From heart wrenching poverty to majestic heritage as well as the glitz, glamour and royalty, international talk show queen Oprah Winfrey has offered viewers a glimpse of different layers of India, speaking highly of its culture and value system.
But the paradox between the beauty of the country and the prevalent poverty also left her “confused”.
Winfrey came to India this January to shoot her new show Oprah’s Next Chapter. She went to the slums, visited the Taj Mahal, socialised with Bollywood’s glitterati and royalty and tried to explore real India on the streets for the two-part series, aired Friday and Saturday on Discovery Channel.
One would have wondered if the lens of Winfrey’s cameraman would have panned over and zoomed into the country’s underbelly, but it was a balanced approach.
Accompanied by Australian author Gregory David Roberts of bestselling novel Shantaram, Winfrey visited Indian slums, where she met a five-member family living on a meagre salary. She was moved by the aspirations of the family which lived, ate, cooked and slept in a small room.
She got excited upon meeting an upper-middle class, close-knit, joint family, happily living under one roof. That’s also when she dug her fingers into her first traditional Indian meal..
After getting a taste of India’s simple living, the 58-year-old spruced up to meet the famous Bachchan family, and from there, she headed for a star-studded bash thrown by industrialists Parmeshwar and Adi Godrej.
The second part of the series saw Winfrey moving away from Mumbai, to Vrindavan, where she visited a shelter run by V. Mohini Giri’s Guild for Service, which provides safe haven, job training and dignity to more than 100 widows.
Then she travelled to Agra to see the “mesmerising” Taj Mahal. From there on, she was set to taste royalty in Jaipur.
What caught her fancy was a sari clad woman, sitting atop a scooter, with her legs aligned sideways, and she was fascinated how ox and camel moved along with the traffic on the streets.
She also sat down with spiritual guru and her friend Deepak Chopra for a thought-provoking conversation on spirituality, karma, aging and meditation. She was then also invited to the City Palace to mingle with the royal crowd. There, she felt “like a star struck kid in a candy store.”
“I don’t like surprises. In fact, I feel nothing surprises me because I think I have seen so much! But you really hadn’t seen anything like this,” said Winfrey after receiving a warm welcome, regal welcome at the palace.
Though there was a world of difference within the country, but, there’s a common thing that Oprah felt everyone, rich or poor, was looking for and that was a “little peace.”
*Oprah’s Next Chapter does not air in the UAE