I know the title sounds like a corny B-grade flick something on the lines of "Tarzan in New York City" but my time in the USA has led to many such strange encounters. My barber here is Joe, a guy from Nigeria and like all barber shops, it is the world headquarters of all casual conversations. A couple of days ago while I am getting my wild hair trimmed to domestic proportions in walks Rashid, a recent immigrant from Ghana. Talk is initiated on the grounds of soccer and how dumb Americans are not to follow such an exciting game.
All of a sudden, Rashid has a brainwave and asks me, "You are from India, aren't you? Isn't Amitabh Bachchan like... the Prime Minister of India?" I almost decide to give him a lecture on the rather significant differences between the Indian Parliament and Bollywood, but settle for a terse "No. He probably could have been but he never really did make it to that post." My barber and his friend seem quite taken aback from this revelation. Rashid adds that he had always liked Dharmendra better. "Dhormendraw!! Great hero! My favourite hero!" says he in a visibly excited state, "and Hema Malini! Wow, most beautiful woman in the world!" And the unlikely Bollywood fans almost go into convulsions of joy as they discuss movies like "The Burning Train" and "Dus Numberi", about childhoods spent in memorizing every word of Hindi numbers without understanding a single one and of thrilling afternoons spent in the darkness of cinema halls.
My new friends say that Indian culture (or what they perceive to be Indian culture from our movies) is much closer to African culture than any others as far as family life, society's rules and a general attitude to living went, which is why Bollywood movies were huge in Africa. I had always heard stories of Bollywood mania in the lesser known countries of the world but here I am witnessing for real the impact that our far-from-reality movies have. As I walk out with a lighter head for more reasons than just a hair cut, a question hangs on the tip of my tongue unanswered. How would "Kuttey! Kaminey! Main teraa khoon pii jaoongaa!" sound in a thick African accent?