Uttar Pradesh village to get a college in Aishwarya's name

Daulatpur (Uttar Pradesh), Jan 27 (IANS) It was a rare day in the lives of thousands who converged on this village, about 40 km from state capital Lucknow, to get a glimpse of their favourite glamour girl Aishwarya Rai and her more famous father-in-law, Amitabh Bachchan.

Both were here to attend the foundation laying for a girls college named after Aishwarya.

Yes, mega star Amitabh Bachchan Sunday laid the foundation of Shrimati Aishwarya Bachchan Kanya Mahavidyalaya in this village, with which Bachchan's only link was rather controversial - allotment of a 2.5 bigha agricultural land to him by the previous government headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav in violation of all laws and norms.

Since he lost claim over the land after the allotment was found obtained through a forged backdated entry in the government land records, Bachchan decided to purchase some 10 bighas of private land in the same village - on which now the college is to be built.

Attired in a magenta brocade sari with a bright crimson 'teeka' on her forehead, Aishwarya's beaming smile sufficed to turn the crowds delirious. And even though Abhishek had, as usual, very little to say, it was Amitabh's salutation to the gathering that evoked loud applause.

Although Aishwarya chose to say just a few words, she managed to convey what others had failed to do convincingly - the reason for altering the name of the institution, earlier proposed to be named after Amitabh's father, renowned poet the late Harivansh Rai Bachchan.

"Even though it was my cherished dream to build a school for girls, I never favoured the idea of having it named after me; after all, there are so many elders in the family - grandfather Harivansh Rai Bachchan-ji, grandmother Teji Bachchan-ji, father Amitabh-ji and mother Jaya-ji - but then they insisted and made me understand how keen they were to name it after their 'bahu', so I agreed eventually," she told the gathering.

Surely, the hype given to Sunday's event was enough to overshadow the disrepute the Bollywood superstar had earned on account of the land allotment controversy. Daughter-in-law Aishwarya and son Abhishek were enough to draw thousands not only from the neighbourhood but from the entire Barabanki district and even as far as Lucknow.

The crowds spilled across to the neighbouring fields, well beyond the special enclosure put up for the function. Enthusiastic youth perched themselves on every tree in the vicinity, while every inch of space was occupied by people who had trudged along the pot-holed, undulated rural roads in the district to have a direct audience with their favourite stars. After all, they had seen them only on the celluloid. So, when a once-in-lifetime opportunity like this to see them stars in real life came, none wanted to miss it.

"I had never imagined to get so close to Abhishek and Aishwarya; my day is made," said Suresh, a Class XII student who came cycling all the way from his village 30 km away.

For Janki Prasad, a law student in Lucknow University, who had taken a bus to reach Daultpur: "It was dream come true - the entire Bachchan family together right before my eyes; I cannot believe it."

Clearly, the overflowing audience was so overwhelmed with the presence of the Bachchans that there was no room for others like - actress-turned- Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Prada or her political mentor and SP general secretary Amar Singh, who literally appeared like the master of ceremonies.

Even the convergence of top politicians, that too four former chief ministers - Mulayam Singh Yadav (Uttar Pradesh), Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh), Om Prakash Chautala (Haryana) and Farooq Abdullah (Jammu and Kashmir) - seemed to make no difference to the bubbling crowds.

Amar Singh skilfully mixed his own birthday celebrations with the event, but clearly that was not on the agenda of those who got down to Daulatpur from far and wide.

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