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Lymaraina D'souza
Name : Lymaraina D'souza
Titles won : Miss India 1998

Call me Lee, says LYMARAINA D'SOUZA, Femina Miss India-Universe 1998. How does a 19-year-old collegian who's never worn make-up before, claims to "eat like a horse" and be "pretty laid-back about everything", get to be Femina Miss India-Universe 1998?

The answers are many. But first, don't let Lymaraina D'Souza's cool demeanour mislead you, for here is a girl who sets her goals clearly and doesn't give up till she's got there.

And when she does -- as she did, on January 24 -- she is very much in control, her reaction one of amazing equanimity. Did she expect to win all along, you ask. And she replies firmly, "Yes. From the beginning, I knew this crown was mine." But adds quickly, "Please, I don't mean to sound over-confident or boastful, but it's just that I had this inner voice constantly telling me that the crown was mine. It was up to me to go out there and get it. And I've been incredibly lucky." The first thing Lymaraina did after she was crowned was, offer a silent prayer of thanks to her "best friend above".

What made her enter the contest? Her reply is a little bewildering to begin with -- "A friend of mine has gone to the States -- no, not a boyfriend, but a very close friend." Then she explains, "I really wanted to meet her and I thought winning this contest would make that possible. Also, I want to study in the US and, though my parents (her father's with the merchant navy and mother, a housewife) have always been very supportive, I wanted to finance my own education."

The Mumbai-born Lymaraina schooled at the city's Fort Convent and went on to Sydenham College for a bachelor's degree in commerce. In school, she remembers, her teachers would make the quietest and the shyest girls sit next to her. "I talked so much," she says, "sitting next to me was therapy for them."

Talking is something Lymaraina is good at. She won the hearts of the audience (and the votes of the judges!) with her answer to actress Madhuri Dixit's question about how she would rate her priorities in life -- would her country, family or her goals come first? "Life," said Lymaraina, "is about striking the right balance between patriotism, goals and family. You need a blend of loyalty to the country, goals that keep you looking forward to something, and the family, without which the first two would have no meaning." And to Cindy Crawford's final question on how seriously life should be taken, she said: "Life is a journey made of small moments. It's important to be serious about your goals but, at the same time, it's important to have fun. Because at the end of the day, when you look back, you should go to bed with a smile on your face."

The answers came so quick that one had to ask, how had she prepared for them? The answer: "I wanted my answers to be spontaneous and from my heart. And I suppose that's what worked in my favour."

"There's also this sensitive side to me. It comes out quite strong in my writing." Yes, she writes, and poetry, too -- about "self-awareness, forgiveness, self-love..." She likes to read a lot, and says that, whether she picks up a piece of fiction or a medical journal, she's got to read it right till the last page.

Other passions include music and cooking. "Believe me, I really cook well," she laughs. "I think I'm lucky that I can indulge in food without the fear of putting on weight." In fact, Ramma Bans, who worked with Lymaraina for a year, putting her on a weight gain programme, was understandably ecstatic on the 24th.

The other thing Lymaraina has never done before the contest was use make-up. "My first brush with make-up was with Bharat (Godambe, the make-up whiz). But I really feel that being natural is best."

She says, "For now, I don't want to say too much. But I'm interested in cooking and children. So it's got to be something related to that. When I say children, I don't mean just the kids of the poor, but even those of the rich who are lonely. Though I and my 14-year-old brother have had a wonderful childhood, I know what loneliness is." For now, winning the title hasn't changed her priorities. She insists, "This title won't change me. I can say that with complete confidence as I realise that fame, money and glamour are all temporary and I intend to enjoy it all while it lasts."

The essential me. I'm very excited about it and waiting to experience all the magic and fun, meet a lot of people, make new friends and hopefully bring back the crown. The one reason I really want to win is to make worthwhile all the hard work a whole lot of people have put in to groom me."

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