combination of beauty and brains. After winning the crown she went onto pursue her medical studies and became a practicing medical doctor. In retrospect I realised that he had a crush on her all right, and stumbling across this footage of Miss Faria on the Bob Hope show shot right after she won the title, I can understand why.

Her enormous confidence is what struck me immediately. There she was, a slender girl in a bright saree, in front of all an all male audience of American troops, striking a graceful pose, betraying not a sliver of nervousness. She walked with a stride that the uber-sophisticated Indian models of today would die for, spoke in a clear unvarnished accent—with a lot of India and a tinge of the west ringing through it—matching the world famous Bob Hope word for word.

If you have heard any of the former Miss India’s speak on the world stage, you would know what I mean, for while they are all educated and well-to-do, catch them being able to make themselves understood across cultures while stringing together more than a few sentences in unblemished, grammatically correct vocabulary? Reita Faria made me proud to be an Indian woman—the only female of the species who can carry off the elegant saree and pit her wits among the best of intellect.

The clip brought home the questions I often have when I visit India. Why is it that English language movies and series are now subtitled? Why is that children and teenagers in India speak in that particular broken Hinglish? I get that it’s the cool teen spoken lingo of today, but alarmingly that’s how much of the written word is turning out to be too.

Once upon a time it was cool to speak in good English, and perhaps this went hand in hand with the desire to explore the world outside the country perhaps, to seek out new horizons in search of quenching the wanderlust inside, to be understood across countries and cultures. It seems a booming economy has changed all that. Teens want to take the easy way out. Surf the comfortable middle class existence provided for by their parents and then stay on to work in the call-centre or outsourced IT companies. So they stay satisfied with calling into the homes of strangers around the world or perhaps designing the interface of the window that allows other cultures to access the outerworld—all from the comfort of their own home.

Perhaps the next elegant, well-spoken, sophisticated Miss Reita Faria will come from somewhere outside India? From among those of who are Indian at heart and yet world citizens at large, those who embody that curious combination of questioning the future, yet living in a present spiked, with the elegance of the past? What do you think? Do write in and tell me.

8 Comments

  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    08.04.13 08:17 AM
    @Laxmi,

    Did I read your post correctly? Your question was “Where has the grace and well-enunciated English gone?”

    When you asked this question, I presume it was a comparison of the past and the present day English in India and not about the English in UK or Europe. All European countries have their own languages and its true they don’t speak English in their own countries and they don’t need to.

    With Labour Govt. allowing EU citizens (during a time when it was already flooded with hundreds of different nationalities) into the UK its no surprise that you may hear things what Harry says in the Tube and buses in London. Statistics say that White English people are in the minority in London.

    However, I do not come across many people talking in tubes and buses. Most of them are crouched in their seats or standing, meddling with mobile phones with ears plugged in all the time. Anyway many of them do not have BA (Hons) in English unlike Indians of the early and mid 19th century.
    I don’t have one because I was born much later.

    I too travel only by Tubes and buses when in London. I will be there next week for a whole month. What about meeting for lunch or dinner? My favorite place is Wagamama, Wigmore Street (behind Selfridges on Oxford St. London). We could have a hearty chat about what Hybrid is. I will handle the bill.

    But, wait- why am I talking about London when you are talking about Reita Faria’s standard of English who was born in 1945 in India when India was still under the control of the British?
  • Laxmi (@laxmi)
    By
    Laxmi (@laxmi)
    07.04.13 11:04 PM
    @Harry - read that as 'the raita effect' for a second :) good to know about the Reita effect :)
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    07.04.13 10:47 PM
    @ Laxmi

    It's a wishful thinking, do you not think. No young person in London or any where in UK or Europe ever speak proper English, they all bloody speak hybrid. I think mostly they grunt. I am sure you must have heard them on tube or the bus.
    R U still in India? Or back in UK.

    HARRY

    PS You know when a younger guy falls for an older woman, it's a Reita kinds of women. So now you know. :)
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    06.04.13 08:40 PM
    @Laxmi,

    “Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together.”
    ? Francesco Petrarca
  • Laxmi (@laxmi)
    By
    Laxmi (@laxmi)
    06.04.13 02:09 PM
    @Rajpriya - very motivating too to see her today - what a role model!
  • Laxmi (@laxmi)
    By
    Laxmi (@laxmi)
    06.04.13 02:07 PM
    @ravisubramanian thanks for the vote :)
  • ravi subramanian
    By
    ravi subramanian
    05.04.13 11:00 PM
    Women like Reita Faria & Gayatri devi were true brand ambassadors in every sense of the word - I would slightly tweak the legendary John Keats's line ...A thing of Timeless & Classic Beauty is an endless JOY for ever :) I still do not understand certain categories in the pageant that demeans the dignity of a woman. Anyway a beautiful and timely observation by Lakshmi H I don't think I need to look very far to to think another beautiful woman of substance - Beauty with Brains :) My vote goes to Lakshmi herself who not only carries herself with lot of grace but is sharp in her thinking too :) Cheers to True Brand Ambassadors of Indian Woman from whom the global women can learn a lot..
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    05.04.13 09:00 AM
    @Laxmi,

    Thanks for reminding us: Do you remember Karen Carpenter’s song “Its yesterday once more”

    When you get to the part
    Where she's breakin' your Dad’s heart
    It can really make me cry
    Just like before
    It's yesterday once more.

    Where has the grace and well-enunciated English gone?

    Well! As far as I can remember it’s very much a distant memory. It has been systematically buried in the sands of time to a point of no return. It’s a long time since Reita Faria the stunning beauty made the headlines. No wonder your dad had a crush on her.

    I know she renounced modeling and took time to complete her MBBS and lives in Dublin, Ireland with her husband Dr. Powell now.
    There are enough and more beauties in India. However, Bollywood needs just beauties minus the brain to enter the world of glamour and the entrance ticket to fame. With all the money they make I wonder why they have no money to buy enough cloth to keep their assets covered.

    The uses of SMS and Twitter acronyms have gradually replaced the brains in the generations that followed.

    Lookin' back on how it was
    In years gone by
    And the good times that we had
    Makes today seem rather sad
    So much has changed.

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