Nov 29, 2009 12:00 AM | By Santham Pillay
When Miss India 2009 Pooja Chopra was born, her mother had to choose between her marriage and her children.
Chopra, in Durban this week as part a national road show ahead of the Miss World pageant next month, said her mother, Neera, made the tough decision to start a new life away from the man who could not accept a second daughter.
Boys in India are traditionally regarded as future bread-winners, while girls are considered a financial burden because their families must pay dowries to get them married.
"I don't know how a woman could have been so strong to take a 20-day-old baby and a seven-year-old and walk out of a home with nothing," said the 24-year-old beauty from Pune.
"The last I heard of my father was that he had married again and has two sons."
Chopra, a commerce graduate, lifted the title of Miss India World earlier this year. She believes it was her answer to a question posed by the judges that landed her crown.
"My question was: 'If you were to meet God, what question would you ask?' I said: 'God, I see you in my mother's eyes, and they say you cannot be everywhere, that's why you have given us all a mother. I am lucky enough that I have my mother, but there are so many people in this world who don't. Why?'"
Chopra downplays her modest 1.73m height, saying it was not as important as it seemed. "It just goes to show you that it is not important how tall you are, but how tall your personality is."
She believes that competitions like Miss World are necessary to create platforms for young women. "Here one person can become an icon from the good she does."
Miss South Africa Tatum Keshwar agrees.
"There is this concept of fame in a can. But this platform provides the opportunity to create a global ambassador who is a good, wholesome role model," she said.
The 1.81m-tall model is hoping to impress the judges in the pageant finals, saying she would love to do well. "It would be a victory for South Africa."
The finals will be held in the Gallagher Convention Centre on December 12.