Tampa, Florida: In a glittering function organized on November 25 at the Tampa Convention Center, Ritu Upadhyay of USA was crowned Miss India Worldwide 2001. The tenth annual pageant was organized by the New York based India Festival Committee, headed by Dharmatma Saran, Founder and the Chief Organizer of the Pageant and hosted by Dr. Kiran Patel of the India Cultural center, Tampa, Florida. Ritu, 23, is a graduate of North Western University majoring in Journalism and Political Science and is presently employed with the prestigious Time magazine as a Staff Reporter.
Crowning was done by Bollywood star and Member of Parliament Shatrughan Sinha who complimented the organizers for bringing international Indian community on one platform through pageantry. Dharmatma Saran also presented an appreciation plaque to Shatrughan Sinha for his “outstanding contributions to the Indian motion picture and public life.”
The other top five finalists included Jayalaxmi Appadorai of Malaysia (first runner-up), Sheetal Shah of India (second runner-up), Retu Jhelan of Canada and Rovana Shankar of the Netherlands.
The function started with an opening dance by the outgoing queen, Aarti Chabria, who flew in especially from India for the pageant. Contestants from 16 different countries came to vie for this prestigious title held for the first time in Florida. Along with the pageant were various sub-contests held during the week long activities in Tampa and Orlando. Subashnie Devkaran (South Africa) got the title of Miss Photogenic. Simran Kochar of United Kingdom got the Miss Popularity award and the award of Miss Congeniality went to Sapna Malani of Fiji while the Miss Beautiful hair went to Preeti Ghelani of Kenya. Rovana Shankar of the Netherlands won the Best Talent Award who amazed the audience with her performance, which consisted of a mixture of chutney dance, Indian movie dancing, acting and karate. The talent was a message motivating women to fight back. There were other spectacular talents that varied from Indian movie/classical dancing, singing, and poetry recitation to magic show!
The panel of judges included Diana Hayden (Miss World 97-98), Anjana Trivedi, Dr. Shashi Agarwal, Dr. Marvin Pillay, Satya Shaw, Dr. Pallavi Patel and Ruchika Bajpai. Besides Diana Hayden, upcoming Bollywood movie actress Nethra Raghuraman were special guests on this occasion. Geeta Bali, Apra Bhandari and Anil Srivasta were the emcees of the function and Ganga Mukkavilli, CPA, did tabulation.
One highlight of the function was a trip to Disney World and visit to a local hospital by the contestants who distributed toys to sick children there. Mr. H.R. Shah and Mr. Ashok Trivedi were honored on this occasion. Mr. Farook Khan, National Director of South Africa, proposed a vote of thanks.