By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, June 18, 2017 : On 6 June this year, nearly whole of Odisha revelled over the ‘little miss universe’ crown bagged by an innocent twelve year old girl from Cuttack. The young and old alike celebrated across all social media networks known to mankind.

Padmalaya Nanda, grabbed the crown somewhere abroad and never returned immediately to give bites or show up before the frenzied media. She reappeared at the Bhubaneswar airport only a couple of days ago with her parents after a cool summer trip away from heat and humidity. But there was something big missing- the video clips or the details of the place and people who organised the beauty pageant. There were conflicting reports which the local media couldn’t clarify.

Strangely, no big mainstream national media outfit carried any good enough story. Someone said she got crowned in the Georgia of the US; some others explained vaguely it was somewhere near Russia. A truly methodical research had to be done.

As more and more interesting facts kept surfacing, people who are constantly digging out wrong things happening around us at any given point in time, sent kind if an alert note to wait for some more time to know the exact truth. Some shared bizarre tales of fleecing and fraud to sensitize naive, ignorant potential victims.

Some years ago, a fairly educated close friend stormed into a common place and declared panting, “Fortune has just smiled on me! The happy news is so big that some of you will faint.” Before we could even make the least query, he elaborated the news : an email to him says a rebel Saudi Arab princess has absconded with 8 billion US dollars in hard cash and is need of help from reliable people.

Someone probably has tipped the royal female that our friend is a highly connected person without greed but with guts. Hence, the middle-eastern Muslim princess would park the cash with him and take it back when the storm at the royal palace calms down and the kicked-up dust gets grounded. No one had any response. The wise ones told him to be careful with stolen money. The Interpol will trace him down and put him in an Arab jail for life where most terrible things happen to thieves and robbers.

The friend said the risk is worth taking as the grand lady has promised him a cut of twenty percent of the loot, which can take care of following three generations. He also promised to take some of the close friends on a far eastern trip in enviable style. Three months down the line, the email–lucky friend came with head cast down, health gone, smile gone and the high spirit completely washed out. He told the whole thing was a hoax orchestrated by international crooks and frauds.

They robbed him of nearly fifty thousand rupees by asking for this fee and that before meeting the princess. Since greed had captured the friend’s heart and head alike, he went on coughing out the money to make the big kill in good time. The email team vanished and the persons who had come in contact on internet phone had melted in thin air.

Only recently, a little girl made Odisha proud. She bagged the ‘little miss universe’ crown in Georgia. The Times of India and India Today agencies carried the story in near headlines. They said Odia teenager Padmalaya Nanda of Cuttack has been crowned the ‘Little Miss Universe’ in the world’s leading pageant region of Georgia, USA. Around this time, a friend from the US calls up to express confusion: no one in the US is aware of any ‘little miss universe’ contest in Georgia or famous pageant capital city Atlanta.

Besides, most western countries have banned beauty contests for little girls as such event affects life by degenerating mental health of growing girl kids.
Parents are sometimes criticized for entering their children in pageants. By holding very young girls to a “beauty” standard involving things such as makeup and spray tans, pageants are seen as reinforcing a very traditional type of femininity.

One sociologist, Shelby Colene Pannell, questions why parents would willingly subject their children to gender socialization in such an extreme form.Families encouraging kids to be beauty queens are subject to intense criticism for negatively influencing their children that their physical appearance will score them attention and prizes.

Teenage beauty pageants have sparked heavy controversy in the last few years, due to actions including forcing a child to wear fake breasts,, feeding a child “pageant crack,” a mixture of sugar and high-calorie sweeteners to provide the necessary energy needed to perform well on the runway, and waxing/threading a child’s facial and body hair to give them a glowing appearance on stage.

Children who compete in pageants are used to being in public spotlight. It is their job to cooperate and look pretty. In the pageant world, being past a certain weight isn’t considered attractive. For this reason, many teens in the pageant world may develop eating disorders such as anorexia. They purposely starve themselves in order to stay at the “appropriate” weight in order to win. Many times glam beauty pageants require young girls to wear tightly fitted dresses, so extra stress is put on young girls to stay thin.

Critics of child beauty pageants say the pageants promote children as products used for the benefit of commercial gain. Some describe it as a deal. Parents spend money on clothing, hair, makeup, and accessories in return for a cash prize or cheap fame. Lindsay Lieberman, the author of “Protecting Pageant Princesses: A Call for Statutory Regulation of Child Beauty Pageants” argues that there should be regulations on how child beauty pageants are run because the effects on children can be negative and damaging.

In her article, Lieberman touches upon points that concern the lifestyles that children who compete in pageants have going on while competing such as stress and anxiety as well as problems they will have later on in the future such as depression, lowered self-esteem, and battling eating disorders. Certain types of pageants create an atmosphere in which wearing heavy makeup to emphasize full lips, long eyelashes, and flushed cheeks, high heels to emulate adult women, provocative dance steps, flirtatious poses or facial expressions, and revealing “evening gowns” to enable the kids to compete better and take home the ultimate prize.

Besides the laws that regulate child education, pageants are a relatively ungoverned program. Child contestants are not considered “working”, so pageants are exempt from federal child labor laws. Pageants also have different rules, so it becomes hard to set a law that will cover every pageant.

In 2013, France banned pageants for youngsters under age of 16 years, on the grounds that they promote the “hyper-sexualisation” of minors. France is the first western country to ban child pageants.

The Georgia pageant, incidentally had nothing to do with Georgia of the US, the pageant capital of the world. The Georgia that gave the gold crown to the Odisha kid is the one that broke away from the USSR in 1991. This country is not at peace even today. The Georgians are divided in choice between being part of Europe as it’s on the border and remain tilted towards Russia as part of Asia. The country is still in turmoil.

The little miss universe contest did not have any western kid taking part – not even leading Asian countries; only a few former Soviet states crowded out there. The pageant was held in a port city called Batumi. There were no sitting judges. The organisers sought public voting on the Internet, which too was not made popularly known. Even the Odia people had no idea about the voting mode.

Even until today no one knows how many countries were represented and who was the runners up and who was judged third and so on. The gold crown is a running one. The winner next year will snatch it away from the innocent Odia girl. Most surprisingly, the lawyer father of the kid too did not clarify which Geogia was the location. The air fare to Georgia the country is fairly cheap and the cost of living there is cheaper than Bhubaneswar.

It may be mentioned that a thorough week long exercise revealed that there was no good enough information available on the organisers; no video clips of the event with other participants; and just not one news item in the western press including Australia and New Zealand. The ONGC has given away eight lakh rupees to the little girl for the rare feat.

But now the conscious people of the country feel they have been duped. Public money is scarce for poor cancer patients, but adequately available for shows which are suspect or not of high class. Known event organisers say frauds are always scheming to stage some sham show or the other in rogue countries to rob the ignorant people by fleecing and fraud. The ‘Saudi princess story ‘was told only to sensitize ordinary street people to frauds that are prowling around for easy prey by charging hefty registration fees and logistic expenses.

All the same, Padmalaya has proven her worth as a brave kid. Odisha is of course proud of her painful efforts and the gold crown which she can flaunt for only twelve months.!

The people of Odisha have all the blessing for the little girl. But that the parents kept quiet over the real truth has not gone well with the knowing people of this country. Just before leaving for the not-so-known destination in a politically unstable region of western Asia (some say it’s partly in Eaten Europe), the little teenager’s parents persuaded Naveen Patnaik to believe the contest was supremely global and extracted blessings from the trusting chief minister.

Blessings from the people of Odisha are Padmalaya’s due. She has worked hard to rise to an expected status to win a prize. But the core truth remained hidden when everyone had a right to be told what exactly the whole show was, how they chose our innocent girl and how many she had to beat in India and Asia to get the one–year crown.