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Fifteen Minutes of Fame!

A few years ago, the Congress Party swept to victory in the general elections here in India. As the party had won under the leadership of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the Italian born widow of the late Rajiv Gandhi, the late Prime Minister of the country, she seemed likely to become Prime Minister, like her husband and mother-in-law before her. There was a very emotional, open debate regarding whether it was right for a foreigner to become Prime Minister. To tell the truth, there were very convincing arguments both for and against this.

Meanwhile, I received a telephone call from the local offices of a national newspaper. They had got my telephone number from a journalist who had interviewed me for a feature on foreign wives living in India. They asked me a couple of questions about whether I, as a foreign wife, could say I felt like and Indian or not. And they asked me if I felt it was possible that Sonia Gandhi felt like a true Indian.

I don't comment on the politics of this country. When the elections are on, I pray that the best people will win. When the elections are over, I pray that the winners will do their best for the country. That's it. But I do like to be helpful. I considered the matter for a minute and then I said that Mrs. Gandhi got married when she was barely out of her teens. She is around sixty and has lived all her married life here. So if she says that she feels she belongs to this country, who can doubt it? I, on the other hand, am a different case entirely. I was over thirty when I got married and came to live here. I worked for twelve years in Ireland before I moved to India. I told them I felt like a 'compound', that is a mixture of several elements, both Irish and Indian. Maybe it wasn't a very helpful answer, but it was the best I could do. The gentleman to whom I spoke on the telephone seemed satisfied. Then he told me that a photographer would be coming around to take my photograph the next day, so that my photograph could appear beside my interview.

A photographer! From a newspaper! Oh heavens! How would it turn out? I was so nervous! I know, like any woman does, that I look quite nice if I'm photographed from the right angles. But what if the photographer got it all wrong? He would probably just be in a hurry to go to his next assignment and would have little interest in capturing the 'real me' (whatever that is!) on film.

I dressed with care the next morning. I donned a recently tailored shalwar suit in a lemon shade. I added a hint of maroon lipstick and some black eyeliner. Mothers who stay at home to look after their kids often fail to maintain themselves. I decided to opt for a simple look. I wore my dupatta(veil) around my neck the way a westerner would wear a scarf. This is the look I usually adopt for passport style photographs.

The photographer turned up, and to my surprise, he had some ideas of his own. He wanted me to sport a completely Indian look. "Everyone will want to see a foreigner-turned Indian daughter-in-law," he explained. He instructed me to wear the largest bindi I could find - a bindi is a decoration, a sticker in fact (there are painted on ones too!) worn in the centre of the forehead by Indian ladies. He also instructed me to go and get some sindoor (bright red powder worn in the hair-parting by married Hindu women) and to plaster it on thickly. I was also directed to put on an extra dozen or so extra glass bangles (another marriage symbol - I usually wear two or three on each arm at any given time!). For the actual shot, I was ordered to cover my head with my dupatta. I never cover my head with my dupatta unless I'm in a Church or a temple. But I did as I was told.

Shot over, the lensman packed up his gear and went on his way. I wondered how the interview and photograph would turn out. However, I got busy with my usual work and forgot about it. Two nights later, Yash, my husband, reached home late after work. As I made him some tea, he put a newspaper down on the table. After handing Yash his tea, I picked up the newspaper and looked inside. Yes! There was the feature, photo and all. Looking most unlike me, I might add. I handed it over to Yash. "What do you think?" I asked. He frowned. "Who's that?" he said "Your wife!" I replied, somewhat annoyed. He laughed. "Really? I must have looked at that photograph at least three times in the train on the way home. I never recognised you at all!"

Well, I suppose I did get my fifteen minutes of fame. Sort of.......incidentally, for anyone who doesn't know, Mrs. Gandhi decided not to become Prime Minister. She declined the honour in favour of an Indian born candidate. Which was probably the most diplomatic thing to do!


  1. Nice post Gaelikaa.As hubby and I are from different cultural backgrounds, I learnt a long time ago that it's best to dress and live life on your own terms,everyone seems to have an opinion on how we should dress,behave and I was losing my identity.I have a SIL (hindu)who turned up in Lucknow after her marriage in jeans and a tee.

    My in-laws were raving mad,but when asked to go wear a salwar suit and prepare to meet a visiting uncle(from the village)she came out in tight fitting jeans and a tee,after that she did what she wanted and NO ONE tried to change her.I think as long as you are really OK with something ,it's alright to give in sometimes...for harmony's sake.Have a lovely day and keep those posts coming-don't know how you do it with 4 kids et al.

  2. Maybe it was the best kind of fame, you are still YOU, and free to say what you want. Did your other In-laws discover who was in the paper?

  3. Interesting experience. You should have asked them to sod off when they asked you to dress in a way not usual with you though...

    Read about Neil being sick. Glad he's better now. Hope school's been getting easier for him too.

  4. I had a chuckle with this.

    And yes, Mrs. Gandhi offered a most diplomatic solution!

  5. It would have been nice if you had published that photograph or given link to that paper!

  6. Wow, he wanted to capture the "real" you and ended up capturing someone your husband didn't even recognize! That's quite a photographer.

  7. had a laugh with this post, came earlier to read but could not post the comment then, the comment page was not opening for some reason..then today saw your update too..somethings wrong with my page as wonder people are moving away from blogger to wordpress..

  8. Marvelous story....and so typical of the reporter to do that :)) But where's the photo???!??!

  9. very hilarious post ..and what all reporters do to make their story interesting


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