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The Queen of Roses

I enjoy food and do not like to eat like a glutton, but relish each morsel and am ready to experiment with the food which has a touch of Indian roots.

Salma Sultan reveals her fine taste over food at The Park's Fire restaurant in New Delhi.

REMEMBER THE newsreader on Doordarshan with a big, red rose in her hair? And then you would wonder, whether it was a season of the rose or not, but she would always have one tucked in her neatly done hair? Yes, one is talking about Salma Sultan. The famous face on the small screen, who also initiated a trend: of draping the border of her sari around her neck in a modern yet traditional way. It was later picked up by almost all the female newsreaders. She now discloses the reason; "I did not have so many blouses to match with each sari so I created a style to hide them."

You saw her till 1997 then wondered where she vanished after that. Well, she started doing something more worthy of her time. That is, making serials on social topics for Doordarshan under her production house Lensview Private Limited. Serials like "Suno Kahani", "Panchtantra" and "Swar Mere Tumhare" were among the offerings.

She is averse to those family soaps in which women are scheming and have an extra marital affair at the drop of a hat. But she is definitely not averse to food. "I enjoy food and do not like to eat like a glutton, but relish each morsel," says Salma, now a grandmother of two, though looking at her well-maintained stature one would not find it hard to believe her on this count. The grace personified Salma is at New Delhi's Fire restaurant in The Park Hotel. She is ready to experiment with "the food, which has a touch of Indian roots". This 60-seat restaurant leaves one spellbound for two reasons: one, the space, limestone colour floors, walls and furniture drapes, and seats arranged at considerable distances making the restaurant a comfortable gourmet experience and second, a radiant orange, glass wall on which glittering green, red, orange lights keep interchanging their positions, providing a visual delight. Her starter of sweet corn, ginger and coriander soup has arrived. She warns the photographers, "Please don't take my picture while I am eating, you would repent seeing those horrifying mouth angles in the frame later."

You might have wondered why Salma would economise on her smile on DD but a meeting with her ensures a belly laugh for she tells you ample hilarious incidents. She recalls one such occurrence, "Once while reading news, I realised that two words got jumbled with each other. The line read like this, `Purane zamane main aurton ko bandar kaha jata tha' while it should have been `Purane zamane main auraton ko band rakha jata tha'. The moral of the story is "the alertness of the mind is very important while reading news".

Her entry into news reading too had been quite a hilarious experience. After doing her post graduation from English Literature from I. P. College, Delhi, she started working with Doordarshan as an announcer and presenter. "Those days (1967-68), they would not take young people for news reading but mature ones. Pratima Puri and Gopal Kaul were regular faces then. But Kaul never wanted to read news so once, when it was time to read news, he came entered the office with a completely-shaven head! Panic-stricken producer started looking for someone to replace him and their choice zeroed on me. I was asked to give a quick audition." Always ready to take up challenges, Salma followed, "When I came back to the control room after audition, I witnessed a pin-drop silence and everyone sitting stunned. With a chocking voice I asked what happened, and was told that I read the 15-minutes news so quickly that they could not even start the roll!" Such was her nervousness that made DD realise that they should train people for news reading too!

Here she changes the subject to food. She prefers a spicy main course: broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, baby corn and bell peppers with kadai spices.

There is another facet of her personality that is strongly reflected in her serial titled "Jalta Sawal" on women issues currently showing on DD News on Sundays at 11 a.m. The face of a very sensitive and concerned woman and a responsible citizen. In this "very well-received programme" as she gauges from the responses, she has shown insightful and touchy episodes on prostitution, rape, dowry, infertility and foeticide. The next episode on working women can be seen this coming Sunday.

It's time for some dessert here and Salma is offered a special seasonal fresh-fruit platter with kulfi. "That's wonderful," she compliments.

And she too!


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