Shahid Afridi's anti-India statements in Pakistan have left Suniel Shetty wounded and wary for life. Known to extend hospitality to foreign entertainers from the world of cinema and sports, Suniel wonders if it's worthwhile to extend a red-carpet welcome to guests when they pull the rug from under their host's hospitality.
But a commitment is a commitment. Suniel Shetty's entertainment company is hosting American rapper Akon's twin concerts on April 16 and 17 in Delhi and Bangalore, respectively. However, before that, Suniel is hosting a birthday party for Akon on the night of 15th April. The problem is, Akon wants it to be a very closed private affair with just a handful of guests.
Gregarious host that he is, Suniel is caught in a quandary of hospitality. Whom to invite and whom to leave out from Bollywood without causing offence to those who get excluded from the exclusive guest list?
Admits Suniel, "Yes, we're bringing in Akon's birthday in Mumbai on 15th night before his two concerts in Delhi and Bangalore. But it has to be a very small intimate gathering with just a handful of invitees. Drawing up a list is a problem. I'm still in the process of deciding whom to invite."
Adding to his woes is the exuberant feelers from every star, starlet and star-yaar for an invite to Akon's birthday.
Friends close to Suniel admit it is an agonizing process for the actor who likes to throw his door open for all his friends. However, Akon is the guest and his wish is sacrosanct for Suniel who's bracing himself for a lot of frayed egos after the Akon visit.
"But then atithee dev bhava (guest is God) or so we are supposed to believe. At least we try to treat our guests as God, though they often abuse our hospitality," says Suniel sceptically, referring to Pakistani captain of the cricket team Shahid Afridi's baffling outburst against Indian hospitality.
Says Suniel, "I still can't get over the way Afridi spoke about us Indians after his return to Pakistan. I treated Afridi's brother, his girlfriend and friends like gods. I gave up my own seat at Mohali during the Indo-Pak match for them. I behaved like their bloody 'boy' (attendant). Then Afridi goes back and abuses us in Pakistan. Not done. We should just stop being so large-hearted and forgiving. It only encourages outsiders to abuse our hospitality."
Suniel says he had been on a goodwill mission to Lahore some time ago and had returned to India raving about Pakistani hospitality. "They really were warm and hospitable. Atithee dev bhava is fine. But let the atithee (guest) be deserving of our godlike treatment na."
Another atithee of Suniel Shetty, Canadian rocker Bryan Adams, who has an unfinished concert to attend to in Delhi is expected back in November-December.
As for Akon, Suniel Shetty will go out of his way to ensure the super-rapper's 3-day stay in India is as per his wish, even if it means displeasing Bollywood A-listers by keeping them out of Akon's birthday get-together on 15th night.
"Now after all this, if Akon goes back home to say we are bad hosts, what can we do?," Suniel's barb at Afridi's vocal display of ingratitude is not lost.
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