I will see the sea and bring back chocolates for friends: Pinki Sonkar
Pinki Sonkar, who became a household name in India after a short film on her life-changing cleft surgery, Smile Pinki, won the Oscar, will travel to the UK to toss a coin to see who serves first at the Men's singles final at Wimbledon. The 11-year-old from Rampur Dabahi in UP speaks about her journey and more
You went to the US when Smile Pinki, the film on your life, won the Oscars. Do you remember the trip?
I don’t remember much about the Oscar awards. I was six years old at the time and I think I slept through the entire event. This time I am older and I will stay awake. There were many film stars but I didn’t recognise them. I had not seen any films.
So what impressed you most about America?
Samundar dekha! I remember seeing huge oceans and seas. I had never seen the sea before. There is no sea near Rampur. I also remember it was very, very cold. Much colder than at Rampur. I was freezing in America.
So are you excited about your London trip?
I have never been anywhere else apart from that one trip to the Oscars. I have just reached Delhi now. Yehi toh London lag raha hai (this seems like London to me). So many flyovers and cars. But my papa and aunty and doctor uncle are all here, so it’s ok.
How long will you be in England?
I think we will be in England for a week. Suna hai bahut accha desh hai. I am excited as I have been told we will go to a chocolate factory. My friends have told me to get chocolates for them from England. I want to do that. Then we will be going to London. I have no idea what is there but I am told there are amazing things to see. Oh and yes, I am carrying a jacket with me. It’s cold there and raining, I have been told.
Have you been to see a tennis match?
No. I have never seen tennis. I don’t know how it is played. What is the game about? Bat-ball? I have to toss a coin. There will be lot of people on the ground. (Pinki and her team will travel to Manchester first on July 3 where they will visit the Thornton’s chocolate factory before moving to London. In the capital, the girl will get to see the famed London Zoo, take a hop-on-hop-off bus for a city tour before lunching with the two men’s finalists before they square off. Finally on July 7, she will toss the coin for the finals)
What have you heard about London?
Suna hai London mein mera photo hai (Dr Singh and others tell us that large pictures of Pinki have been put up on London Underground/train compartments as well as in several outdoor locations throughout London, announcing that she will toss the coin for the finals). But I am excited I will get to see a big zoo. They also have queens and kings there, hai na?
What has been the biggest change for you in the last few years?
I now go to school. I am in class-I. I have many friends in the village and in school now. This makes me very happy. I didn’t have many friends before. Nor did I go to school. My brothers also go to school with me.
What’s your favorite sport?
I watch my brothers playing football and cricket. But my favourite game is Gudwa which we play using small pebbles across several squares. Do you know how to play it?
You have seen Pinki since she was a toddler, back in 2007. Is she a different girl today?
The biggest change is in her confidence after we performed the operation on her in the GS Memorial hospital in Varanasi. When I first saw her, she was hiding behind her mother’s sari, her head down. There was a total loss of self-esteem. No one played with her because of her facial deformity. She didn’t go out too. But she was so charming even then. Today, she is a picture of confidence. She laughs and plays and has so many friends. She is also a very fast learner, an intelligent girl. Another big change is that she has finally learnt to say no. She would get pushed and bullied before.
Do you worry about fame going to her head?
Yes of course sometimes we worry about all this adulation and fame and how it will affect her. After all no one from her village has come to Delhi much, let alone New York or London. But she is a level-headed girl.
Smile through tough times
Smile Train is the world’s largest cleft lip and palate charity that helps children who suffer from cleft lip and palate by providing free surgery for them. The NGO has been selected as the charity partner to perform the coin toss at the Gentlemen’s Singles Final, Wimbledon 2013, on Sunday July 7. Pinki, who will represent Smile Train and toss the coin for the men’s final is better known as the star of the Oscar-winning documentary called Smile Pinki. Every year, The All England Lawn Tennis Club invites two charities to take on the coin toss duties respectively for the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles Finals at Wimbledon in front of a worldwide audience.
A new dawn
Dr Subodh K Singh, the plastic surgeon who performed the life-changing surgery on Pinki, says she is a different girl today.