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NEW DELHI: Indian model Adline Castelino believes that coming third runner-up in the recent Miss Universe pageant in Florida will provide the springboard to follow her dream of becoming a peace envoy.

The 22-year-old beauty queen recently told Arab News about her childhood years growing up in an Arab culture, the need for peace between rival nations such as Pakistan and India, and her plans to spend time with family and enjoy food when the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic subsides.

She said: “I would love to don the role of an ambassador of peace. If that opportunity comes to me, I would be the first one to grab that and make the most of it, because I believe that’s what the world needs now.”

Born and raised in Kuwait, Castelino returned to her homeland as a teenager to study in Mumbai and pursue a career in modelling. The multicultural experience of growing up and having the “most comfortable and loving childhood” in the Gulf state has never left her, instilling a deep respect for others.

“I am very grateful to have had the experience of growing up in an Arab culture and I learnt a lot. The amalgamation of both cultures made me the person that I am. I think people over there give lots of importance to children and they really sacrifice a lot for children. I remember how we were so protected from the start,” she added.

With that sense of safety and protection, Castelino, a native of Mangalore in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, could grow up Indian, although away from India. “Even though I was very far away from my motherland, I always had the values and tradition intact.”

She was also able to make friends with Pakistanis whose country has long been a bitter rival of India, the two nations having been involved in periods of armed conflict since the independence and partition of the former British-ruled subcontinent in 1947.

Castelino said: “I don’t think this enmity, this animosity needs to continue. There is such a wonderful relation we could share, because of our history, because of where we come from.

“I truly feel that they are part of our family. I have a family in Pakistan, and I really want to tell them that I see a future there where both countries actually join hands and to have very mutually respectful relations. Because we share the same history, because we have shared the same pain and struggle at one period of time.

“In Kuwait, I have lived alongside Pakistanis, Bangladeshis. And they have been my best friends, they are my family, people who have cheered for me and had my back,” she added.

Her main source of support, however, has been her parents. When she became only the second Indian in two decades to achieve major success in the Miss Universe competition – after actress Lara Dutta won it in 2000 – Castelino immediately called her parents who still live in Kuwait.

“They were very supportive even though they were not there in the entire journey, they were always supportive and trying to guide me. I called up my mom soon after the crowning. It was early in the morning. She was excited and so proud of me,” she said.

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic has been brought under control, she will be off to Kuwait to see her parents and friends, and to enjoy her favorite and “amazing” Arab dishes.

“When I go back, when I think of going back, that’s the first thing I think of after my family. I am going to have amazing shawarma; I am going to have amazing falafel. I am just waiting for the opportunity to go back to Kuwait,” Castelino added.

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