Last weekend was one of the nicest weekends of my life. As an individual I don’t really like surprises. I put it down to my military up bringing: you need to be prepared for everything! It is actually an extremely difficult task to spring something upon me. Last weekend my friends and family were able to successfully plan and execute the biggest surprise of my life and I love them all for it!
Ten years ago, on the 12th of May 2000, I stood on a stage with 107 other women and competed for a title that would change my life. As a 21 year old, I still remember that I was a bundle of nerves and wanted more than anything else in the world, to win the Miss Universe crown for my country. The rest is history and what an amazing journey it has been! This year makes it ten years to that day!! The 10th anniversary of an extremely rare event of all three Miss India’s winning their crowns in the same year. That had never happened before in the history of Pageantry and has never happened since! Priyanka Chopra, Dia Mirza and I celebrate this jointly.
It turns out the special people in my life felt the same way! I was told that I was being taken out on a harmless date. A simple dinner for two, to have a private celebration. I fell for it hook, line and sinker, after all my date is quite an earnest chap. It was extremely annoying therefore to wake up on that day with a fever that refused to go away! I called in sick at 5pm and requested if we could take a rain check on this dinner but was given no choice but to go, even if it was ‘just for a half hour’, as was his suggestion!
Two Panadols later, hair in place, makeup covering signs of a feverish, pale pallor and high heel shoes giving me more confidence than I felt that day, I left for my date wondering how I was going to get through it.
This is the flow of events that subsequently followed. Fly over sea-link wondering where I’m being taken. Date asks if I am excited? I reply feebly that I am! He asks if I would like to have a grander celebration later in the years with friends and family? I mentally go over how impossible that might be to co-ordinate considering family and friends are all over the world. Enter restaurant that is dark. Have the lights come on to reveal my parents and sisters and nieces (from Bangalore), friends who have flown in from Dubai and Namibia (and I don’t know how many other parts of the world!), best friends from childhood and school and college, half of my neighbourhood, my co-stars and my accountant dressed as an Arab! (Don’t ask, that’s another story!).
First I am in shock then the tears flow thick and fast. I have never felt more loved or blessed until that point. I realise how extremely difficult it must have been to put this together and the weeks of hard work it must have taken! My father raises a toast and I cry some more! An AV plays messages from friends and colleagues and family, shot in different parts of the world! It’s one huge, joyous celebration party that begins that night and lasts all weekend because I am so happy to see everyone, I don’t want to let go!
I cannot thank the people who made this possible, enough. It was the first time in my life that I have successfully been completely surprised and what a surprise it was!