Baithey baithey hi Amrika pahunch gaye! (We didn’t have to move a bit and we reached America).” That’s how Pinki Sonkar reacted when she landed in the US after her first aeroplane trip.
From a miserable life as a child with a cleft lip, ostracised by society in her remote UP village, Pinki reached glittering Kodak Theater in Los Angeles last Sunday and finished the evening holding a golden statuette. It has been a remarkable journey, but the child, whose transformation has been documented in the Oscar-winning Smile Pinki by Megan Mylan, knew none of the famous people swirling around her on the red carpet. It was the flashbulbs that caught her fancy, Pinki says in Bhojpuri, speaking to HT City on a visit to Delhi on Friday, accompanied by her father and plastic surgeon Dr Subodh Kumar Singh.
Earlier on Friday, she met the PM’s wife and received some gifts, including a watch she is very proud of.
Asked about her new life and the storm of attention, she gives a big smile and the thumbs up sign. “She was scared at first, but is comfortable now,” Dr Singh tells us. At the Oscars, she was stopped and congratulated by many, and the Indian cast of Slumdog Millionaire went to meet her at her LA hotel. Inside the Kodak Theater, she fell asleep! She was still sleeping when the Oscar was announced, and saw the prize only the next morning.
For now, Pinki is happy with this trip. “We could go because of Smile [Train],” she says. The best part of it? “Oscar!” she says shyly. She would love to return to the red carpet, but it’s home she wants right now.
“I showed her Beverly Hills homes and asked her if she wanted to live there, but she said ‘No, I want to go to my new home in the village,’” recounts Dr Singh, referring to the new home the UP government has made for her and her family. There, Pinki plans to study hard with one ambition in mind: to be a doctor who corrects other children’s lips. It’s a happy ending like no other.