The Miss Earth organisation has permitted us to dedicate Miss Earth Mauritius 2010 to Viveka Babajee. Viveka was crowned Miss Mauritius in 1993 and in 1994 participated in the Miss Universe pageant in the Philippines, where Miss Earth started in 2001. She went on to become a highly respected supermodel in India. However, she alienated herself from many in her more conservative home country by appearing in advertisements for condoms.
Viveka’s suicide on 26th June 2010 is a tragedy on many levels. In fact, we are somewhat challenged with feelings of guilt as we had been planning for some time to invite her to help with the organisation of Miss Earth Mauritius. From People magazine’s cover story of Viveka in October 2008, we learned of her desire to return to settle in Mauritius. She would have fitted perfectly into our plans to organise Miss Earth Mauritius and more broadly to be a role model to the youth of Mauritius and share her experience of the outside world with them. We have precious few female success stories to celebrate on our male-dominated island.
We delayed approaching her because of the difficulty we were experiencing to have our organisation approved as an NGO by the Government. Without that approval, we were finding it extremely difficult to attract funding from local businesses after the Government mandated that 2% of profits be given away to NGOs or Government programmes. Only Government approved NGOs were eligible. Only when we were assured by the Ombudsman that he would ensure that the “oversight” would be corrected, did we seek the Miss Earth franchise for Mauritius.
If we had acted sooner, it is possible Viveka’s suicide may have been averted. We do not wish to engage in speculation about what drove her to kill herself, but we do make a couple of observations. Her suicide is described as spontaneous, whereas people in states of depression more often mull over and plan it for quite some time. It appears that she smashed up her apartment prior to killing herself and such external expressions of anger are not common in people who are suffering from depression. Indeed, they are associated with the very first stage of a typical grieving process, such as when one learns of some tragic event of personal significance.
People kill themselves when in states of hopelessness and helplessness. Whether you are driven to suicide as the result of a long depression or a sudden tragedy, there are two things that can avert it. One is having someone to listen to you and help you see your situation from a longer term and broader perspective, which will always be more positive than focusing on current difficulties. The other is to have a purpose outside yourself that is really worth living for. We believe we could have offered her both.
To relieve our sense of guilt we have offered to use the Miss Earth Mauritius 2010 to raise awareness about suicide and the work of the counselling agency, Befrienders, in helping people get through emotional challenges. Ironically, the Ombudsman let us down and we still have not received the required approval to raise funds as an NGO. Hence, we have decided to take a more entrepreneurial approach and have utilised our own personal resources to acquire the franchise for our organisation. Having “put our money where our mouth is”, we are truly dedicated to the success of Miss Earth Mauritius 2010, in memory of Viveka.