By Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

Aishwarya Rai I used to consistently be the first ranker in my class. Only once, when I was in the seventh standard, I stood third in my terminal exams. This hit me really badly. I realized how important it was for me to be a topper and studied very hard for the final term and once again, I stood first in all the divisions of my standard. I guess you could say that was the first time I felt like a Queen!

As a child, my elder brother (by three years) and I used to fight a lot (now we are the best of friends). I used to cherish those rare occasions when I was able to get the better of him. Moreover, if I could succeed in getting him a scolding from our parents, I used to feel really gain an advantage over. My brother used to get very pissed off because I used to get the lion's share of the attention being the youngest child. Sometimes he used to give vent to this resentment by insisting that I did things purposely to grab attention. These fights sound ridiculous now, but I get all teary-eyed when I remember them.

Since my Dad was a shippie, sailing on ship with him is another great memory. The crew of the ship was wonderful and I was much doted upon in spite of being a cacophonous child. I enjoyed attention as a child.

My school trips were wonderful because they meant travel and adventure. I remember going to Chinchoti and Igatpuri in the rainy season. Our little groups used to get lost quite often and then we used to do our filmy bit and shout 'help, bachao' and some villager would put us back on the right track.

My first and last fracture. When I was in class seventh I was supposed to have a big Bharata Natyam performance in December. Around two weeks before D-day, I participated in the preliminary rounds for the school relay races. I tried to run really fast because I wanted to come first and I slipped. To avoid hurting my face I broke my fall with my left hand. When I got up, my forearm was jiggling like jelly. I had no clue then that it was a fracture but I was so scared that I really screamed loudly. When my brother came, he just burst out laughing at me since I was so hysterical. Poor person must have not realized my plight, because since my hand had gone numb, there was no pain. Anyways, I was furious at him for laughing and we got into a major argument on the field itself. Finally, my dance performance was cancelled and my hand was in a cast for two-and-a-half months.

I remember hating it intensely if my parents tried to stop me from participating in any extracurricular activities in school. I loved activities and if my parents stopped me, I have always wanted a justification for their decision. If it was logical, I quietly accepted it.

In spite of being a brilliant student, I did not like Math. Especially after my sixth grade when I did really badly in one Math exam and my teacher, on the open house day, told my mom, "Well, maybe she shouldn't think she's so good at everything." That hurt me so much that ever since then I developed an aversion for that subject. Until then I was used only to praise so that criticism really affected me.

It was always painful when the time came for Dad to go back on ship. Mom used to feel really low and even my brother would look very down. I used to try to be bold because I knew it was his job, but the thought of not seeing him for the next six months was really painful.

Not as painful but definitely irritating was having to put oil in my hair. I did not like being called a 'telu' by my friends. Today, I realize it is very important for your hair but back then, it gave me the creeps.

My tenth grade was a real turning point for me. In spite of being a topper all along, my ICSE results were dismal. Forget topping my school, I did not even figure amongst the first five students. I came eighth in class with 83 percent. I could not believe it because I realized I could not just walk into Ruparel College as I had always dreamt. It was a big blow to my ego as I had not been able to live up to people's expectations. It became a turning point in my life because I realized the value of all my first ranks and I realized how to face disappointments in life. It prepared me for all the blows I was to face in the future. Most important, I realized I was following the emotional pattern by trying to live up to other people's expectations. The shame I faced was severe - I was broken for months after that - but today I realized it was futile.

A subsequent memory is one that made me realize for the first time that 'Anything is possible.' I still remember anxiously checking out college lists to see if I had secured my admission. TO see my name on the waiting list when all along people said I would walk into any college was appalling. It was like a slap on my face. Finally, I walked into K.C. College because I did not get admission elsewhere. This waiting period was terrible. It taught me a lot.

When I look back, I am glad that I did not do too well in my tenth standard, because had that not happened, I would have never joined modeling. After being in K.C. for a month, I shifted to Jai Hind College where one of my professors offered me a modeling assignment. On my own, I would have never thought of becoming a model ever.

Until my 12th standard, I always thought I would go in for medicine and become a doctor but one day I suddenly decided that I did not want to make a career out of medicine. Therefore, I enrolled myself in an architectural school because both art and science interested me. That was a turning point for me.

Going back in time, even winning the Miss India title was a memorable moment for me because for the first time I overcame my stage fright. Earlier, public speaking was something I was never good at. On stage I used to feel that my sentences got very stilted. I kept thinking that I would just blank out and then I would have to hurry off the podium. Nevertheless, at the Miss India contest, it was for the first time that I spoke well on stage. I was petrified that I would blank out and stutter on stage but I managed to speak confidently. Moreover, that was a great moment for me.

Before I left for the Miss World contest my parents got together with Hemant Trivedi to throw a surprise party for me where they invited everybody I was close to from my school, college and advertising days. They organized a dinner party for me at a restaurant where Hemant took me pretending he had to meet some clients. As I entered, they all shouted 'Surprise' that came as a shock to me. It was truly incredible because I least expected it - in my family, we are not very demonstrative about our feelings.

The Miss India title too turned my life around because I started riding a wave of popularity in terms of adulation. I was already a top model but Miss India gave me a chance to go for the Miss World. I was loved by the media until Miss India but immediately after that I was suddenly labeled cold, reserved and what not. This taught me a lot because until then I was only riding the crest of a wave; this sudden media onslaught was like suddenly hitting the trough of the wave all at once.

Obviously, the Miss World title changed everything in my life: it matured me, taught me so much and was a fulfilling experience. The title helped me to decide between studying architecture abroad or joining films. In addition, I finally bit the dust and joined the movies.

Turning 21 years old was an unforgettable moment. I remember I was at the Miss World contest and all the 82 contestants as well as the organizers got together and gave me a huge surprise bash - they sang 'Happy Birthday' in all the different languages for me. It was as if the whole world had come together to wish me at once. This is a once in a lifetime memory because it will never happen again.

My homecoming after winning the Miss World title was one of the best moments in my life. It was a bigger high that even getting the title because I realized what a difference it made to the people here. To see the joy in people's eyes and imagine what my title meant to them was incomparable.

In films, I have got a major high form the appreciation I have got from my fans and the directors I have worked with until now. Touchwood, they have all appreciated my performance and the fact that I am still working with all these great directors is in itself a great high. In spite of not having won any Best Debutante award and in spite of my not having had a single hit Hindi film, yet, all my directors want to repeat me in their next film - and this feels great.

I yearn for a normal holiday. I know it is strange to say that considering I have been traveling around the globe for my films. However, shooting is not a holiday. I have always fantasized about going bag packing as a regular person around different places in the world, interacting with new people and learning about different cultures.

I die to have a good massage. I have never been one to indulge myself with an elaborate beauty routine, contrary to what people think. Therefore, given an opportunity, I would love a good massage, followed by a good hot shower and then some peaceful sleep. I absolutely love that because I am quite an insomniac.

I love the idea of snuggling into a cozy blanket on a dull rainy day, putting on great music, seeing a nice film or even reading a good book with a steaming cup of coffee in hand. I have done that when I was younger and I absolutely loved it.

I would love to have a pet, especially a dog. However, I cannot have one now because I do not have the time to look after it well. Pets give you so much unconditional love that I would like to give back. Dogs are very sensitive animals, they realize when they are not given enough time and care. Later in life, I am sure I will have a dog of my own.

I want to have a cozy comfortable, lived-in country house surrounded by lots of greenery and large spaces. I do not want a cramped society statement but a cool spacious home. I would love a body of water around - perhaps like a brook running by or at least a swimming pool.

Lastly, I want to have someone in my life that will love me a lot and spoil me rotten. The eventuality of babies excites me a lot. I want to have a loving companion. I often dream about unconditional love, the creation of happiness and my own little family. I want to experience life fully with the person I love. I am a major dreamer about such situations.

The thought of waking up one day and finding myself completely alone frightens me a lot because I am a people's person. I would not know what to do with myself for a single hour if I were alone. That is extremely frightening.

Tragedies like losing loved ones disturb me a lot. The thoughts of eventualities are very disturbing. Even the thought of becoming incapacitated is scary. I hope and pray to God that it never happens. I would not know what to do with myself. I really admire and look up to people who are courageous enough to face life in spite of being incapacitated.

I get very scared even thinking about becoming creatively dead. Ceasing to be creative and having no purpose in life is so disturbing, I hope it never happens to anyone. Not having any purpose or goal is very sad.

I do not think I will ever get affected by the Sunset Boulevard syndrome of the Fedora syndrome but it would be scary if I saw even a reflection of these syndromes in me. People here insist that everyone changes in their attitudes eventually and that disturbs me a lot. I hope I remain my same unaffected self, always. I would not mind aging gracefully. I think it is a part of life and we have to accept it well.

I love talking a lot but it can get very irritating for others. However, hen when I am even somewhat subdued, they say they miss my chatter. I exhaust myself talking so I am sure it can get exhausting to the listener as well. I have a habit of explaining everything in graphic detail to help the other person visualize whatever I am saying.

I also giggle a lot even if anything tickles me. Sometimes people misunderstand that. However, I am not play-acting. That is me.

Though I am always in a mad rush, I have a fetish for tidiness and organization. In addition, I like clean, short, well-kept nails so I am always filing them and that is quite irritating. I have very soft nails that chip often so I am always asking for a nail filer. I cannot rest until my hipped nail is filed properly. I am restless until I have a nail filer in my hand.

I walk really fast so my staff have nicknamed me 'Gandhi.' I dart from one place to another without looking around. Even when I attend premieres, I walk so quickly to my seat that sometimes I don't see senior artistes around me and I forget to greet people and this can get very embarrassing especially for my mother who has to receive all the awkward glances and reactions from people. She gets very irritated and tells me to slow down and notice the world around me.

My mom also gets very irritated because I have so many clothes that they fall out from my closets - yet I do not wear any of them. I am very boring when it comes to dressing because I am not bothered by fashion trends. I always jump into my comfortable jeans and a white blouse. My mom always threatens to burn my favorite pair of jeans.

The days I oil my hair, my bath can get very irritating for my family because I take hours in my bathroom. I think I have a bathroom fetish. When I have my own house, my bathroom will be the best room because it is my absolutely private and personal space. Dad keeps teasing me that I will live in the bathroom all my life.

I detest people who burp aloud. It sends a chill down my spine. A little more control and empathy to people around would be welcomed.

I cannot tolerate unhygienic conditions. I am very particular about cleanliness. I like people to be neat and clean around. They have to bathe regularly and smell fresh. I detest dirty bathrooms. I cannot understand why people do not take the initiative to flush. It really gets to me.

I dislike hypocrisy and double standards.

I hate those who are judgmental. I try not to discriminate to the best of my abilities.

I hate people being pretentious. That is why I used to get upset when people call me fake, because I am not like that at all. I hate those who put on false airs because of things like stature and position.