PINKI smiled & slept

You couldn’t fault her on anything. Nine-year-old Pinki, whose fairy-tale makeover from a cleft-lipped waif in hiding won an Oscar for short documentary, carried out her real life role in Hollywood with aplomb. “She faced the cameras boldly, smiled often, even fielded queries from inquisitive goras and walked the red carpet with ladylike dignity,” says a proud Dr Subodh Kumar Singh, her surgeon and mentor. But when the award was finally announced and cameras focused on the cast and crew of Megan Mylan’s 39-minute masterpiece Smile Pinki, the little girl from Rampur Dahaba was fast asleep.

“She was obviously tired and none of us had the heart to wake her up,” says Singh, who accompanied Pinki and her father Rajendra Sonkar, a farmer, to the awards. Singh also doubled up as Dr Higgins to groom Pinki for D-day. “For a girl who had never seen a television screen or an electric bulb, exposure to Los Angeles would have been too much of a shock,” he told from LA over the phone. The week-long training involved introducing the child to basics like how to hold a brush, squeeze out paste from the tube, and even delicate issues like use of Western toilets or the toilet roll.

Then Pinki had to get accustomed to putting on shoes as she was used to loitering around bare-footed in village lanes. Next came table manners. No more dal-bhat scooped out of fingers, she was taught how to handle a knife and a fork. Wardrobe also was a ticklish issue. The girl did not have a single colour-coordinated dress. So the doctor picked up outfits from Delhi including the one Pinki wore at the Oscars. To complete the Cinderella story, Megan’s hair stylist gave her the final impish touch.

“Pinki surprisingly was already muchtalked about here when we arrived,” says Singh, adding “She was followed by the ABC and CBC crew as soon as she arrived in New York. And ‘thank yous’ and ‘hellos’ she learned back home, came quite handy here.”

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