The Sunday TimesPlus

8th December 1996




No maidens for Sanath

It was indeed an honour when record-breaking Lankan batsman Sanath Jayasuriya was invited to be on the panel of judges at the recently concluded, controversy-ridden Miss World pageant in Bangalore, India. Here he speaks to Chamila Jayaweera and Marlon Fernandopulle of his experiences there.....

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A gospel truth no doubt. But when Sanath Jayasuriya, our very own "Master blaster", was selected as a so called "beholder" for the renowned "Miss World '96" beauty contest, a little collective gasp was heard all around.

"Jeepers, creepers" they muttered. "What would a cricketer, however accomplished, know about judging beauties?"

"Sonna Boy" as our popular cricket hero is fondly called, it seems though, paid no attention whatsoever. In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times, the 27 year old Sanath revealed he had proved the gossip mongers wrong, since a large percentage of the beauties he had voted for, had turned up as finalists.

"It does look like I have good taste in women!" he admitted laughingly.

The invitation to participate in the big event had come about two months earlier, when the team was battling under the hot African sun, in far off Kenya. "I simply said yes. I had no idea why I had been chosen, but I guess cricket had a lot to do with it !" he chuckled, stating the obvious.

Before he left on his mission to mystic India to feast his eyes on all the beauties (of the country, of course) , Sanath had received a few handy tips from a lady in an advertising firm, for which he is extremely grateful. Arriving at his destination four days before the staging of Miss World, Sanath had been swept off in a swirl of events, which he no doubt enjoyed thoroughly.

First was a meeting with the Chairman of the Miss World Organisation, Eric Morley, who had carefully and painstakingly addressed the judges on how to go about awarding points to the lovely ladies they were to meet, as well as the manner in which they were to go about things.

Second, all 88 contestants (with Miss Sri Lanka mysteriously absent from the occasion) had spoken individually with the judges who were free to ask them any questions they wished to, for about three minutes. Despite the implications however, this had been a tough enough task, what with a majority of the contestants not speaking English and having to have an interpreter at their side.

"I basically asked them what they would do if they won the title, how they would go about getting aid for the needy children of the world and what they would do for their countries by way of charity and so on.

"Whereas the poise and figure of a participant were deemed very important in addition to personality, beauty was only an added benefit and not something to focus on," Sanath said.

One rather unfortunate point, it seemed as a somewhat dejected Sanath pointed out, was the fact that mingling with the contestants during leisure periods, was strictly off limits.

So how had he gotten on with the judges (ahem ) in particular the stunningly beautiful Aishwarya Rai, with whom he had been seen holding a most animated discussion during the contest itself ? Sanath blushed and looked away.

"I thought all the judges were very nice," he said.... "Amir Khan, Mr. World from Belgium, Aishwarya....all of them. We really didn't get to talk on a personal basis though, since we met on such few occasions...."

Despite all the media portrayal of mass suicides about to take place in Bangalore, and crowds threatening destruction if the pageant went on as planned, Sanath said the disturbance was hardly visible in the city, and had taken place mostly on the outskirts. "Amir, Aishwarya and I were supposedly in need of the most security, but we managed with one guard each, and my friend and I even managed to slip out and go shopping by ourselves," he said.

Of course they had been mobbed, he said, during their little shopping trip, but not by religious or feminist fanatics, this time, but by cricket fans! Ever obliging , Sanath had dutifully autographed all the notepads that had been handed out to him by his doting fans before escaping once more to their hotel - the grand Windsor Manor.

So had his nerves given way on the day of the contest ? Sanath admitted they had to an extent. As he stood up to wave, when the judges were being introduced, and he had thought of all the people who were watching at that moment, he had felt as though he was about to face the first ball in a test match, he noted matter-of-factly.

All in all, this acclaimed young cricketer, says the event had been a "beautiful" experience for him, no pun intended. "It was nice to represent Sri Lanka at something, for the first time ever. I am proud and honoured to have been chosen." And happy too, would have been the thoughts of veteran Hindi film actor Amitabh Bachchan himself, chairman of Amitabh Bachchan Company Limited (ABCL), who was in charge of organising the event. He had personally thanked Sanath for accepting the invitation.

On the subject of local beauty pageants, for which Sanath is no doubt a shoo-in as a judge the next time, The Sunday Times asked him if he had any tips to hand out. "Weeeell," he began, " the whole event was organised very well indeed, and I think local organisers, should watch and learn from them. As to my being a judge again, of course, I don't know if they'll really ask me." Ever modest, this one.

The fact that he had the opportunity of seeing a bevy of beauties up close and personal (ly) has not affected his opinion of the local lasses, since Sanath claimed very stoutly that when he did choose to have a girlfriend, she would most definitely be a Sri Lankan.

And as to what else is on his agenda at the moment, ever protective of his image, Sanath replied he was back to his routine training for cricket. "I don't really know what's next," he smiled, "But I do hope it is something to do with cricket....that's what I'm best at !"

Letter from the otherside

Those good old funny days

Oi, it's me again, Must be thinking the bugger has joined the post office and able to steal stamps to write to you so often, no?

But guess who I bumped into the other day on the street. Gladys "anty", that's who. Yes the same one we called "everybody's darling" the one with big boobs and all who'd let you have a peek when she removed those "wela waraka karanawa" pink bodice they sold on the Pettah pavement for Rs. 1.50 in the good ole days. Old now machan. Remember when she used to yell, "here sonna go to the downhouse boutique and bring some parippu and come" and we'd all race down the street to please her? Can't for the life of me think what the hell I saw in her, but we were all young and impressionable then, weren't we?

At least she spoke to me and you don't know what happiness that brought. Here, among huge high-rise buildings full of chrome and steel, you see another Sri Lankan and you move miles to avoid them now. Funny, isn't it? They look at you and you look at them, there is a funny curling of lips as if to say "should I or shouldn't l ?" and then off we go with our heads high and our arses on the ground. It's called civilisation machan and making space. Buggered if I can make head or tail of it.

The funniest ones are the Sinhalese and the Tamils. In some of the big cities, see a pottu on the woman and that's it, definitely a Tiger. Not that that mob is any better either, went to a seminar the other day, - oh, yes I do that too nowadays, just to look important you know, in my full suit and all - and there were Tigers running amuck, surrounded by whitie persons and dogooders who talk about something called human rights.

Had this bird who was so poetic machan I swear she must be related to that Shakesperson we read about in school, you know the one I mean. Had lots to say about the waving palmyrah palms in a land called Eelam, the people proud and strong, warriors all, fighting the invading armies of the majority who were out to pillage and rape, reciting poems and hailing their heroes, those who had died gloriously for the cause; nothing about the cyanide pills and bombs around young bodies making them worthwhile only to the dogs passing by, and that too only for a moment.

Then found out she was born in Malaysia and knew bugger-all about the country she was speaking of. Wanted to tell her "oi", the last time I went to your so-called Eelam I ducked and weaved among canvas-shoe wearing "jawans" who yelled in Hindi and shot at everything in sight.

And how my old Chief Clerk Lorence, the one who used to live in Dehiwela and cooked us lobsters and bought us "gal" every Sunday, cried when he saw me because he didn't have the money in good ole Eelam to buy me a little dram.

Or about Viswa, only a skeleton then, who came to the bus-stop to see me off. And the oId man who once worked at Shaw Wallace and was so glad to see a face from the past and guided me past the sentry-points right into Eelam towns simply because he thought I would be a sitting duck if I went alone. Did he ever make it back safely, I always think, past the soldiers who were only there for thc TVs and air-conditioners which they could hock at a huge profit in Madras; if of course you did not die for your country first. Or something like that. But didn't have the guts machan to say those things in public. Just like in Jaffna and elsewhere back in 88-89. Obey the chit and knock off the lights, close the shops and hoof it home just like a herd of cattle. Who was that character who said it's far more dangerous to stand and allow evil to happen? Can't remember now. Getting on, I guess.

As for the Sinhalese, there is a mob here who are so partriotic you wonder how there can be any Tamils left in Sri lanka after all these years. Don't know what the hell they did back there but their patriotic zeal is so great they actually foam at the mouth when they speak.

Had a good speaker from Sri Lanka here the other day. Told all these super patriots where to get off. "What the hell are you guys doing over here mouthing off" he said, "come on over and join us" he said. But of course you can't do that, can you? What about my wall to wall carpeted brick veneer home, my children who now speak with posh accents, my "dole" payment, my mortgage? AND what will the old lady say?

Rang my mum the other day. Said "be careful now when sister and nephews and nieces go to work to Colombo every day. I heard on the news the Tigers are planning to bomb the joint any day". "Thanks very much" she said, "but how do you suppose we'll feed ourselves?". Good question, I guess, what with money I want to send home not being tax-deductible.

So had another Scotch and turned on the TV. "Real life" the program said, something about a poor bastard who turned down a job in a resort island because he refused to cut his pony tail. "A violation of my human rights" he said. "Bludger" said the TV commentator.

We've got our hearts in the right place. Brian, whatever you might think. Mikey

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