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Garib Nagar erupts in celebration

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MOMENTOUS OCCASION: Rafiq Qureshi and Munni Qureshi, parents of Slumdog Millionaire child actor Rubina Ali, watch the Oscar ceremony on television at their house in Mumbai on Monday.
MOMENTOUS OCCASION: Rafiq Qureshi and Munni Qureshi, parents of Slumdog Millionaire child actor Rubina Ali, watch the Oscar ceremony on television at their house in Mumbai on Monday.

Rahi Gaikwad

Mumbai: Since Sunday night, sleep has eluded the people of Garib Nagar.

“We placed a television set here, outside this shanty. From 10.30 p.m. we watched the movie and then stayed up for the awards. We were around 35 people,” said auto driver Ramdas Gaikwad, who stays near Azharuddin Ismail’s makeshift shelter.

Azhar and Rubina Ali played the roles of young Salim and Latika in the Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire.

On Monday, after the awards were announced, Garib Nagar was a picture of gaiety. At every nook and corner, children huddled before cameras, basking in the limelight. They crooned and foot-tapped to the tune of “Jai Ho.” Strains of the number streamed from the dinghy shanties. Everyone, it seemed, was listening to this song.

“We feel happy that someone in our area has made it big,” said Akbar Ansari, who was sitting with Rubina’s father, Rafiq Qureshi.

Meanwhile, Rubina’s room was ‘houseful.’ “It was so crowded. People have been up since 5 a.m.,” said her father. He was thrilled watching his daughter on TV. “She was wearing a white frock,” he beamed.

“Last night, she called and said that the carpet was very long. She sounded very happy. They were going around the place.”

Rubina’s mother Munni Qureshi could hardly contain her glee. “We are so excited that we cannot even eat.”

Azhar’s buddies are planning a thundering welcome for him. “When he comes, we will burst crackers,” said Chavez Qureshi, 12.

Another friend, Mozhim Shakim Sheikh Qureshi, 13, who played a cripple in the movie, is excited too. “Azhar has said he will get something for his friends from there.”

Amidst the euphoria, an emaciated Mohammed Ismail, Azhar’s father, sat outside a piece of cloth that serves as the door to his shelter.

A tuberculosis patient, he is too ill even to speak.

Covering his mouth with a piece of cloth, he barely managed to say a few words. “The world is watching this event. Everyone is reading the newspapers, watching TV. I have done neither. I am happy along with the rest. My innocent kid has made India proud. Even big artists have not gone where my child has. What more do you need?”

Echoing the sentiment of the children who did minor roles in the movie, Nagma Shakeel Ahmed, a resident, said: “I feel all the children connected with the movie should have gone to the ceremony. For example, if you are cooking mutton all the masalas [condiments] that go into it make it tasty.

“But I am happy that the two children went.”

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