New Delhi, March 11: Every week, Aya Abassi, a 26-year-old Palestinian Indophile sets up a camera in a corner of her room— or more recently, at her new office — in East Jerusalem and records videos for her YouTube channel, where she talks about Bollywood and teaches Hindi to thousands of Arabic speakers. She learnt the language by watching the movies.
“It’s not about me,” she says, of her channel. She’s sipping warm tea at a bookshop in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem. Behind her are books on Israel, Palestine, Occupation and the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish. “I’m an average Palestinian. If you say the word ‘Palestine,’ the first thing that comes to mind is war,” she says, “This is something I want to change by these kind of videos. I want people to know that we live like anybody else… Of course, it’s a war zone. We’re Occupied, but that doesn’t mean that anything can stop us. We have people who learn languages, we have people who take photos, we have people who make great films, we have books that have been translated into a lot of languages around the world. We have a normal life, we want to live a normal life.”
According to a report in "The Hindustan Times", The videos are all a medium-close up of her — big brown protruding eyes, a long dimple on her right cheek, and a colorful hijab stylishly draped around her clear makeup-less face. In Hindi, she talks about newly released trailers of upcoming movies. In Arabic, she teaches Hindi: she chooses lines from films she likes — Chalte Chalte, Hum Tum, Cocktail, her favourite “Sallu Bhai” movies, that long “Zindagi main kuch banna ho, kuch haasil karna ho” dialogue from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, you name it — and translates them into Arabic, word by word. Most of her videos have been watched a few thousand times, but her first lesson was viewed 906,464 times.
Aya has never visited India, but learnt all about it through a decade of relentless pursuit of Bollywood. It began on a boring summer afternoon when she decided to watch Taal, and fell in love with the movie, the music and the beauty of Aishwarya Rai. She watched more Hindi movies, because, she says, “I had to see, do they all look like this?” She started humming the songs. And then she and her sisters started picking up Hindi words and replacing them with Arabic in conversation.