Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ekta unites Afghanistan.....

I remember Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai being interviewed on an Indian TV Channel. He was asked about his student days in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, where he studied during the late seventies. He talked of the Shimla of the seventies. Of walking on the Mall, of tea shops where students used to hang out, of songs from Mausam (starring Sharmila Tagore) playing in the background. It could be Rabindranath Tagore's story Kabuliwallah or umpteen Bollywood films where the large hearted Pathan swears undying love for his Indian friend we are used to a gentle pre-taliban image of Afghanistan. After the US led invasion of Afghanistan one read many newsreports of posters of Bollywood stars being sold on the streets of Kabul and of pirated VCDs and DVDs doing brisk business. Many Indians working for the reconstruction of Afghanistan have been killed by the Taliban. The Taliban represent those who are influenced by the gospel of hatred which the U.S. preached and encouraged fanatics from Saudi Arabia to preach when they wanted the Russians out. The large majority of Afghans would prefer to be in constant touch with India and things Indian.

If there is one thing which unites India and countries from Philippines to Nigeria it is Bollywood. I remember a Nigerian army officer doing a course in India telling me that one of the first things that he and his colleagues did on arriving in India was to go to public parks and check out whether there were any young couples singing songs and dancing around trees. (The way Shashi Kapoor and Hema Malini did ? Remember Jaane man tum kamaal karti ho....?).

I remember reading newsreports of how the urban elite of Lahore and Karachi is totally hooked on Indian TV serials and that during the Kargil crisis drawing rooms in these cities were full of people crying at the sight of the coffins of Indian soldiers being received at New Delhi airport. In the seventies and eighties Indian muslim friends and classmates would tell me that if they had relatives from Pakistan visiting then one of their main duties was to take these visitors to cinema halls so that they could catch up with the latest Amitabh or Mithun starrer.

Thanks to Amit Varma's blog I came to know of this newsreport in the NY Times which tells us about how Ekta Kapoor's soap operas have forced Afghans to stay indoors when these serials are being telecast. The next time your mom, sis, wife, girlfriend or all of the above sit(s) glued in front of the TV watching Tulsi don't get angry with them/her. Maybe they know something that you don't.


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