India Travel News

Window on India
Febuary 1, 2007

News Bullets

Shilpa’s Gandhigiri
Shilpa Shetty has made India proud. More by forgiving her white rivals, who had stooped low to shower racist abuses on her, than winning a reality show on a British television channel. Till she came out of the 26-day confinement that is required for the Big Brother House show, Shilpa was not at all aware of the size of the storm the racist abuses against her had kicked off. Her ignorant rivals had made her victory a cake-walk. Bollywood director Mahesh Bhatt described Shilpa’s victory nothing more than a child winning an essay competition; and he is not totally wrong. The show was never a world cup. In fact, ‘Big Boss’, the Indian version of ‘Big Brother’ had tested the mental toughness of the housemates far more. For, the Indian show required the inmates to be totally cut off from the world for as many as 90 days and the British show just 26 days. But the British show stirred the international community more because of the racist remarks and the intense reaction to them from a 2-million-strong Asian community of the UK. The sharpness of their reaction only underlines the element of racism lingering in the British society. The most beautiful part of the show was the sincere, genuine and heart-felt pardon that came from this elegant Bollywood actress. It only shows how much the contemporary India has absorbed Mahatma Gandhi even unknowingly.

Tatas win the Corus steel
Finally, the Tatas have won the Corus Steel, beating Brazil’s CSN. In the concluding 9th round of the auction last night the Tata Steel raised its offer to 608 pence per share in cash and the CSN bowed out at its 603 pence bid. Now Tata Steel has jumped to the 5th rank in the world’s steel output, making India prouder still. During the past cdouple of months the CSN had given sleepless nights to the Tatas by raising its bid. The Tatas had to raise its takeover price from $9.2 billion to $11.3 billion. This takeover is the largest acquisition by an Indian company.

OBC quota runs into bad weather
The Supreme Court has questioned the validity of the quota for OBC students in the higher education institutions. It has issued a notice to the Indian government and asked it explain why the quota decision should not be stayed. Youth for Equality, an NGO, had filed a petition in the apex court describing the Centre’s decision as violative of fundamental rights of the other citizens. The Supreme Court has made no secret of its intentions to review all the legislations of the parliament.

A Government Quote

‘‘We in India reject the idea of “clash of civilizations” because we have been home to the “confluence of civilizations”, said Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in his Address at the function of conferment of the Gandhi Peace Prize 2005, in New Delhi on January 31.

A reader’s Quote in Media

Thackeray should buy some Kushwant Singh joke books if he is short of jokes to entertain masses .He has no right to speak about the only respectable person in the country who has a vision of India in 2020 whereas Thackearay and all his fellow hypocritic politicians can only think of India till next General, Assembly, Municipal ,Street, house.... elections but have a vision for their own family for 2020…Rupert on IBNLive, January 31.


Amitabh and Superstition - By Pratap Thorat

Amitabh Bachchan is the Indian film industry’s all-time and the only one mega-star. The Fifties produced three stars - Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapur and Dev Anand – who reigned supreme for two decades. The Seventies gave rise to Rajesh Khanna, the first super-star. He ruled for a decade. The mid-seventies saw emergence of Amitabh Bachchan and the Eighties elevated him to the mega-stardom. Bogged down under tradition, rigid social structure and lack of material resources for long, the diffident Indian youth had started asserting itself and rebelling against the system. Its symbol on the screen was a dare-devil, angry young man Amitabh. Maybe Amitabh showed them the way. Or was part of the caravan as several other socio-economic factors had started changing the mindset of the youth.

He was their God on the silver screen. They imitated him in every possible way. He was the highest paid actor. Charged mind-boggling sums and when all limits were crossed charged film distribution territories. The fans cried uncontrollably, if he was hurt in film-shooting accidents or was hospitalized. In spite of earning a few hundred thousands per hour, for decades, this mega-star was never ever known for charity. Yet he found himself under heavy debt. He alone knows how he lost everything. He worked with renewed vigour and his fans paid him with much more enthusiasm. He was an Indian God and yet the devotees offered their prayers without asking anything in return. Very strange!

Amitabh Bachchan thought of himself, his family, his career but very little beyond that. This silver screen God very much knew that people were quick to imitate him. To declare his old age, he gave a French-cut to his grey barb. Many middle-aged men threw away hair colour. He walked down over ten kms, bare-foot, in the dead of night, to offer prayers at the Siddhi-Vinayak temple in central Mumbai. Some fans followed the suit.

Amitabh these days is offering prayers with his family and would-be daughter-in-law and the screen goddess Aishwarya Rai. The reason, they say, is Aishwarya’s Mangalic horoscope, which needs to be cured by the religious and tantric remedies. After walking down twice to the Siddhi Vinayak Ganesh temple, he went to Vaishnodevi. Performed rituals at the Kashi-Vishwanath temple in Varanasi. Last week, he was at the Vindhyavasini temple in eastern UP, well-equipped with the pundits. His explanation is that the Mangalic horoscope of Aishwarya Rai was the invention of the media and that the media was free to say what they wanted.

Bollywood marriages are far more brittle than political alliances. Against this backdrop, both his critics and fans appreciate the strong family bonds of the Bachchans. They love that the patriarch in him cares so much for the family and also appreciate his anxiety to make the son’s career brighter and family life happier.

In a free society of a liberal nation, Amitabh Bachchan very much has the right to stick to his faith. He cannot be prevented from doing what he thinks the best for his family and for his peace of mind. At the same time, he would do better to keep in mind that to the millions of his mad fans, he is an epoch-maker and a trend-setter.

One does not understand how a family takes the would-be daughter-in-law with it to offer prayers and perform rituals at temples, much before a wedding. Or how her parents are always absent at these functions. If Aishwarya’s Mangalic horoscope is a media invention, why then the Bachchans are desperate in making rounds of the temples. If astrologers and horoscopes are to be believed, about 80 percent of the people are Mangalic, or afflicted by the Planet Mars. Why are the Bachchans fussy then?

One possible explanation is that Amitabh’s success lasted for too long and consumed his youth and middle-age, during which he couldn’t give time to his kids. There is a sense of guilt in him. He became excessively protective of his kids. So he did a good number of films with his son, Abhishek, and wanted him to grow and learn in his safe and assuring shadow. His equally caring contemporaries were not as protective as Amitabh, while launching their sons and daughters. Maybe an excessive and undue concern over the married life of son is making him panic-stricken. Psychologists could explain this syndrome convincingly. Aishwarya’s parents are not as panicky.

Surely, it is a personal affair of the mega-star. Unfortunately, its repercussions are social and all-pervading. For, the fan-following of the mega-star is little less than a billion. It is full of copy-cats. Amitabh has forgotten that he is a science graduate. And India’s progress has been mainly because of the undiluted scientific temper of its founding fathers, especially the Nehru-Gandhi family, with whom a lucky Amitabh had interaction since his childhood. In the recent years, Amitabh Bachchan shared a strained relationship with that family. But there is no need to be bitter about the legacy of that family, which is: scientific temperament and also a scrupulous carefulness that is required in the public behaviour of a trend-setter public figure.

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