October 11, 2006

Of Poverty and Starvation

Poverty, apparently, can be measured by levels of malnutrition. The more scrawny you look, the poorer you are. I just saw the world's poorest ladies on television recently. They were taking part in a beauty pageant, Miss World 2006.

My first impulse, when they strolled onto stage, was to pet them and offer them some biscuits. But then, they smiled those 250-watt smiles and I began to think that they actually enjoy starvation. Too enchanted to flip channels, I gazed on.

So according to the comperes (or MCs are they call them in USA - "MCs" by the way, conjures up a totally different meaning in your mind if you're Indian) - "These are the 194 most beautiful women in the world!" Umm right. So what about those from Pakistan and Afghanistan who couldn't enter? What about the 194 who were part of this last year? And what about Miss Universe?

Anyway, proceedings began with the starved children dancing all over the stage. Ho hum. The girls wave their arms, pirouette over the stage and keep smiling that 250-watt smile. Crap. My cheeks are aching by now. All I can see is 194 sets of bones draped by skin, 194 excruciatingly bright smiles and 194 young women who are miraculously not bored by being a part of such a fiasco.

Then we have video-taped profiles of all the ladies. Most of them look as if:
1. They haven't slept for ages.
2. They've got dental jobs done.
3. Up close, many are scary to look at. I'm not kidding. Even the best beauty experts of the world can't do anything with long teeth, hooked noses, slit-like eyes and pencil-thin lips.
4. They don't like their costumes (not surprising, considering many of them are wearing complex "ethnic" clothes that are accompanied by crazy stuff on their heads)
5. They'd love a pizza. Or two. Or three.
6. They want to win this badly. God bless their souls, I have no clue why, but they really want to win. For normal people like you or me, spending a whole year wearing uncomfortable clothes and talking to people who actually only want to ogle at you, is nothing less than torture. But they want it.

Another interesting point - somehow they are all obsessed by world peace. Hey ladies, how about racism or AIDS or drugs or health issues or economic development? At least the viewers will have a variation. What's worse still, everyone behaves as if Miss World 2006 ACTUALLY has a role to play in world peace. Yeah well, at least they bring relief to the male half of the population by flashing those smiles and prancing around in swimsuits.

So we have some more rounds wherein they walk around in clothes and no-clothes (i.e. swimsuits). I know most of my male readers would love to have descriptions, but really, that's not my department. Finally we have the question-answer rounds. These apparently check whether their IQ is 60 or 70.

Inanity after inanity. World Peace. Inner Beauty. Compassion. Kindness. Love. The whole set-up seems so fake that you start wondering whether the ladies actually think about answers or just mix and match a few dozen standard answers that they've learnt before. No matter what issue they discuss, that 250-watt smile never wavers. After a point I start feeling like catching hold of each one (delicately, though, or their bones will break) and telling them, "Wipe that smile off!! Now!!"

Evening ends in Ms. Czechoslovakia being crowned. Don't laugh, but I think that they figured that this was the only way for the world to know the spelling of the country's name. And they succeeded haan - look, I know the spelling! Next time it should be Jbouty or Bjouty or whatever that place in Africa is. Hey, maybe someday these pageants will serve as geography lessons for children. Anyway, kids at younger and younger ages are getting obsessed by their appearance. So this combines an interest value with educative value... great.

I'd like to end this with a prayer for the girls who didn't win, and a BIG prayer for the girl who won.

For the girls who didn't win: Dear God, please endow them with some brains, some common sense, and a lot of body fat. They need it. May they also soon forget that they were a part of something as embarrassing as Miss World 2006, and may they learn to lead normal lives instead of hankering after anorexia and glamour all their lives.

For the girl who won: Dear God, please give her the strength to endure a whole year of starvation. If she is ogled at by people, may she be amused or at least be able to tolerate it. May she not develop any eating disorder or health problems. May she fit into all her clothes for a year; and after that, may she look human. May she be able to get back to normalcy after her one (and only) year in the limelight is over. May she not develop OCD. May she understand that she is yet another manifestation of the "women must be seen, not heard" mentality. May she realise that contrary to popular belief, she is NOT the face of Women's Liberation; in fact, she's just the opposite. Amen.