Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How Shammi Kapoor saved the life of a Time journalist

Bobby Ghosh, the deputy international editor of Time and former Baghdad bureau chief, writes in the magazine that he was never much of a Shammi Kapoor fan: "I found his over-the-top acting style a little too much to take. But I quickly found that the best way to break the ice with people I met in Iraq was to ask if they remembered 'Shaami Kaboor', which is how they pronounced his name."

Then came an incident in the summer of 2003. "I was reporting from a small village west of Baghdad, known to be a stronghold of Saddam loyalists who were fighting against U.S. troops," writes Ghosh.

He continues:

My translator and I were taking a chance that as a person of brown skin, my presence would not rouse any special suspicions. Things were going well for a while: My translator thought it best to introduce me as an 'a journalist from India,' which was, in the narrowest definition, true. People spoke candidly about their love of Saddam and hatred for the U.S.

We were taken to meet the "Colonel," a 50-something man with an impressive moustache who was in charge of the village's fighters. He was a little more reserved that the others, and answered my questions warily. After the few moments, he asked me, in English, "Who do you work for?"

Reflexively, I replied, "TIME Magazine."

He frowned. "Times, of London?" he asked.

"No, TIME, al-Amreekiyya," I replied.

Immediately, he picked up his AK-47 and pointed it to my forehead. "You American?" he shouted.

"I'm from India," I said.

"No, you're American," he said again. "You will die."

What happened next? And how does Shammi Kapoor figure in this story? Read "How a Late Bollywood Icon Saved This Correspondent's Life".
  • UPDATE (October 2, 2013): Bobby Ghosh is now Time's international editor. Another change at the magazine: Nancy Gibbs has just taken over as the managing editor. Read "Woman on top. About Time, some would say".

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