Stories Around Us

A meeting with a viral video star

It’s a bright, sunny morning at Mumbai’s Hanging Garden. Children are playing along with their parents and having a gala time at the Old Ladies Shoe. Foreign tourists are exploring the place. A skinny boy, wearing a striped t-shirt with black shorts and hair neatly combed walks by, screaming something in a foreign language. He is selling fans made out of peacock feathers. Intrigued by him, I go closer. The candy vendor says, “That boy’s name is Ravi. He is from Gujarat. Don’t you know? He is a sensation on the internet.”

And that reminds us – Oh yes! That’s the lingo boy. It’s funny how one viral video or picture can make an ordinary person a star. Ravi’s story is a perfect example of ‘Necessity is the mother of all inventions’. He tells us, “I have never been to school, but I know more than 10 foreign languages like Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese etc. I use these languages to speak with foreigners. They get impressed and end up buying the fan”. He picked up these languages only by listening to people talk. He came to Mumbai when he was 8. Back then he didn’t even know to speak English but the scenario today is different.

Ravi charms tourists and locals alike with his smile and the way he greets. He goes out of his way to help when someone asks him. This quality has made him stand out from the others. He doesn’t know how to write his own name, but the way he rattles the foreign languages it seems as if he is a PhD. Learning to converse in different languages wasn’t easy. He started first with the greetings and then moved on to other catchy phrases. He used to go to every foreigner he could spot and make an attempt to talk to them, making a mental note of whatever they said. It has taken him 5 years to learn everything he knows. He aims to learn more.

“My mother passed away when I was 7, my grandmother makes these fans in Gujarat and I sell them here. I never got a formal education because earning money has been my priority. If I don’t work what will I eat?” He wishes to become a business man when he grows up. If only the YouTube popularity could be turned into monetary gains then Ravi would have been really rich.

“I don’t really care about the internet fame. I will be more pleased if my fans buy my peacock fans. I speak the languages like a pro. Foreigners come to me to ask directions, the attention gives me happiness but I wish to do much more business”. Each day, the internet makes a number of stars out of ordinary people – some make it big, others fade away. But Ravi proves that he is a real star beyond his minute of fame.

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