Blinding Star

Theft in the shadow of Amitabh Bachchan

01 March 2015
Bachchan’s weekly appearance to the public is an established ritual.
mithila joshi
Bachchan’s weekly appearance to the public is an established ritual.
mithila joshi

LATE IN THE AFTERNOON on the first Sunday of the year, fifty-six-year-old Sunitadevi Jaiswal arrived at Jalsa, Amitabh Bachchan’s two-storey bungalow in the Mumbai suburb of Juhu, with her husband and adult daughter. The family, visiting Mumbai from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, joined a tight cluster of people jostling the bungalow’s wooden gates in hope of seeing the superstar. Private guards kept the swelling crowd out, and off the adjacent walls and trees. As 6 pm approached, cries of “Aaya, aaya!”—He’s come!—rose and fell every time the gates opened for an employee or a guest. Jaiswal noticed a man hovering around her. An officer spotted the gold chain around Jaiswal’s neck, and told her to cover up.

Nearby, police constable Nirmala Bhosale, with baton swinging, herded the crowd out of the driveway before the compound. One man, not content with the promise of a mere glimpse of his idol, demanded a one-on-one meeting, and threatened immediate suicide if denied. “Not in my duty hours,” Bhosale told him, and whisked him away to the local police station, a few hundred metres away, before returning to her post.

The gates opened again, and there he was. Bachchan stood atop a stepladder in a red tracksuit, waving and smiling. The crowd squealed and spilled forward. Jaiswal pulled her sari tight around her shoulders and rose to her toes for a better look. Within a minute Bachchan was gone. And so was Jaiswal’s gold chain.

Omkar Khandekar is a journalist from Mumbai, and an alumnus of Cardiff University. His reporting from India, the Maldives and the United Kingdom has appeared in numerous publications, including The CaravanOpen and Scroll.

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