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Someone groped Preity Zinta there!
Tuesday, February 22, 2005 13:25 IST
By Santa Banta News Network
Bollywood star Preity Zinta says after two close shaves with death, her life has changed forever.

"They say there are some moments in our lives which change us forever. These moments change the way we think, behave and view life and death," she says in her latest column for the BBC News website.

The first such moment was when Preity and several Bollywood stars escaped unhurt when grenades were thrown at the stage they were performing in Colombo.

The second was at Phuket, the beach resort in Thailand, when the tsunami hit Dec 26 and Preity slept through the disaster in a rented villa and took off for sea diving a few days later.

"They have just come and gone for me. And I am lucky to have come out alive and able to tell my tale. They are far removed from the glitter and glamour of my film life," she wrote.

Preity's decision to go on a holiday soon after the tsunami drew a lot of flak from readers, with some calling her "callous" and "pathetic", though some supported her too.

About her first brush with death on a "balmy night in the Sri Lankan capital", she wrote: "We are five minutes away from closing a mega Bollywood song-and-dance revue at the local cricket stadium. There are kinetic stars on the stage, with 10,000 happy people in the stands enjoying the carnival atmosphere.

"Bollywood hero Shah Rukh Khan is doing his gig with dancers. I am waiting in the left wing for my finale. The music is pulsating through the audience, and the pyrotechnics are lighting up the inky black night.

"Suddenly I see a man in the front row flying to his left. Then I see Shah Rukh looking to his right and left. Then I see the dancers disappear. What is happening?

"I stepped on the stage and leaned over. I saw a pool of blood in the front rows. The security men grab us from behind and ask us to leave.

"A bomb has exploded in the front rows - two people are dead, more than a dozen injured. The concert has come to a bloody end. The next few minutes are surreal.

"As I am coming down the backstage stairway, all hell is breaking lose. I see a woman with her arm blown off, bleeding and screaming 'Someone, help me please'. I see panicky people running in from all sides, and in the middle of this confusion, someone gropes me."

Preity says she reached Mumbai late at night after the flight from Colombo was held up for the Indian troupe in Colombo.

She says she arrived in the pretty Thai resort of Phuket on Christmas day for a break and "determined to make the most of it".

"I decide to give myself all the sleep and rest I need after a frenetic year of films, commercials and shows - I have travelled to 50 cities around the world in the past year on work."

Preity had dinner with some friends and retired to the villa at two in the morning, switched off her mobile phone and crashed out.

"I remember hearing a din in my sleep sometime later. I toss and turn in my bed, covering my ears and cursing whoever was making all that noise outside. Then suddenly, there is someone banging on the door. Loudly.

"I open the door sleepily to see my friend panting outside. "There's been a tidal wave. We must run!" he shouts.

"I pick up my handbag and run along with him. I step outside the villa and there's water all around. What is happening?

"I have slept through the tsunami that has killed nearly 6,000 people on Thailand's coast, mostly in Phuket. I have slept as two killer waves forced the hotel to evacuate guests from the island."

"I made contact with my hysterical mother and told her I was safe. I said that as soon as I get a seat on a flight, I will be back home. I ended up spending eight more days on the devastated island, and saw survivors picking up the pieces."

But that did not stop her from doing the "unthinkable". "I go out into the deep sea off the Thai coast and spend four nights in a yacht near Similan Island, close to Burma.

"I dived into the ocean with my life vest and swam. The sea is calm and blue. I am humbler, smaller and feel as vulnerable after two near escapes from death. It feels good to be alive."

Maeesha from Philadelphia in the US, a reader of Preity's column, wrote: "Preity, your honesty confounds me, yet I appreciate it. Nevertheless, I still find it shocking how you took the unnecessary risk of spending eight days on a yacht in the middle of the tempestuous sea.

"If you had to risk your life you could have done it by helping all those people around you who were in dire need and at the brink of death."

Said I.A. Siddique of Oman: "It is good for you to escape but really you must have worked at Phuket to help the people and to know the pain of the orphan. I hope in such cases you must help at the time of event."

Shekib of Kabul was "appalled" by her article. "Mostly because all you do is list off all the fun things you managed to do whilst others are suffering! I'm glad you had fun in Thailand...while over 300,000 people were in the midst of dying.

"Maybe you should have tried to be like Bono and raise some money for the million+ people left without homes and businesses. Or maybe you should be like most people and keep your moments of reflections. Glad you feel good to be alive because guess what? 300,000+ people don't..."

But Preity had supporters among the correspondents, like Pradip Tara from US.

"She proves her sanity by showing both sides of the picture. I totally reject those 'moan and groan' critics who bad-mouth Preity, for not focusing more on the misery. Wisdom comes with age but Preity seems to have gotten a head start in her youth. Keep up the good work Preity," Tara wrote.
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