Jaipur - Television chat show queen Oprah Winfrey received a rock star's welcome when she spoke on Sunday to a heaving audience of thousands of fans at the Jaipur Literature Festival in India.
Winfrey, wearing a gold and red Indian outfit, told the packed crowd that her love of books had helped her education and enabled her to rise from a poor childhood in Mississippi to become one of the world's most influential women.
"Reading is what I do for pleasure, what I do to relax myself," she said to cheers from spectators. "My ideal day is to spend a day reading a great book, and knowing I have another one to read."
"At school I turned in assignments a week early to get another book. The other kids hated me," she joked, before naming Gregory David Roberts' 2003 bestseller Shantaram, which is set in Mumbai, as one of her favourite novels.
Winfrey, who ended her chatshow last year after 25 years, has been in India for a week filming for her new TV channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
Great life experience
She has been photographed in Mumbai wearing a sari and partying with Bollywood film stars, visiting shanty towns and women's welfare centres, and sight-seeing at the Taj Mahal.
"It has been one of the greatest life experiences I have ever had," she told the crowd, adding that she felt "expanded, enriched and deepened" by her first trip to India.
She drew laughter by saying she was shocked at the huge number of people everywhere and at drivers' refusal to stop at a red light, but said she had learned that there was a "calmness" underneath the chaos of Indian life.
Winfrey, who has nearly nine million followers on Twitter, admitted that she worried that reading habits are being damaged by increasing use of computers for social networking.
"I feel that, because when I am on it (Twitter), I feel I could be reading a book right now," she said, receiving a loud round of applause from the crowds, many of whom stood several rows deep for her one-hour appearance.
Winfrey's book club, which recommended titles for her viewers, is credited with reviving reading among many Americans and her personal choices have had a huge effect on sales.
"It started with five minutes at the back of the show," she said. "And it turned into this major idea of exposing the world to books."
Oprah, 57, who is single, was also questioned on India's favourite subject of marriage prospects.
"I really am my own woman, but I have great respect for how arranged marriages here turn into love marriages," she said. "I am too old now, right?"
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