Oprah Winfrey charms “chaotic” India at book event

JAIPUR, India, (Reuters) – Amid raucous cheers
from thousands of admirers, television superstar Oprah Winfrey
praised the contrast of calm and chaos in India at the region’s
largest literature festival fast becoming a global cultural
gala.
Considered one of the world’s most influential women,
Winfrey lived up to her billing as the headline draw at an event
boasting literary giants such as Tom Stoppard, Michael Ondaatje
and Richard Dawkins, charming the crowds this morning.
“I came here with an open mind, and it has been expanded…
It’s the greatest life experience I have ever had,” Winfrey said
at the annual Jaipur Literature Festival in India’s
north-western state of Rajasthan.
“You feel like you’re in the centre of something bigger and
greater than yourself.”
Hundreds of eager visitors jostled against barricades at the
back of the main stage area as Winfrey began speaking. Security
guards struggled to shut the main entrance gates as angry
admirers tried to push their way inside.
“It’s like being in a video game. I don’t know which way to
look,” Winfrey told crowds on her arrival in Mumbai. “It’s a bit
chaotic, but there’s an underlying calm, a flow, that you all
seem to understand. India is a paradox.”
The 57-year-old has caused a media storm in India, with news
channels and front pages filled with stories of her touring the
city of Mumbai with the Bachchans, Bollywood’s first family. On
Sunday she drew huge cheers as she appeared on stage in a
traditional Indian churidar kameez smock.
“I will take with me a sense of calmness, and a genuine
respect… people don’t talk religion here, they live it,”
Winfrey said.
Her appearance on Sunday was seen as a welcome distraction
from the Salman Rushdie furore that has overshadowed the
five-day festival, after the author cancelled his planned visit
due to reported assassination threats against him.
The talk-show host and interviewer’s “Book Club” turned
little-known authors into global stars, with 59 of the club’s 70
selected books making the USA TODAY Top 10 best-sellers list.
Winfrey told the festival that in 2008, after witnessing the
completion of her mission to get then-Senator Barack Obama to
the White House, she stuck a picture of a woman riding a camel
on her pinboard, that said “Come to India”.
“It was important for me to go to slums but not show the
worst of the worst, but show that people can live in poverty and
still have hope and meaning in their lives,” said Winfrey, who
also called for Indians to work to eradicate discrimination
against widows in society.

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