Why do all Miss Indias look the same?

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes: Just when the New Delhi fog seemed to be clearing from our benumbed brains, Rajeshwari and I, vacationing in Bangalore, slipped into brain-dead mode on Wednesday night.

And it took the combined talents of an eclectic group to pound us into this state of inertia.

The notables: the scion of the Mysore Royal family Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, Bangalore’s fashion guru Prasad Bidapa, ace fashion designer Neeta Lulla, Bollywood star Sameera Reddy. A charming bunch. Really.

The event was a fashion show. The Bangalore palace bathed in soothing amber lights looked ethereal. The creative event-manager had  strategically (this is a word that I cannot do without, please bear with me) and purposefully positioned a few tongas, minus the horses, across the grounds probably to enhance the Royal setting. Caparisoned elephants would have probably been a logistical nightmare.

We had been seated for over an hour and there was no sign of the models.

Fluttering tantalizingly in the December gust were giant sized pennants with copywriter prose (usually glib, catchy and full of untruths) on the subliminal potency of the official sponsor of the evening, Royal Challenge whisky.

I willingly succumbed to the persuasions of the copywriter and expectantly surveyed the landscape for an amiable bartender. No luck. Whisky would be served after the show for a select group only at a different venue, I learnt.  The harsh reality: I was not part of the select group.

The PHD (Precious Hours of Drinking) were slipping away. Y.N. Krishnamurthy—friend, mentor and the late editor of Kannada Prabha coined this acronym. And when you are taking time off from the professional rat race and holidaying there cannot be a bigger hour of crisis. While inviting me over for a drink, YNK would always tell me to be on time and not fritter away the PHD. This was one of his numerous tips for healthy, disciplined drinking.

The personable Prasad Bidapa, with whom I have had some healthy Masale Dosai eating sessions at his studio on MG Road, did not make us minions forget for even a minute that we were in hallowed company. At regular intervals, he kept referring to Mysore’s Royal Scion as “the Maharaja, the King”—while Wadiyar himself the epitome of style, sporting a blood-red bow-tie drew on his formidable Havana, obviously unmindful of Health Minister Ramadoss’ diktat.

Rajeshwari whispered into my ear that he was probably tense. It was a big day for him.  After all, as Bidapa, the sonorous emcee, kept announcing: “This was the ultimate fashion from the Royal House of Mysore…” And as my chest inflated with pride, I almost fell of the chair.

At last, the beauties glided across the ramp one after another—“all Miss India finalists”—Bidapa announced triumphantly. I pinched myself, I was in truly privileged company.

My wife, an authority in matters that are privileged, rattled out their names supplying me with  insights into their personal lives. The information would definitely hold me in good stead at our annual quiz jousts that I have been losing by a whisker.

To me and thankfully to my MES college buddy Rajashekar Jatti—who had succeeded in snaring me for this event—the women looked eerily similar. Fragile waists, straight hair, pert noses… all of them looked the same.

Like my Marketing Chief says: What was the differentiator?

Judging beauty contestants is probably like tasting wine. World-class sommeliers advocate: Consistent practice, focus on the subtleties, develop a fresh worldview and then savor the wine.   But for now, they all seemed to have rolled off an assembly line. “This is what they mean by commodification of women…,” I told Jatti with the quiet rage of a raving feminist.

He gave me a puzzled look and turned away. Rajeshwari glared. I shut up and quickly applauded. The fog descended, a little more swiftly this time.

And then Sameera Reddy arrived…J