We teachers had to wear uniform and we looked like ayahs of the government hospital, in a white saree and green blouse. We had to have our hair up in a bun. Since we were young ourselves, this dress code made us look like teachers. I was the class teacher of eighth grade and the kids were smart. I had to be smarter to get their attention. Which meant I had to be thorough with my subject. This is another good start for any one in life. Be a teacher for some time. Teaching sharpens your reflexes and helps you think on your toes. Try persuading a bunch of kids to pay attention while you tell them when the Battle of Panipat was fought. Who cares? One important lesson I learnt was…don’t try to fool them. They respect you if you are honest and will do anything for you-even learn the chapter on the Battle of Panipat.!
While teaching was my heart’s desire, there were other unspelt and undiscovered urges too. As I said, I was not too sure of what I wanted to do and went in search of utopia. It took me to an interview call, in reply to an ad of a market research outfit called ORG. They wanted graduates who knew more than one South Indian language as field investigators and it sounded pretty exciting. The interview turned out to be another test. It was organized in a local hotel and we were more than 250 girls, aspiring for twelve openings. It was a three hour psychology test. We had to identify the odd one out in a series of circles and squares and whatever. It made no sense to me so I just picked at random, gave my paper in and walked out. The next day, I was called for the final interview and selected. All I had to do in this assignment was go to the houses selected by them and ask if they used an optical whitener and Maya, bath soap. I had to show the head of the household, some mastheads of English publications and ask if he/she had seen it. Pretty simple. Except that the names were selected at random from the voter’s list and we ended up going to houses in Butcher’s block or Cobbler’s colony! They did not know what we were talking about and Ramani, my partner and I thought of a wise plan. We would visit the places but fill up our own answers. Soon, we stopped visiting and just filled up the answers, sitting under a nice tree. We had a supervisor who was fun and her supervisor, even more fun. They married later!!In short, Market research had not yet come of age. The sample for respondents was all wrong for the product and questions we were asking.
I knew I had brains but beauty was not one of my top ten assets. But there was no harm in trying… so I entered the Ponds beauty contest. After an elimination round, twenty of us were selected to walk to the ramp in Ravindra Kalakshetra. I was the shortest contestant and had no business to be there. I bought myself a pair of stiletto heels which gave a few inches and a whole lot of shoe bites. I Got my hair done in a high bouffant which made me look a wee bit taller. Heather Faville, a tall, slim girl, walked away with the crown and we all got a hamper from Ponds. I had entered the contest with no hope of winning but to experience the thrill of facing a critical crowd. I think it taught me poise and increased my self confidence. As a woman, I don’t believe beauty contests are demeaning. When we do what we do voluntarily, there is no exploitation involved. Beauty pageant contestants are achievers in a way. They have to take care of their mind and body to be in the fray. It reminds me of the famous statement made by someone in a courtroom, about every woman wanting to be a Madame Bovary if given the opportunity. Live and let live. If we cannot do it, let someone else who can, do it. Say Cheers and be graceful. That is my philosophy.