By Radhika Bhirani
New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) When a cloudburst wreaked havoc in Leh last week, actress Priyanka Chopra watched with alarm for news of a stupa and a market where she had played as a child. And sure enough, they too were gone. Now the top Bollywood actress is reaching out to people in the region in all possible ways.
"I think I was in Class 4 when I was in Leh. My brother was just born. My dad was in the army and was posted there. I stayed in Leh for a year and my memories of that place are tremendous," Priyanka told IANS in an interview here.
Her face brightens as she recalls her experiences of living in army bunkers in the cold desert region of Jammu and Kashmir.
"I have amazing memories of Leh. We were all army kids there. We weren't living in houses, we were in bunkers in the valley and there was a stupa right on top of a hill which used to overlook our valley.
"We used to race up to the top of the stupa and that too 'nange paon' (bare feet). We used to go to the market then. But as I saw it on a TV channel, it is just flat ground today - it is disastrous," she said referring to the Aug 6 cloudburst that has left 165 people dead and caused huge damage to property.
Priyanka, 28, revisited the valley a few years ago for the shooting of a song for Vipul Shah's 2005 movie "Waqt - The Race Against Time".
"I went to Leh a couple of years back when we had to shoot 'Subah hogi', a song for my film 'Waqt'. At that time, I visited the place where I used to stay and the markets. Leh carries so many memories for me. The calamity is just unbelievable and sad," she added.
Now the former Miss World is doing whatever she can for organisations that are trying to help the affected locals in Leh, besides urging her 500,000-plus followers on social networking site Twitter to extend their support.
"There are a lot of ways of sending resources, and little things such as sending old clothes from your cupboards can help. There are organisations that are getting together things and sending them in bulk. I am working with them and with the hospitals that are sending medication.
"I am doing as much as I can do. I am in the country now only for four-five days; so I will try and do what I can," said Priyanka, who leaves India this weekend for Brazil to shoot for action adventure show "Fear Factor - Khatron Ke Khiladi 3", which she is hosting.
Even though she stays busy with her film, TV and endorsement commitments, Priyanka is also doing her bit as the face of the environment campaign NDTV Greenathon and as the newly appointed brand ambassador of Unicef.
Where does she find the time?
"I have always been doing these things. We (film stars) take out time for endorsements, for shows, for 50 other things...why can't we take out time for this? If you want to take out time, anyone can take out time for anything and that's just what I strongly believe in."
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)