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Comparison between
road and life

Life is like an endless road,
But both the cases have an end,
Be it life or death ahead,
Or a road where destiny bends,
But life and road are never together afloat,
Because along the road the moment you stop,
There comes along your destiny,
But life is not the name of a pause, it is but a moving symphony.
                                   -- Sushmita Sen

From Ms Universe in 1994 to a failed filmi debutante in Bollywood, Sushmita Sen had a dizzying rise before she fizzled out in those airy reaches. Here, in the second instalment, we find her in conversation with her confidante and guardian of her beauty, her mirror.
We talk about compromises and taking the middle path. What about you?
"I'm not so much into compromises. I'd rather sacrifice. Because if you have understanding between two people, then why shouldn't that understanding be complete? Why should it be that I'll walk this much and you'll walk this much? You give that up completely. I'd rather sacrifice, and give in to a situation. I'd rather just say, forget it, I'll walk it all the way or you walk it all the way, I'm just made that way."
Is this attitude in relationships, or other aspects of life too?
"In every aspect of life. I don't believe there is anything called compromise, because compromises don't last long. The minute you compromise, you start blaming the other person for every loss you have in life. 'Because I did this for you, I'm going through this in life'. Why go through that? Just say I did that for myself. It's never like I'm going to compromise on my smoking. I going to smoke only three a day. It's never that way -- either I smoke or I do not smoke it."
After winning the Miss India Crown, you had a lot of ideas of doing good for society, and helping out in social causes. Tell me did your illusions shatter? You had joined K J Alphons. Why did you leave him?
"I wanted to join a social organisation, I joined K J Alphons's organisation because it wasn't affiliated to any political organisation and it had no intentions of becoming one. It was a social organisation and I wanted to be part of it. So that when people come to me for help I had some power to help them, because they feel Sushmita Sen hai. She will be able to solve my problem. But it's not possible because all of us have our own limited powers, no matter what we say. Yes, we can help you get to someone who can help you do it, but not directly. By joining K J Alphons I thought I would be able to utilise that power to some good use, because I realised you do need some kind of backing to help people, you just can't say, yeah, I'll help you and you can do it overnight.
"After a point I was moving to Bombay. I had realised that in the eight months I had joined the organisation, I had not done a single thing for which I had joined the organisation, I decided I'd rather be on my own and not responsible to an organisation that might be doing something wrong or not be taking care of something right. I don't want to be blamed for anything, because when someone comes to me I don't want to be saying, you go there for help. In case that person doesn't get help, I'll feel very bad."
And now you ever have to do that?
"No I don't do that any more. I just tell the other person, that here is this person I know who will help you. Besides, I don't have to be part of an organisation. I have realised that, and to be part of an organisation, an active organisation, calls for a lot of responsibility. At this point of my career, I have just had a flop and I'm going on doing all these other films. I believe that until and unless you are secure about your own standing you have no business going around saying, yeah, yeah I can do this for you. I need a very strong footing in whatever I'm doing. I still do it but on a very small scale. I still work with orphan children but I don't go out and make a show of it, because most people who end up to come in to publicise the organisation, end up publicising me. The organisation does not benefit from it, so it is better to save the children from all those flashes and all those irritable people, coming and kissing and touching, I'd rather just do my thing and do it quietly for as long as I can. Whenever I have the finance and time for the responsibility, I'll probably run an organisation myself."
What was life like after winning the Miss Universe crown? Why did you come back from the US?
"See I'll tell you, professionally, this country is the best country for me, I'm first going to talk only on a professional basis. It's my country, it's people appreciate me. People don't realise that people can't become famous or celebrities or whatever you call it unless and until people recognise you to be one. India recognised me to be one. I knew that if I had to work I wouldn't have to struggle in India again, whereas I would have to do so abroad.
"But here I had offers waiting on a silver platter and I knew that I could act if I had to. But that doesn't happen in the United States. You have to go for a thousand screen tests... I had an open door here and I came here. I had a good director in Mahesh Bhatt. I was happy with the way things went, also my dreams were established in this country. I want to fulfill those dreams here, because no matter which part of the world I go and live, it's never going to be the same like living here. I want live to live those years here. Who knows, I may just settle in India forever.

"I always wanted to do a clothing line, and if I do it, I want to do it both in India and abroad. It will require for me to be at least six months there and six months here, to take care of both businesses. If everything works out well, I will be in both places. But definitely India is going to be my permanent home."

But what happened abroad that you choose to consider a career as an actress when you had plans of opening your own clothing line? Was the experience so bad?

"I would never in my dreams say it was a bad experience. It was the most amazing experience, and if I could live through it again I would love to. But you gotta move on. Life over there was very beautiful from the first moment.

"It was the first time in my life that I saw a first class seat. It was also for the first time in my life I travelled 21 hours continuously in a plane. I thought I'm going to be sick because I had never travelled for more than two hours. But that day I was so tired after the pageant, that once I got on the plane, I put my head on my manager's shoulder and closed my eyes. When I opened them again I was landing in Los Angeles. I could not believe it. Here I was landing in America. I cleared immigration and, coming out, there was Bill, my chauffeur for the whole year. For the first time in my life I saw a 12-seater limousine. It was like a dream.

"They just took me in my car and first I dropped my manager home, 'cause her home came first -- she lived in Santa Monica and I lived in Wiltshire. My apartment manager came down and helped me with my luggage. She took me up to my condominium, which was on the sixth floor of this building, gorgeously done in off-white, with a lovely room. For the first time I learned what a walk-in closet is all about. There was a swimming pool on top of the terrace. I remember the first day I landed there, I didn't do anything. I just sat at the balcony and looked down from the sixth floor at the streets of Wiltshire. The cars were going up and down, and it was very windy, California has lovely weather, so I was standing up there, and there were so many lights and I said to myself, "Amazing, huh!"

"Just a few hours ago I was somewhere else, I was doing something else, and just a few hours later here I am in a totally different world. I didn't know what I was going to do there, but life had changed so much in a couple of hours that by the time I realised this it was 5:30 in the morning. I remember my manager Joan knocking at the door and asking. 'What have you been doing?' And I say I have been just sitting outside for a while and she says, 'Not for a while. You have been sitting outside the whole night.' And I was like 'Yeah, it's morning.' I opened my bags put everything in the closet, walked out and went to the swimming pool, and it was just like a dream. I must have pinched myself to death at least like a million times, and then life just started after that.

"I had trips to go to. I visited 33 countries, I met almost 22 presidents and first ladies and millions of tourism ministers 'cause I was promoting India. And I went to so many different events that I don't remember how many they were. Breakfast, lunch and dinners... And Miss Universe really put on weight. I went to San Francisco for eight hours to learn etiquette, protocols, how to meet the president, what not to say, how to introduce him, how to get into a limousine without your rear protruding out. Basically, to do everything gracefully. They teach you seven plate setting dinners, and then they put you through a public relations class, for almost a week; how much to speak about religion, how much not to, about issues that are very close to peoples sentiments. They teach you everything prim and proper. Then you go shopping which is the best part of it all...

"On December 1994, I went to Cairo, Egypt, to address a population conference. It takes place once in 10 years. Luckily, I had taken population control as my topic. From the United Nations they got me many different books with statistics of different countries, especially Africa, Asia and South America, which is where you have the maximum population. I had to study for almost a month, and I almost felt like I was in a university.

"Addressing the conference is not just like going up on the podium and speaking. You have to speak, and then after a minute's break the audience starts asking you questions. Which is why you have to know what you are talking about, so whatever you speak your information should be absolutely accurate and you should know it thoroughly. There was Newt Gingrich, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner...

"I went for all these events, the Oscars for both years, when Tom Hanks won it back to back with Philadephia in '94 and Forrest Gump in '95. I remember I hadn't watched The Shawshank Redemption completely. I was feeling very tired so I went to slept midway and I kept on telling everyone 'damn boring film' and the next thing I know is that's it's nominated and won. I had to go to different countries and work for organisations for old people and children. We used to carry these little Miss Universe dolls -- they were actually brooches in shape of dolls -- as gifts to the places which we visited.

"I did a lot of things, travelled a lot. At every place I went I was asked about India and I was asked the most dumb questions in the most intelligent of nations, like 'How do you speak English?' I was like, 'Excuse me. I do agree that we have illiteracy in our country but English is our second language and our grammar is more correct than your slang English. I would be asked this at every press conference. 'I see I see. We have heard that there's no electricity on most parts of India and we have heard that you are always having problems like plague and other diseases?'

"I remember constantly telling them you people have such a wrong notions of India, I think you should go out and see India. What's written in the books and books have to be reviewed and rewritten every year. And some people don't even do that, so what you read may be 10 years older. One of my favourite lines was that India is the only place in the world where you can see a Mercedes Benz and a bullock cart at the same place. Where else can you see that?

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