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The Bets Are On: Aishwarya's Pregnancy

From cricket, to politics, and now Aishwarya’s pregnancy, the illegal gambling market in India continues to do brisk business, writes Siddharth Srivastava.

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
 Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

Indians obsess endlessly about cricket, Bollywood movies and stars, politics and also potholed roads, especially during the monsoons when the situation worsens. The effects of rains on roads are generally blamed on bad politics and related corruption that the government-contractor nexus orchestrates and rightly so.

Given such context, in the past couple of weeks, it is one Bollywood star, the beautiful Aishwarya Rai, a former Miss World who has adorned the covers of several top magazines both at home as well as abroad, that has taken precedence.

Aishwarya is pregnant, much to the chagrin of at least one film director who had cast her in a glamorous role and had no idea about her biological status.

There have been several speculations about the event in the past, but this time the good news has been confirmed by the most reliable source used by information gatherers – the celebrity Twitter account of Aishwarya’s father-in-law, Amitabh Bachchan, who is ecstatic about the new arrival.

There has been no denial or that the account has been hacked as happened with a news site recently that declared Obama no more.

Aishwarya’s husband Abhishek Bachchan, an actor himself, is also reported to be happy.

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
 Abhishek and Aishwarya (Rai) Bachchan

Like in the West the chase is for Carla Bruni’s baby bump close up or the Middleton younger sister sheer dress from the back at Wimbledon, the Indian paparazzi have their favorites that are closely followed for the latest updates. Most mainstream newspapers carry color supplements that feature this kind of stuff.

In Bollywood, speculation about the marriage of number one actor Salman Khan, well into his forties and a bachelor to boot, takes top priority. Khan, revered by many for his playboy lifestyle, has delivered some of the biggest Bollywood hits namely Ready and Dabangg in the recent past.

It helps matters that Salman’s bevy of beautiful ex-girlfriends includes the present top heroine Katrina Kaif and also Aishwarya at one time. Many tales can thus be easily spun around Salman and his girls, current and past that range from spats, break ups, quarrels and more.

When Aishwarya’s pregnancy became known, Salman’s byte was zealously sought. Salman told TV channels that he was very happy.

In politics, the eye is on Congress party scion Rahul Gandhi, also in his 40s and single. There has, however, not been much to write about the young Gandhi, except his regular dashes from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh, a state that he fancies politically. Yet, Gandhi, a young face of Indian politics is always under scrutiny and his marriage intensely speculated.

Cricketers of course invite their fair share of gossip, with Yuvraj Singh leading the list of bachelor boys linked to several starlets, models and actresses. Bollywood and cricket stars are known for their natural good vibes towards each other with several link-ups, real or imagined doing the rounds at various times.

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
 The Bachchans (from l-r): Aishwarya, Abhishek, Jaya and Amitabh.

The legendary Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan and now turned politician is supposed to have floored many Hindi movie actresses while Indian cricketers linked to Bollywood beauties have included former captains Azharrudin and Saurav Ganguly.

Yet, one benchmark of true interest in any episode is India’s big satta (or illegal gambling market) where presently wagers are being put on the gender of Aishwarya’s yet to be born child. Some reports suggest that a few satta operators could have even approached Aishwarya’s doctors discreetly to inquire about the boy or girl status, to fix deals.

India’s satta market is usually the most active when the cricket team is playing matches, but picks on other matters when the going is dull, to keep clients glued and revenues coming in.

These can range from results of elections in states or the center, cabinet reshuffles, important legislative matters including no confidence motions, executive appointments, date of arrival of monsoon and multiple other combinations.

In cricket, the bets could be on win or loss, individual scores and performances. Such is the level of money involved that several international players have been banned and prosecuted for “match fixing” and the more difficult to track “spot fixing.”

Presently, the Indian cricket team is playing a test series in the West Indies, a period of relative disinterest when compared to the recent World Cup that India won and a fast paced T20 cricket tournament.

Thus, the bets are being placed on Aishwarya, though the results will only be out in November when the very pretty actress is reportedly due to deliver. Money will certainly change hands but there is no doubt that nothing sells like gossip news, anywhere.

Siddharth Srivastava is India correspondent for Siliconeer. He lives in New Delhi.


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