Amid raucous cheers from thousands of admirers, television superstar Oprah Winfrey praised the contrast of calm and chaos in India at the region’s largest literature festival fast becoming a global cultural gala. “I came here with an open mind, and it has been expanded. It’s the greatest life experience I have ever had,” Oprah said at the annual Jaipur Literature Festival in India’s north-western state of Rajasthan. “You feel like you’re in the centre of something bigger and greater than yourself.”
Hundreds of eager visitors jostled against barricades at the back of the main stage area as Winfrey began speaking. Security guards struggled to shut the main entrance gates as angry admirers tried to push their way inside. “It’s like being in a video game. I don’t know which way to look,” Oprah told crowds on her arrival in Mumbai.
“It’s a bit chaotic, but there’s an underlying calm, a flow, that you all seem to understand. India is a paradox.” The 57-year-old caused a media storm in India, with news channels and front pages filled with stories of her touring the city of Mumbai with the Bachchans. On Sunday, she drew huge cheers as she appeared on stage in a traditional Indian churidar kameez smock.
While addressing the festival, she shared the reason that prompted her to visit the region. Oprah recalled that in 2008, after witnessing the completion of her mission to get then-senator Barack Obama to the White House, she stuck a picture of a woman riding a camel on her pinboard which said “Come to India.”
Regarding the lessons she learned from her trip, Oprah said, “I will take with me a sense of calm, and a genuine respect…people don’t talk religion here, they live it”.
Having visited poverty-stricken areas of Mumbai during her trip, she said, “It was important for me to go to slums not to show the worst of the worst, but that people can live in poverty and still have hope and meaning in their lives.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2012.
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