Bollywood, Indian doctors promise hope to Iraqis

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by LETHALFORCE, Feb 20, 2011.


    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Feb 16, 2009
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    Karbala, Feb. 19:

    If only Shahrukh Khan knew of the kind of happiness, solace and colour he is bringing into the lives of hundreds of thousands of war and violence weary Iraqis, he might be stunned. And Amitabh Bachchan, and Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor and Salman Khan. For it is these names that you hear again and again, and that too among the Shia pilgrims thronging to the holy city of Karbala in Iraq.

    Isan is from Baghdad, beautiful, 26 and has five children. You can't even think of mentioning family planning to a woman who has spent more than a quarter of her life surrounded by violence, bloodshed and killing. Who has transited from teen into adulthood not knowing which bomb blast from a fellow Iraqi or a bullet from a western “ally” of her government, might claim the life of a loved one.

    But camping on the sidewalks of the glittering shrine of the Prophet's grandson Hazrat Abbbas, she is all giggles as she gently shakes her shoulders to tell me how much she loves the “beautiful dancing in Hindi movies”.

    Her husband is a driver, and has driven his extended family of 14 from Baghdad to Karbala, a 110 km distance that takes almost 4 to 5 hours despite the smooth, wide highway because of excessive security checks. They are armed with thick blankets – the temperature dips to 7-8 deg C in the evenings and – and huge baskets of food, and will spend the night under the covered walkway, like thousands of pilgrims from the rest of Iraq and other nearby countries.

    She is happy that Saddam Hussein is not there any more; “he did not give us religious freedom and we hated him.”

    What about the Americans?

    “No, we don't like them? How can we like them… they have caused so much suffering to Iraqi people,” she says, adding “we are waiting for them to leave now.”

    But, adds Isan, the part of Baghdad where she lives is “quite safe” now.

    So haven't the Americans helped to do that? She shrugs, scowls, and has nothing more to say.

    But it is the Bollywood stars, and “the beautiful clothes and jewellery the pretty women wear and the way they dance”, that really brings out the smiles.

    The eyes of 14-year-old Toka Moeen light up as she describes how ‘Film India' channel shows Indian movies with Arabic sub-titles. “I love Katrina Kaif and Salman Khan.” Unlike Isan, the enthusiastic teenager can recall some film names… and Kambaqt Isq is one of them.

    “Oh, I love India and specially Delhi… it is so beautiful; Inshah Allah, one day I will come to Delhi,” gushes the Class VI student, before she is admonished by her mother to concentrate more on prayers than films.

    She is seated inside the sprawling shrine of Imam Hussein, which is teeming with thousands of pilgrims as it is the Thursday-Friday weekend. Seated next to her is Fatima from Basra, whose husband is an advocate. She doesn't speak English, but wants to participate in the dialogue through Toka, because she has great admiration for India, its people and, of course, Bollywood's glamorous, swinging, dancing stars! Their make-believe world of glitter and romance and big dreams coming true is a huge hit among Iraqis, as most of the world.

    But another Fatima, who is camping on the sidewalks of the shrine complex and is not as well off economically, has more serious issues weighing on her mind and heart. Her husband Majeed has a heart problem that needs surgery. She has heard that “Indian doctors are very good and have operated on Iraqis with heart problems” and wants a name or contact number that can help her. One writes down for her the name of the Chennai-based Dr K.M.Cherian who has operated on some Iraqi patients. And then there is always Apollo Hospitals' cardio-thoracic chief Dr M.R.Girinath. One of these doctors should be able to help, I suggest and Fatima is all smiles.

    I promise to get her more details and we exchange phone numbers. I walk away with both pride and gratitude that India has quite a lot to offer people in this war zone… and the thought that their lives are so tortured that news of the scams plaguing India that troubles us so much, would be just shrugged away here. They have seen and experienced much, much worse.

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