Oscars in LA bring tears of joy to Mumbai slum

February 23rd, 2009 - 2:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Feb 23 (IANS) As his son Azharuddin walked the red carpet to the Oscars in Los Angeles, an overwhelmed Mohammed Ismail Shaikh Usman wept as “Slumdog Millionarie” swept the Academy Awards and said flowers had bloomed “from the dirty gutters of Mumbai slums” that formed the backdrop of the blockbuster movie.

“Flowers have bloomed from the dirty gutters of Mumbai slums. This is how I see the achievement of our poor deprived children,” said Usman, the proud father whose son Azharuddin played an important role in the film that bagged eight Oscars Monday.

Television crews and media personnel poured into Garib Nagar slum, where Usman and many of his neighbours are living in the open after their homes were demolished. The two children picked up from the slum to play key roles — Azharuddin and Rubina - have travelled to Los Angeles for cinema’s biggest awards ceremony.

Both children were up on stage when producer Christian Colson went up to receive the Oscar for best film.

An emotional Usman, who deals with second hand furniture, said nobody had expected that people from the slums would achieve the pinnacle of international success, unreachable for even the biggest stars of the country.

“It is because of the prayers of all my countrymen, all Indians and the slumdwellers of Mumbai,” Usman told IANS shortly after the awards were announced for the film that tracks the rags to riches story of a Mumbai slum boy who wins Rs.20 million in the “Kaun Banega Crorepati” show.

He said people in his neighbourhood had been praying in mosques, temples, churches and gurudwaras, seeking blessings for the success of the movie and the children of the slumdwellers’ children who have acted in it.

“Allah has showered us all with his benevolence and mercy, and I accept it in all humility. This day is like Eid for all of us. Though we cannot afford much, we shall try to make it a memorable event when the children return from America,” Usman said in a choked voice as television lights and camera flashbulbs lit up the slum.

He acknowledged that the children had not belied the country’s great expectations that had been built up over the past weeks.

“Due to them, our country feels proud. Now, we, their parents can face society with our heads held high.”

His friend of 40 years Yakub Abdul Sheikh stood beside him, helping his cope with his sudden celebrity status.

“Isn’t it an irony that poor slum boys and girls, who have never worn a new shirt or frock in their lives, today stand proudly before the whole world?” Yakub said, tears welling up.

“This will inspire the poorest of people to have hope in life, do their best and leave the rest to the almighty,” Yakub urged.

Added Naazna Umar Shaikh, sitting under a tree in the municipal garden that has been her home for three months: “This is the country’s achievement, our poor children have worked hard and sincerely. We pray that this now helps improve their lot and safeguard their future.”

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