By Aishwarya Bachchan

Aishwarya Rai Even as a child, I was a dreamer. I conjured up my own dreams and created a world of my own. At the same time, I was this sensible kid. In the family, I always spent more time with my aunts and uncles than with my cousins. It was not like a kid trying to be grown up. It was a comfortable atmosphere. My parents had always encouraged open communication. Between the four of us - mom, dad, my brother and I - we were a very closely-knit family unit. Grown-up things were discussed; I do not mean the birds and bees; but family matters, relationships, friends.

I was exposed to a lot of music at home. Various kinds of music. My brother, who is 3 years older to me, obviously put on what he liked. There were no CDs at that time. He would buy some tapes; he would record some... pop music, mainly. Moreover, my mother used to listen to old Hindi songs. Later on, I also learnt Hindustani Classical and Carnatic music. I loved music and dance. I trained in Bharatanatyam too. I was inclined towards the fine arts right from the beginning.

Biology and Zoology were my favorite subjects, but I did not see myself making a career in medicine. One needs a kind of dedication for such careers that, at that time, I thought I would not be able to put in. I took up architecture and then developed a love for it as I was studying it.

My dad was on ship, sailing constantly. So, most of the time, it was mum, brother and me. I always behaved more grown up than my brother did. Even today, people are surprised that he is older than I am. It is very funny. Even in school, my juniors, my classmates and some of my seniors would so naturally discuss their problems with me. I was a very talkative child. I used to speak better than other kids did my age. I was always ahead of my time. I got into these little conversations with people and I was convinced that I was putting my point across, even if they were perceived as arguments.

We watched films as kids, but not excessively. It was not part of our normal routine. There was television and the Sunday movies, which were the big events of the weekend. After that, you started feeling guilty about your homework for Mondays. I loved to watch Chayageet on Doordarshan and all the Hindi movies. I was enthralled by the magic of cinema even then. Videos were new and it was a big thing to watch the latest movies on them, whenever we could. Films were not a taboo. They just were not allowed to be the centre point of our lives, just as if we were not allowed to go crazy over chocolates or going to games parks.

Adolescence is a strange phase. One goes through all kinds of transformations. This was that stage when I would constantly get into fights with my brother, not because he was my elder brother, but because I now felt on par with him. When I was getting into college, I thought, "Uh-oh, Elder-Brother Syndrome is going to take over big time!" However, after a while, amazingly, we became the best of friends.

I was never into fashion really. I do not know if I still am. I was always easy about dressing. If the occasion demands that I be a chandelier, I will be so, impassionate. However, the kind of clothes I wear personally is a very different matter. Comfort is the main criterion, and of course, moods. However, my clothes are never extravagant. In college, I was very simple in my dressing - just jeans and a shirt or a salwar kameez or something.

At the time of the Miss India contest, I was 19, just past my Class XII. I was as new as the other 20-odd contestants were, but I was already known as Aishwarya Rai, the model. People therefore thought I was Miss Know All because of my experience.

I spoke on the stage for the first time during the contest. I was feeling very conscious and people mistook this for attitude and restraint in expression. The Miss World contest also gave me a chance to discover myself. I was there in Sun City for one month with people I did not know and who didn't know me at all. I was trying to see which qualities of mine would create an impression on these people. I think I found and recognized myself there.

I have had my fair share of attention right from childhood. That is why I have never felt the need to grab it. In fact, I almost work at underplay. If you see my body language, I always have one raised shoulder. It means that I am taking things in, listening to what others have to say, instead of screaming for attention.

I am enjoying every moment of being in films. It is addictive. I was offered films in my modeling days, but I did not give acting a shot then because it meant compromising on my studies. The only time I almost gave in to the temptation was in December 1993, when Toy (Dharmesh Darshan) spoke to me about Raja Hindustani. Then, I entered the Miss India contest. Even Rajiv Rai had called me during Mohra. When I look back, I wonder how those films would have been if I had done them. My life would probably not have been the same.