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India is like the greatest show on earth: Oprah Winfrey

Last updated on: January 23, 2012 14:18 IST

India is like the greatest show on earth: Oprah Winfrey

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Oprah Winfrey in an Exclusive Interview with CNN-IBN's Suhasini Haider says she is impressed by Salman Rushdie.

So, why India?

Well it's been part of the vision that I have for myself. It's like we have a vision board, the idea that I liked to accomplish and on my vision board there is a picture a cutout from the magazine, picture of a woman on a camel wearing a sari and it said come to India and I passed that every day for three years and finally I was looking to interview Deepak Chopra, who is favorite author of mine.

I knew if I go to India, I could interview Chopra in his own country and go to the Jaipur book festival and accomplish all of them with one goal in mind, and that is to see India.

What I learnt is you can't see India in a week, or two weeks. India is so complex. It's like the greatest show on earth. I mean, I have never seen a thing like it. It is a mind expanding; but I would say a heart expanding, a human expansive trip. Really, I m glad that I am able to see it in my lifetime.

Does it bother you that Rushdie had to stay away from the Jaipur Literary Festival?

I like to stay away from political decisions made by other people for whatever reasons. It doesn't bother me, because I was coming for my own reasons and my own agenda.

So when I heard he was coming I was excited but when I heard he wasn't coming I thought whoever made that decision made it for reasons that they thought were right.

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Image: Oprah Winfrey poses for pictures in front of the historic Taj Mahal during her visit to Agra
Photographs: Brijesh Singh/Reuters
Tags: , India

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'I am not in to banning of books'

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One of the reasons was the amount of hate groups the amount of anger for a book that he has written that is banned...Is it right to keep Rushdie away?

I am not in a position to judge because I  don't know what the security measures were, what kind of precautions were put into place. So any comments that I make would be speculations on my part. I am not into banning of literature or banning of books.

What do you think of him as an author?

Well obliviously I'm impressed with him as an author and the written world has always gives me stimulation, I get lost in books. And so, to be able to have a conversation with someone who is able to use the words that he does that would have been very interesting and stimulating to me.

Let's talk about your trip in India, Tell us a bit about that.

I think you can't come to India and experience the country unless you try to experience some of its diversity. What impressed me is the diversity among everybody, and to be able to talk to the women who lived in Colaba and be able to talk to people who lived in more prestigious environments, and to be able to sit at the table with all of them and to share ideas with them, and to see them disagree about what it means to be a women in India.

It is a completely different experience being a woman in India. When I sat on table with women from five different backgrounds I said if you could borrow anything from America, and almost everybody of them said to be able to speak up for yourself as a woman.

And I said what I borrowed from you is your sense of tradition, your principled way of living, your understanding of religion is just something to be spoken but you actually practice and live it; the whole idea of karma that we spoke about a lot in US, but that is lived here.

It is sort of an organised chaos that is going on. I can't figure it out, and I think you have to live here for a number of years to figure it out. I can't figure out the traffic here, I can't understand what a red light means if you keep going through it. There is millions of people out on the street, all driving and getting to work. But there is no road rage, there is allowance every minute.

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Image: Oprah Winfrey speaks at the annual Literature Festival in Jaipur
Photographs: Altaf Hussain/Reuters
Tags: India , Colaba , US , America

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'I was having sari trouble'

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You are in Jaipur but this is not the end of your spiritual journey. I know that you are going to an ashram?

Yes, I am going to an ashram, but I am not telling you where.

How much of your perception of an Indian woman changed?

I had thought Indian women as docile with sarees and very submissive and the whole culture was moving in the same direction. I thought that there was one India. What changed is that I realised that it is complex.

How did you feel wearing a sari?

Well you need some help for the first time, its not that you wrap around by yourself. You need little 'sari help'. By the end of the evening, I was having sari trouble.

Let's talk about your new show, your next chapter, you decided to start it after 25 years. Why?

Because in everybody's life, at some point you will make a decision that sitting in the chair and asking questions and taking interviews isn't something you want to do again.

For me, the interviewing process is all about connection, it's about how do I use what I have. I feel mine is to connect people one heart to another trying to connect energies; to get you see your inner self, your life, your humanity in the life of someone else.

You have shared very intimate details about yourself. Do you ever regret sharing so much of your life?

The reason I don't regret sharing anything, is that at the heart of each one of us, we really are all the same. Everybody believes I think that they deserve to be happy but people don't understand the difference between what they deserve and what they are worthy of.


Image: Oprah Winfrey with Bollywood actress Neha Dhupia

Tags: India

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