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HindustanTimes Sun,26 Oct 2014

Advantage Pinki: global ambassador for cleft lip patients

PTI  New Delhi, July 05, 2013
First Published: 21:54 IST(5/7/2013) | Last Updated: 21:55 IST(5/7/2013)

When 11-year-old Pinki Sonkar tosses a coin at Wimbledon's hallowed Centre Court on July 7 she hopes the world will wake up to the realities of cleft lip patients.

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Hailing from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, Pinki is set to create history when she becomes the first from the country to flip the coin before the men's singles final at the Wimbledon.

Born with the said deformity, in 2007, she underwent a cleft lip repair surgery and her new full smile was captured in an Oscar-winning short documentary 'Smile Pinki'.

Pinki, is the brand ambassador of Smile Train, the foundation which provides treatment to children born with cleft lips in over 80 countries globally.

Plastic surgeon Subodh Kumar Singh who performed the surgery on her recalls her metamorphosis from a "shy, terrified" child to a "smart, confident" girl, now ready to face the world.

"Earlier she would hide behind her mother's saree fearing ridicule from society. She had a poor self-image and a very low self-esteem but now look at her, she is facing cameras boldly. Her story is inspiring," Subodh said before flying out with Pinki to London.

The Varanasi-based surgeon said Pinki "truly represents" the cleft lip patients.

"I have seen her life transform over the years. And, for me, she truly represents the plight of such patients. And, therefore I believe her journey from a small village in India to the famed Centre Court at Wimbledon will move hearts world over," he said.

British High Commissioner Sir James Bevan during the send-off organised for her here hailed her as "an ambassador for all the cleft lip patients around the world".

"Pinki will light up London with her smile when she flips the coin on July 7 during the men's singles final event there. But, more than that she will go out there as an ambassador for all the cleft lip patients around the world," Bevan said.

"Hailing from a poor family in a village in Mirzapur district in India and battling odds, she truly symbolises an extraordinary story," he said.

Despite all the "greatness thrusted upon her", Pinki still just smiles with the same "unalloyed innocence", unaware of the weight of history she carries on her little shoulders.

"Mujhe Wimbledon nahin maloon hai, lekin wahan coin ucchalne ja rahi hoon (I have never heard of Wimbledon but I know I'm going there to toss a coin),"  Pinki said.

The student of class II , who wants to become a teacher, is excited about going to London but ask her about the 'London Eye' and she replies with unusual childlike innocence.

"Wo gol gol ghumne wala jhoola mere school main hai, chhota wala (That whirling ride is there in my school too, a small one)," she said.


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