Ananya is not behaving with overt smugness, because she is not drawing attention to her own achievements directly. She is even trying to mask her contempt with a tattered facade of "graceful" comments toward her victim, Krish, who might have entertained thoughts not captured in the dialogue:
- You're doing pretty well so far ... Really?
- Nothing [wrong with it] ... Are you sure?
- No problem yet .... Why can't I believe you?
This purest of the pure Tamil Brahmin girl is behaving as if the entire royal family suddenly died and left her queen. Apparently she had earned the right to behave that way, being "rated the best girl by popular vote at IIMA," but her attitude is anything but royal. Her not-so-subtle contempt for people she perceives as below her implies smugness.
Because truly small people have a bad habit of trying to make themselves look better by making others look worse, contempt works like a semantic back door for smugness.
The history of smug may shed some light on the dynamic between these characters:
1550s, "trim, neat, spruce, smart," possibly an alteration of Low
German smuk "trim, neat,"
from Middle Low German smücken "to adorn"
(originally "to dress," secondary sense of words meaning "to creep or
from the same source as smock.
The meaning "having a
self-satisfied air" is from 1701, an extension of the sense of
"smooth, sleek" (1580s), which was commonly used of attractive women
etmonline.com, emphasis added
In a beauty pageant, the "most stylish" young lady would naturally intimidate her "least stylish" opponents. (I say stylish because beauty tends to be an arbitrary cultural designation.) In the sixteenth century she would have been called smug simply because she was well dressed, but after 450 years, that is no longer the issue proceeding from smug. Now, this stylish girl would tend to be labeled smug in one of two situations:
- If she uses her stylish appearance to cast an unfavorable shadow on her competitors, she is smug.
- If her competitors perceive her stylish appearance as an unfavorable shadow on themselves, they might call her smug--even
if she is behaving quite modestly.
Krish, the downcast Punjabi "commoner", uses smug to describe her perception of the uppity Ananya. The insulting behavior she displays in the OP is comes across artlessly veiled smugness:
Implying excessive pride in oneself or one's achievements by degrading
others or their achievements--all while trying to ingratiate oneself with
The page before the excerpt, and the page after, amplified her subtle attitude into blatant smugness as this segment suggests:
She laughed. 'I didn't say I am a practicing Tam Brahm. But you should
know that I am born into the purest of pure upper caste communities ever created. What about you, commoner?