Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oprah - Hai! Hai!

Well done,Rajyasree Sen... I have yet to watch the show, but there was a great deal of charcha on it in Lisbon, from U.S.-based TiE members who were angry and aghast.

Oprah in Mumbai

Why the US talk show host's recent India special, in which she visited a city slum and a party hosted by Parmeshwar Godrej, was shockingly ignorant and gauche.

This past Saturday, I had the dubious pleasure of watching Oprah’s Next Chapter: India on TLC. The name of the programme is pretty self-explanatory. And I’d already heard of her series, Oprah’s Next Chapter in the US where she “steps outside of the studio for enlightening conversations with newsmakers, celebrities, thought leaders and real-life families”. I’ve never been a great fan of Oprah’s—and the fact that she truly follows and believes everything that Deepak Chopra and Dr. Phil say has nothing to do with it. I do think though, that she’s a good interviewer, she’s well-informed, an easy conversationalist and is well-travelled. But all that has changed after watching Oprah’s Next Chapter: India.

Myopic, unaware, ignorant and gauche. This was Middle America at its best worst.

Two episodes make up the India episodes. The first being the one I saw and which I think was shot during her visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival this year. This was Oprah’s first visit to India. Now whenever an American or a British TV show host visits India, he or she is always accompanied on his travels through our very exotic land by someone living in India, a sort of cultural friend, philosopher and guide.

So was Oprah. She was taken on a guided tour through a slum in Bombay by the prince of poverty tourism—Gregory David Roberts. He of Shantaram and deplorable sentence construction fame. Who has anointed him tour guide to the slums of India? Oprah seemed quite happy to have one of her ilk show her around through the by-lanes of the slum. And the slum is where Oprah’s “oh-my-god-how wonderfully-pathetically-quaint-to-be-so-poor”avatar stepped out in full glory.

So Oprah trooped into one of our vintage slums to meet a family—parents and three children—who live in a 10 square foot room. Now I’m not surprised that Oprah was surprised to see an entire family living in such tiny quarters. Although I’m sure she could find cramped ghettos in the States. What surprised me was the amazing lack of sensitivity to the children’s feelings or the feelings of the parents who’d opened up their home to her. All the children go to school, and were extremely well-mannered and seemed happy and quite carefree like children their age are meant to be. They didn’t seem to realise that their home was smaller than the homes of others. Or that their father didn’t earn as much as he could.

But not for long. Once Oprah got through with them, they must have committed seppuku.

She asked the children how they could live in such a “tiny” room and actually wanted to know, “Don’t you feel it’s too cramped?” She also asked the six-year-olds whether they were happy. Which must have made them wonder why they shouldn’t be. She then interrogated the father about whether he was happy and satisfied. He got teary-eyed and said that he wished he could earn more and provide for a more comfortable life for his children. After making him weep in front of his family, Oprah said that she knows how awful it is for children to see their father weep.

She did look for a shower head in the toilet and seem amazed to hear they bathed with a bucket. And she marvelled at how all their clothes fit into a small shelf. She pointedly avoided any mention of the massive LCD TV that adorned their wall. That would have killed the sob story. When their older daughter told Oprah that she’d like to go to London to study further, Oprah also played her role as American ambassador to the hilt and said, “No. Come to America, it’s a lovely country. It’s the best.”

After visiting the strange exotic “slum people” who seemed to live on top of some magic faraway tree, she immediately proceeded to the home of one of Bombay’s richie-rich families. And then displayed her ignorance there as well.

The joint family which was dressed in full Indian regalia served her a meal on silver thalisand katoris. She looked at the food and then made her best statement of the entire episode—“So I hear some people in India STILL eat with their hands.” I don’t know what people in America are eating their hot dogs, pizzas and tacos with but perhaps Oprah’s home has evolved cutlery for all that. Then she told her viewers that ALL women in India live with their mothers-in-law and extended family.

Then to totally wash away all that grime of the slum, she got togged out in a Tarun Tahiliani sari to go and visit the home of the “Brad and Angelina of Bollywood”. Which if you didn’t realise, are Abhishek and Ash or as O puts it, Aaaarsh and Abheeeshuk whose child she said was “lit from within” whatever that means. I think it’s a condition that happens to children in Deepak Chopra’s homeland. Then she went to a party thrown in her honour by billionaire socialite Parmeshwar Godrej, which was the first accurate description of a person in the entire episode. She did marvel at the paparazzi outside the Bachchan home, which is quite impressive on any given day. And then we got to see her say hello to Piggy Chops, Shiamak Dawar, Anil Kapoor and all the Bollywood glitterati. She interrogated A. R. Raman—as she calls him—and spoke to him about how even he lives with his mother and whether he loves his wife who he had an arranged marriage with. And after I barfed a little in my mouth, it was the end of her journey to Bombay.

This story by Rajyasree Sen was originally published on Firstpost.com.


Raghav said...


Theyoginme said...

Most appropriate ... I'm smiling ...

Anita Jeyan Sandeep said...

The word 'still' from her 'So I hear some people in India STILL eat with their hands' statement itself speaks a thousand words about us, negatively. I guess madam O who was brought up in the slums ate with silver cutlery at that time. I just wanted to tell her that water cleans better and is more hygienic than toilet paper. So is an Indian Toilet!

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Arrey what does one say. This is Oprah yaar ....not a real journalist. The Oprah show has not been more than a TV tabloid for many, many years. Why would anyone expect anything else? I just had to laugh. Dont worry, not too many people in the US who matter, see it anyway. As for the rest who did see it, we are not important to their lives and they have forgotten the show already and have gone on to grill burgers in their backyard for dinner.

Shwetha said...

BRILLIANT!!!! Oh you know, make it TRILLIANT :)

mmmuah, Ms De

Uh "O"


Tsomo85 said...

I don't know which one is more ignorant,,,being called chinky to the people of their own (northeaster) and not being able to locate the state of seven sisters of their own nation. Oprah's foot in mouth is no different then every average Indian's level of ignorance! There's no difference btw average Americans and Indians; both are comfortable in their own zone & careless about anything else. I was once questioned "if there's any buildings in
India??? Now what can I say? And apparently two days ago there was nasty complaints of ugly Indians from CHINA as well for misbehaving with Chinese host in their own homeland. NOW WHAT? Indians had never been better off from any angle as well so it's time to move on!!! 100 years from now eating with hands will be nothing but history & mythology so,,,, Why face inferiority complex to a black OOOOO lady's speech!

Anonymous said...

Rajyasree's article would have hit the nail straight on if she had done her research first before making a few sweeping assumptions. She herself sounds quite ignorant and ill-informed. It would also not hurt to take on a more sober tone.

Also, reading it made me wonder if she herself has ever been outside of India. Finally, why on earth is such a poorly researched article with low-quality content getting so much attention?

Tsomo85 said...

Because only desi people thinks they're the only one who buy things on cheap & sale. In reality we all know that rest of world equally practice that as well, specially even more in well privileged folks. I know a 26 year old American/ blond dentist colleague; dad dentist as well, mom nurse and bought her first born's daughter's crib from online craigslist. And she does this regularly. I never get why on earth Indian always thinks they're *different* & feel super *sensitive* to almost everything? Sad, that Oprah's mother had never taught her "be very very careful around people with inferiority complex cuz they're pretty touché & you never know when they'll be fire in air." :-)

Deeksha said...

when u write that piece on Rajesh Khanna , u spoke of the women in his life by taking their names.But u mentioned one actress whom u did not name ( the whole of india knows who she is) who was in a relationship with him. Why did u not name her? B'coz u r scared as the actress is now the bahu of India's most powerful & wealthy families.
It is truly said u take potshots only at people who are defenseless but not at the powerful & mighty although u claim to be an independent, bias less, fearless writer.

Aaina said...

I wish Indians would stop being so sensitive to comments like these.
The insensitive and ignorant comments Indian make will make Oprahs comment look like a compliment. I have heard things like "who is that Kaalu guy" referring to black guys. or so and so is a "chamar jaath" (cobbler or low caste) referring to fellow indians in the US. or asking my white husband stupid things and embarrasing themseleves and me.
And lets not even mention the time I was @ Niagara Falls admiring the mist and power of Nature and a bunch of desi guys took off their ponchos (plastic raincoats) and hurled them into the roaring river!! Only to pulled out by security for littering and having to explain to friends, why are indians such litterbugs ? Well just look@ the state of Indian Rivers..there are far more embarrassing things indians do..so stop being so sensitive and such bloody hypocrites!!

Shwetha said...

To Diksha's comment
"It is truly sad u take potshots only at people who are defenseless but not at the powerful & mighty although u claim to be an independent, bias less, fearless writer."

You know, that exact thought struck me as well :)...And then I realized that, as a writer- as much as she has the flair of being independent and outspoken, its also entirely her prerogative to name or not name some folks that she doesn't want to name. If you see the list of folks that have borne the brunt of Ms De's black pen, it goes all the way to Pratibha Sinha, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, top actresses as Madhuri/ SRK/ kajol and Katrina. So she could have easily named the second bahu of the big "A" household, but Ms De chose not to, and that I realize is totally her call which we should respect... or not! So be it :)


Sind hi King said...

shobha does not have the balls to name that actress.

Sind hi King said...

Im sure shobha must have left the part immediately because the film crew did not take permission to film.
shocking, she did not mention this when Oprah was in India.
At that time she just blogged endlessly about Oprah.

and now she is calling her a failed oops fading talk show host.

Go take a flash back to what she said then.

Sind hi King said...

Im sure shobha must have left the party immediately because the film crew did not take permission to film her. yea rite!

shocking, she did not mention this when Oprah was in India.

At that time she just blogged endlessly about Oprah.

and now she is calling her a failed oops fading talk show host.

Go take a flash back to what she said then.

Sind hi King said...

shobha! you are a riot!

you can use words like chinky eyes and you can still accuse Oprah of being politically incorrect.

(Shobha has quaoted that Oprah should have said that Indians still do not use cutlery.)

Sind hi King said...

The truth is Shobha all A list celebs went berserk trying to get a photo with Oprah in the party.

If I am not mistaken you have stated that yourself previously.

So how dare can you accuse her film crew of not taking permission.Your making a mockery of yourself.

*aham* said...

Oprah journalist toh nahi hai.

not defending her. but her show is just an extension of what she feels from within. at least she shared what she found strange.

i also find the fact that they dont use water to clean their bums funny.
i mean, itni bhi kya bachat baba.

and de, this is Rajyashree Sen's jackpot article. This one is a wonderful read.

but you should read all her articles.


she could be awarded the duniyaas most critical critic. So hard to please that she has nothing good to say about anybody anything. the pangs and angst in her is beyond human understanding.

haiiii daiyaa!

Unknown said...

At one end you were going gaga over her visit and your meeting with her and how she gave her full attention to you when you two spoke. Now you are publishing an article mocking her and her show. Your pendullum like opinions are amusing. Look at Oprah's efforts to go and visit the widow homes and her attempt to understand India. Dining with the kings and walking with the common man with equal ease. End of the day, It's her show and her point of view.

Kruger Brent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sind hi King said...

hey kruger, are you shobha?

why don't you show yourself, tear your mask your anonymity off!!!!

wow!! are you the internet police?

you hv a photo of masks!!! how ironic!

Sind hi King said...

hey kruger, are you shobha?

why don't you show yourself, tear your mask your anonymity off!!!!

wow!! are you the internet police?

you hv a photo of masks!!! how ironic!

Sind hi King said...

what hv u commented?

dont you hv a mind of your own that you hv to comment on other peoples comments.


Sind hi King said...

why don't you take a stand and try to defend shobha.

so that I can prove to you what a double faced liar she really is!

Sind hi King said...

you idiot kruger brent!

whether i am anonymous or not is my choice.

I am not doing something illegal.

the last time I checked this was a free country.

so I am exercising my freedom of speech, the same way shobha does.

so dont get your knickers in a twist.

and also dont die of curiosity.

Kruger Brent said...

To Sind ki Raaja's comment:
Yes am defending Shobaa, u scumbag.Go ahead prove it!!!

If u can call me idiot and stupid...i can stoop very much lower, but i don't intend to in this blog,coz i respect Shobhaa.

And i told u Sind ki "RAAJA", u can respond to watever i write.

"what hv u commented?

dont you hv a mind of your own that you hv to comment on other peoples comments.

idiot!" - Hello beta, if u can comment on someone else's article, i can comment on someone else's "comments" ok???

Prasanta said...

Excellent article.Congratulations and please keep it up.Before declaring Indians as uncivilized and poor,she should remember that not many years ago her forefathers lived in the jungles of Africa before they were traded as slaved.She has misused India's hospitality.Unfortunately there are some kind of people in India who feel honoured if the companion is an American.

Sind hi King said...

so shobha is respected by brainless people like kruger brent.

you brainless piece of shit, you don't even understand that the article is not written by shobha but some journalist from first post.

So educate yourself before talking rubbish.

Shobha just spoke some garbage on NDTV about Oprah, the same way she did on TIMESNOW about SRK, and that is what I have responded to.

ek-ladki-anjaani-si said...

I am pissed with the fact that Opera did not acknowledge India's achievement as the world leader in Open defecation.

How about this article?

Kruger Brent said...

Oh! well done with the research...carry on you brainless piece of shit "Sind hi king".
Rubbish! what? i can read english...i knw it's written by Rajyashree Sen, u moron.

Rigoberto Fortune said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rigoberto Fortune said...

That must be tough for Oprah but I guess its an unforgettable experience for her to know how simple ones live without having shower head on their bathroom.


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