Updated: February 20, 2012 19:22 IST

Oprah sees calm beneath chaos in India

Swati Daftaur
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U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey during an interview at the Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur on Sunday. Photo: Rohit Jain Paras
U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey during an interview at the Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur on Sunday. Photo: Rohit Jain Paras

Jaipur: When Oprah was young, her grandmother's only wish for her was that she'd manage to get a maid's job with ‘some good white folks'.

Today, Oprah Winfrey is one of the most recognisable faces in the world, a much loved and admired talk show host and a woman who has touched the lives of millions of people.

On the third day of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Oprah Winfrey was in conversation with Barkha Dutt, for the session, “‘O': Oprah in Jaipur.” Thronged with people who had been queuing up for seats since the early hours of the morning, the session lasted an hour, and gave the fans a glimpse into the life and mind of a woman who has proved her worth against all odds.

Asked about the one thing that struck her about India, Oprah told Ms. Dutt that there were, in fact, three. ‘My first impression was that of chaos! And then, I started noticing the underlying calm.' The other thing she admired and respected was the all-pervasive sense of karma and spirituality. “People here don't just talk religion, they live it.”

Born in a poor family in Mississippi, Oprah admits that childhood experiences amidst racial segregation and prejudice, coupled with dire poverty, were a big influence on who she is today. Early in her childhood, she developed a personal relationship with God, something which became the fundamental reason why she could hold on to her sense of self. ‘It made me believe that there was something greater than my front yard.'

Another thing that struck her as wonderful was the Indian sense of family and tradition. ‘I remember asking Abhishek and Aishwarya [Bachchan] on my show, I asked them — How do you still live with your parents, what's that all about? And Abhishek replied, ‘How do you not — what's that all about?' It's a glorious thing that in this country, families take care of each other.'

This is her first visit to India, and already, Oprah has seen the paradoxes that make it a ‘complex and contradictory' country. She has visited families in the slums of Mumbai, dined with the glitterati and royalty and stayed at an ashram with widows in Vrindavan. ‘I met an 11-year-old girl in the slums, and it was all I could do to not take her home with me. She lives in a tiny space with her parents and siblings with barely any space, but she is the star of her class and wants to become a teacher.'

‘I came here with an open mind and an expanded heart', she says, ‘And it has been one of the greatest life experiences for me. It makes you feel like you are in the centre of something bigger and greater than yourself. Your humanity is expanded in a way that won't be possible in any other place.' This trip to India has been on the cards for quite some time, says Oprah. ‘I have this vision board in my house. The first vision board I had simply said Obama for President. The second one had a picture of a woman on a camel, and it said, ‘Come to India'.

The Oprah Winfrey Show ran for 25 seasons, and made her a household name in countries all over the world. She sees it as her responsibility to be a connector to the human heart and it was post an interview with the skinheads of the Ku Klux Klan that she also began to see her show as a platform. Over the years, Oprah has worked on various projects, including dedicating a large part of her time to seeking justice for sexual abuse victims, opening a school for girls in South Africa and supporting and founding various charities across the world. ‘I believe that you are not what happens to you, but what is possible for you. The one way to expand and enrich your life in this world is by sharing what you have.'

Oprah confessed that she hadn't quite known if her show was aired in India. ‘Now, I know it is' she said, at the festival venue bursting at the seams with her fans. ‘Will you come back,' asked Ms. Dutt, to which, Oprah replied with a simple but definitive ‘Yes'.

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I have followed Oprah and her shows whenever they have been shown,they
are now being aired on CBS LOVE a channel available on the Airtel TV,I
even treat myself to her magazine when possible,her shows are great
and informative in so many aspects of life and one can still view them
.Her book club is well known and she definitely influences
readers...It is very easy to find wrong and criticise her...I am so
glad she has been able to come here...and seen India for
herself...Oprah is and should be appreciated for who she is and not
poked at by people who do not know about her.she has the courage to
talk on issues that are controversial and definitely helped very
ordinary folk all over the world....women have been empowered by
her...go figure Dr.Hari....what is really bothering you?!

from:  Suhita Jain
Posted on: Feb 20, 2012 at 12:49 IST

Is this thread a male point of view? Ladies where are you? Well, firstly, with all the so-called hype we in the US did not know much about the Jaipur Festival. Regardles, i am pleased that Oprah experienced India. India will only benefit from it. Oprah is a large-hearted and generous woman who has done so much good just by her example (something one cannot say of self-serving politicians, or the rich especially in India). I am sure Oprah will bring about a charitable cause in India (she does not need to..her monies are her own and she can very well just keep them like India's wealthy). So let us stop cribbing about the sensation she caused and enjoy her passion for the human cause. I know I am encouraged to do good, any good, when I listen to her. And all along she shows that she is just human whether it be her failure at weight loss despite many attempts or her references to her poor origins.

from:  Rajani
Posted on: Jan 26, 2012 at 09:32 IST

Talkshow host or something else OPRAH is a humane person and has come from an underprivileged atmosphere in US and elevated herself as a social reformer. Thru her talkshows she has brought social issues to the fore and preached solutions.She has philonthrapy at heart to work for the cause of the weak and meak across the world. She is successful in her efforts and you can't come across another Lady so committed to women's issues.

from:  jubilirao
Posted on: Jan 25, 2012 at 02:04 IST

Everything is okay but why Bekar Barkha Dutt interviewing the famous Ms.Winfrey? Surprising and Shameful to see Ms Dutt is still in business and too interviewing Ms.Winfrey. Even N Ram said in the interview if something like Radia Tapes had happened in US or UK the careers of journalists involved would have been ended. There is something seriously wrong with Ethics, Values and Morals in this country, it is sad that media which have to hold these first has also fallen.

from:  prasbad
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 21:42 IST

What all these fuss is about? What she has to do in India and that too in Jaipur Literature Festival? It is all media hype and marketing.

from:  Narayanan Krishnamoorthy
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 15:20 IST

I came to know about her through one of Kannada daily editor wrote about her talk show and achievements. I have developed interst in knowing more about her so that it will awaken my potential.

Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 14:38 IST

She might be doing some good work - financially and otherwise but so much hype is just unwarranted. She is blessed with lots of good things and is using part of what she gets/has for some good causes. That should be appreciated. Has the media ever spent so much time and publicity for people who sacrificed their entire life purely for the benefit of poor and under-privileged ?

from:  Raj
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 14:13 IST

Whether Ms.Winfrey DID UTTER these words or not there is an Un Easy
Calm in many areas in the Country.
She is a well followed presenter and no nonsense interrogator in U.S.
She should have been given much time in our channels but in a so called Literary Meet her presence is -best described as- awkward.
Let there be anchors like her who could bring forth issues CRUCIAL to
the Millions not always about petty things

from:  ajith kumar
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 13:58 IST

@Dr. Hari Subramanian - Actually Oprah does critique a lot of books. She has a huge library, and is an avid reader. She talks about the books she has read all the time, in her shows etc. This is a widely known and accepted fact.

from:  Sreekanth
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 12:16 IST

I hope Dr. Hari Subramanian will first explain poor folks like me who do not know about him at all what he does for a living. In all our existence as human race, we have seen people who talk vibrantly and passionately has taken up roles that will transcend people's lives. Oprah is one such personality who has that ability to catch your imagination and your life, be it in India or in the West.

from:  Suresh
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 12:06 IST

Ms Dutt's interview with Ms. Oprah was lively and a welcome change to see someone like Oprah on indian television. I wish that indian television shows some of her shows on selective basis for the benefit of young girls. Success does not come without suffering. Even if a handful of girls follow her example India will tremendously benifit.

from:  vijay
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 10:04 IST

Oprah has struck cords with India straight away. Most Westerners would attribute the chaos in India to the "indifferent" attitude of Indians to change towards harmony. Oprah, on the other hand, represents one of the very few to transcend such cultural and national borders and remain a truly empathetic universal soul by discerning the "calm beneath the chaos" phenomenon in India. Goose pimples reading the phrase and emotionally moved reading the whole article! Cheers to humaneness!

from:  Shyam Devendran
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 09:26 IST

Goodness gracious, Oprah is allowed to visit India and not a pain for any politicians to stop her from travelling like what Rushdie faced. If she is hated in middleeast or being liked by Israel, then these guys would have stopped her too...

from:  Vinoo
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 09:22 IST

I do not understand the merit behind the session "Oprah in Jaipur" at the Jaipur
Literary meet. What is Oprah doing at the literary meet? Neither has she written
any literature nor has she critiqued any literature for its scholastic enhancement.
She is but a normal 'talk show host' like Letterman or Leno who sway the hearts of
millions via talk, talk and talk on subjects that may not be even considered worth
its analyses at a literary level. Despite this, India has gone hyper in portraying
Oprah in its mainstream media as a hero. Barkha Dutt (NDTV) says 'Oprah is the
most loved and influential TV personality ever" and "poll after poll says Oprah has
more credibility than the US president or any head of state. These are 'obscene'
statements by an Indian journalist, and so is Hindu's headline on 'calm beneath
chaos'. Oprah has not even cared to find whether her program is aired in India but
India glorifies her standing in reciprocation! This is definitely Indian journalism in

from:  Dr. Hari Subramanian
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 08:50 IST

A woman, who speaks without any riddles! She honestly said it as she saw. Her bitter sweet experience of India will bring her back! India shocks and charms the uninitiated, showing them the uninhibited microcosm of humanity and the experience the visitors have, leave them with an indelible mark deep inside. It only makes them more curious about the place so they return to find out what makes it tick. Only Karma can explain the human miseries,joy and differences. She had fittingly acknowledged and commented on this issue.

from:  Saratchandran
Posted on: Jan 23, 2012 at 07:14 IST
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