Readers Write In #405: A note on KBC 13

Posted on September 5, 2021

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(by An Jo)

In the last 2 weeksof KBC 13 that I have seen, the host rocks, as is the flow, but it is—and as it ought to be—the participants from the width and breadth of the nation who rock the show even better and shine brighter.

Himani Bundela from Agra, a visually impaired contestant, in fact, the first one on KBC as far as I know, truly brought tears in the audiences’ eyes – but of joy—on facing life head-on and with joy and determination and a complete lack of self-pity:  A bundle of joy, she even goes to the extent of whatchamacallit; Uncle-teasing? a ‘gol-gappa’ vendor while riding pillion with her sister. She lost her eyesight due to retina displacement in an accident when she was studying 11th grade: Her eye-sight problem was diagnosed after-the-fact. She started and continued teaching Mental Math to children with disabilities and has developed self-taught unique techniques. It was hilarious to see her explaining to Amitabh the MAM technique. And what was even more hilarious was her asking him at every point whether he understood. And it was fun seeing her completely uninhibited and acknowledging her student’s ‘intelligence’ when he answered, with much difficulty, correctly! [Guess she knew that Amitabh had failed his BSc exams and wasn’t made for Math and Science! Those 3 minutes of ‘coaching’ already taxed his brain much!] What one finds refreshing is her effervescence; her not considering herself as an ‘other’ in this societally-defined ‘normalcy.’ And the way she asked Amitabh to repeat the choices [what’s option A? what’s option B?] without any hesitation. She played the game as competitively as one plays out a spelling bee contest. She used memory, reasoning, the chronology of historically recorded events, timelines and applied them per the question posed. And more importantly, she knew what lifeline to use and at what juncture, depending not only on the topic but also co-relating it with the difficulty level of the question. This is where most of the contestants go wrong; mainly when choosing between the options of ‘flip-the-question’ option and ‘expert advice.’ [Amitabh righty let the limelight shine on her brighter; but by now, he’s an expert on that and he knows, who are the true heroes of the show; and he’s more than glad, or rather, revels in the fact that he is not the star of the show.]Himani is a testament to the fact that you don’t need a shield or wearing underwear over your pants to be called a superhero. Despite all these difficulties, she wants to work for children with disabilities and visually challenged, while also maintaining the simplicity of a‘common’ person, that R.K. Laxman’s signature work, goes through so much more and fights with some meager gifts God has/had in all his infinite wisdom, decided to ration to him or her. I for one, know, I truly do not have that kind of an outlook, that kind of spice or spirit to deal with what life offers you or curses you with: But to maintain that kind of positivity, that kind of energy and finding joy in what for the so-called normal person might be a minutia in life – like just trying to pick a flower from the ground on a beautiful day in spring or fall— is something of a chore for Himani; but she shows more spirit and spreads more positive vibes. ‘Very Good.’

Then, there’s Mr. Deshbandhu Pandey from Kota, Rajasthan, a railway employee who has a jovial nature and impressed everyone and brought a tooth-to-tooth smile to the hot-seat – i.e., if one had any remaining – with his genuine fandom for Amitabh, and more importantly, confessed his love and/or ‘subserviency’ – sorry; am not aware of the woke word for that; once Oxford dictionary adds it, I shall replace – to his wife’s desires. He nicely answered all the questions and entertained us with his singing talent and gladdened my heart at least with quoting one of the best romantic films ever made in India, Silsila. He gladly admitted that he listens to his wife; follows her diktats, and because he genuinely considers her smarter than her: And that was proved by her statement: He mentions that he comes home from work all dusted and coated with grime from his work in the railways but still possesses some energy left to call her ‘Taka-Tak’ looking. He is a tad disappointed with her lackadaisical reply. To which she coollyand wittily replied on the show: तोक्याहुआ? हमभीतोसुबहसेकामहीतोकरतेहै!! He was one entertaining contestant, that put to shame this one. [Unfortunately, he has been punished by the Railway Board for participating in KBC without taking permission from the Railways: I don’t know the technical reasoning, but it is what it is.]

Aman Bajpai from Lucknow has a sense of humor and energy that is so magnetic, it is impossible not to be stuck to it. It was terrific to hear him talk regarding how and why he was named Aman, why he’s called a ‘Magarmach’ (crocodile) in his home, and what his parents think of him. [Apparently, a long drive is not supposed to be a ‘long’ drive for his parents!]He says his idea of opening a Chinese restaurant named‘Mishti Bhandar’, is quite common and fine in Lucknow! If the guy fixing Hero cycle flat-tires in the morning can make-shift and sell ‘samosas’ in the evening, then why worry about such kind of minor differences? Would the same consumer even notice that it is the same person who fixed their flattire? After all, a common man is supposed to be, common, a negligible part of society. Amitabh laughed the hardest when Aman mentioned why his name was changed to Aman, that too in the 4th grade. One can see in the video how wittily, at close to 80, he listens, prods, absorbs things, replies, and regales the audience.

Ayesha Sharma from Bhartpur, Rajasthan, who is a Muslim wedded to a Brahman, mentioned they had to wait 17 years before convincing their respective families. [So right here you have the Montagues and the Capulets, Ek Duje Ke Liye, Bombay, and what not: So their patience and lovestory lasted more than all these movies put together!] She lives in a joint family, and it is quite uncanny that the way her video is shot and how she introduces her family is a mini version of this! Of course, the difference being, while the former is shot on ground zero, the latter is completely shot in ‘Ektapur’; the Ekta Kapoor equivalent of Bhansali’s ‘Bhansalipur.’ It was hilarious to see her tell Amitabh that her husband, ‘Dheeraj’, would have to be the slowest man on Earth, that goes out to get milk or vegetables in the morning, forgets the task-at-hand, roams around bantering with town-folks, and returns home in the evening, and when, and if at all, some friends or family members come to visit them, there’s nothing in the house and one is forced to go through the back-door and get some veggies and milk from the neighbor!!! And this, after Amitabh corrects her that ‘Dheeraj’ means a man with bravado and patience. But what’s the use of such bravado if the visiting folks leave without any tea or ‘pakwans’! [not prawns]. And Amitabh is still so sharp, for the question regarding the location of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, he wittily tells her that her husband got the answer right but was quite slow in pressing the button!

And as an icing on the cake, the 2 not-so-gentlemen of Indian cricket, Dada and Viru, came on Friday’s show. Viru brought the house down with his typical ‘virugiri’. The best part was when Ganguly in the Multan test in 2005 against Pakistan used to go to him after every delivery and tell him to take it slow, since now, we have the score-board ticking as Viru hit one 4, the 2nd one, the 3rd one, and by the time the bowler was striding up to bowl the 5th one, Dada just let it go, since negotiating with Viru was more time and energy-consuming than running between the wickets! Viru sits beside Bachchan in the hot-seat and tells him: “Sir, let me tell you a secret about Dada; wherever he goes, he grabs something – he grabbed captaincy, he grabbed CBA seat, then BCCI presidency, and now he is sitting on your chair! Should I say more?” And the less said about Viru’s singing talent on the grounds when he’s batting, the better. You got to watch that episode to do justice to the entertainment he provided.

And so, KBC 13 is still going on, with the anchor at his majestic best, and the resilient folks of India, whose ‘mirch’ and ‘masala’ differs just within 50 kilometers of each other, carry on with their life…