‘Slumdog’ kids back in shanties - with Oscar dreams

March 2nd, 2011 - 2:01 am ICT by IANS  

Slumdog Millionaire Mumbai, Feb 26 (IANS) Their crowning glory at the 81st Academy Awards over, it’s back to the grimy routine of Mumbai shanties for little Azharuddin Shaikh Ismail Usman and Rubina Rafiq Asghar Ali Qureshi Thursday. But their dreams have been stoked well and truly by the Oscars for “Slumdog Millionaire”.Returning in the wee hours, the duo was mobbed twice - first at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and later by their neighbours in the slums of Garib Nagar

in Bandra East where they reached just at the break of dawn, when the muezzin’s prayer call could be heard.

Speaking to mediapersons briefly, Azharuddin, 10, said: “I am very happy. I will study in school, complete college, become an actor and work hard to get another Oscar!” even as the slumdwellers clapped. The film starring him and nine-year-old Rubina bagged eight Oscars.

“People here are extremely excited and delighted to have them back. Many of us had stayed awake the whole night waiting for them,” said Yakub Abdul Shaikh, who has supported the Usman family and is a friend of Azharuddin’s father for over 40 years.

A happy Shamim, Azharuddin’s mother, was barely able to contain her emotions and joy at her son’s achievement and said it was the outcome of “the prayers of millions of people all over the country”.

Describing the Oscar sojourn in the US, Shamim said in her mother tongue Urdu that “it was like a dream come true for her and Azhar”, who had never before stepped out of Mumbai.

“We were put up in a grand (aalishan) hotel, had good rooms to ourselves and were served with the best of food. We loved the stay but did not much enjoy the food,” Shamim told IANS from Garib Nagar.

When asked why, she said: “There were simply too many things on offer, all good-looking but strange dishes - we missed our roti, vegetable and daal rice. And the dishes came, coming one after the other├»┬┐1/2but we ate very little,” she said with a smile.

The Oscars ceremony, the sights and sounds of Los Angeles, a huge garden whose name she could not recall and the Disneyland shall forever remain in their memories - “I wish my husband Mohammed Shaikh Ismail Usman and my other two sons had been there to enjoy with us,” she sighed.

On the other hand, Rubina’s mother Khushi was sore that she had not yet met her daughter though it was more than 12 hours since she returned to India. Rubina’s father, Rafiq Asghar Ali Qureshi, has married again as he is estranged from Khushi.

“I suspect my husband must have kept her hidden from me. This is very unfortunate and unfair, keeping the daughter away from her mother,” she told IANS, her voice bitter as she stood outside Rafiq Qureshi’s tenement.

Yakub Shaikh said that seeing the huge domestic and international media contingent laying siege at the entrance of Garib Nagar, Qureshi quietly took Rubina to a relative’s home in Parel, a central Mumbai suburb.

“She’ll stay there till the dust settles down,” he said.

Shamim said the Oscar achievement has had a deep impact on Azhar. “Earlier, he dropped out from the local slum school and then I got him admitted to the Chimbai Municipal School in Bandra West, but he has been faring poorly,” she said.

However, now, Azhar is very keen to study, wants to learn good manners, and imbibe the qualities that he saw in people like A.R. Rahman, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Freida Pinto and the other cast and crew with whom there was close interaction in the past couple of years, she said.

“In fact, he could barely speak Urdu and Hindi, now he has picked up good English and he conversed in the language all through the trip,” said a proud Shamim.

She said she wanted the media to convey the “gratitude and goodwill” of the poor Bandra slum family to the whole world for the love, affection and honour they have been accorded.

Shamim also vowed that she would attempt to give the best of education and opportunities to Azhar and her other children, “so they can make something of themselves in the world”.

Yakub Shaikh said Garib Nagar, with a population of nearly 5,000, is like a typical Mumbai slum with “no roads, overflowing open gutters, mosquitoes, rodents and roaches, dirty public toilets, bitter squabbles over water supply, unhygienic living conditions, etc.

“We hope that at least now, when our locality has made it to international headlines, the authorities will pay attention and improve our lot,” he said.

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