To travel the world as a representative of one’s motherland, interact with countless people and listen to their stories, come across and experience vibrant cultures, is all an opportunity of a lifetime. Such has been the life of Ms Yukta Mookhey, our very own Miss World 1999, who has granted us the privilege of having a conversation. Ms Mookhey was the fourth Indian woman to win the coveted Miss World title at London, United Kingdom. And that was just the beginning of her amazing journey, as Ms Mookhey shares with us in this series of articles.
After winning the pageant, Ms Mookhey went on to establish and collaborate with various charities and social welfare organizations, addressing pertinent issues such as women empowerment, saving the environment, and child welfare. She also lived the Bollywood dream, appearing in a string of movies, which taught her many lessons outside the movie set.
My journey has been a very interesting one. Since I do not come from a film background, didn’t have any experience in modelling, the journey had a lot of exciting firsts. Like every girl at that age I aspired to become famous and recognized in the world. At the ages of 16, 17 and 18 one feels like they can conquer the world, and everything is a fairytale.
Hence, I applied for Miss India in 1998 when I was in college. After winning the title, I had to undergo training for Miss World but due to a gap between both events, I returned to college and finished my degree in science (computer science according to Wikipedia). The Miss India event took place in January while Miss World was slated for December, which was a good thing. I remember the crowds outside the classrooms and college to get a glance at Miss India, and I would request them to let me study. The time I took to complete my studies and degree was very helpful as it gave me time to prepare for Miss World as well. Once my studies were over, I took up some modelling as well.
I won the Miss World title with the blessing of my Guru, without whom it wouldn’t have been possible. At that time, I was like a butterfly out of the cocoon, very innocent and unaccustomed to the different types of people one comes across. Fortunately, I got some great assignments that gave me plenty of exposure. Since the Miss World organization promotes a lot of social causes, you go ahead and personally promote them, you get a lot of adulation and respect from your country and other countries as well. You get invited to functions and get recognition, attention, and on an international level you fund-raise for so many causes. It could be about people suffering with a terminal illness, children, the poor and downtrodden. The entire experience humbles you and teaches so much about life. I feel very privileged to be in the position wherein from a young age I got to carry a lot on my shoulders, and that too on such a platform!
At that time, I was able to ask myself, on what resolve did I start my journey? What did I want to do? Personally, I wanted to work for women empowerment, children’s education and causes to uplift humanity. However, looking back at the journey today, I say that those answers weren’t what I wanted, for that journey was not mine. I returned to my roots where I could practice yoga, spirituality and revisiting classical music, which I had been learning since childhood. These things gave me a chance to understand that my passion lay very rooted within nature and people. And for that I did not to be a film star or choose that career path. For some people that choice works out, and that’s great!
Krishna Barot has transcribed and edited the conversation with Ms Yukta Mookhey.
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