Posted On Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 03:34:16 AM
I owe Shah Rukh Khan an apology. On Thursday I spent two hours on a train to New Haven and then waited three more for Khan to arrive for a scheduled press conference.
|During his speech at the Yale University
on Thursday Shah Rukh Khan tried to make
light of the incident saying, “Whenever
I start feeling arrogant about myself,
I always take a trip to America.”
I waited with a handful of Indian-American journalists and some of us said not so complementary things about Bollywood stars who make people wait.
One colleague asked “Do you think American journalists would have waited this long?” The answer obviously was no! Little did we know that Khan had been detained by the immigration authority at a small airport, just north of New York City.
Khan finally arrived, looking suave in a black suit. A brief chat with journalists was followed by a 10-minute long clip of scenes from his films at Yale University’s Shubert Theatre.
Packed with songs, often part of the soundtrack of my life, the clip was so good that I nearly forgot I was upset with Khan.
This was followed by a half hour-long talk and then a conversation with two Indian students from Yale. The whole time, Khan was in his best form — bright, articulate, witty, sincere, sometimes cocky, irreverent, but even self-deprecating.
It was the man I know as portrayed in Nasreen Munni Kabir’s documentary, The Inner and Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan and in Anupama Chopra’s book King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan. It was touching to hear him talk about his kids. Later to the delight of his fans he danced to chammak challo.
It was obvious he enjoyed himself, given that it was a rare chance for him to spend two hours being just himself, in front of an audience of 1,700 fans, most of them South Asians. It was the most fun I had watching and listening to a Bollywood star in a while.
I thought that was going to be the focus of what I would talk and write about. Alas the airport incident has over shadowed my day-trip to Yale to see Khan.
Cynics will roll their eyes, but I cannot begin to imagine what it must feel like — no matter how famous a person is, to be detained at an airport. The helpless sense must be accompanied with frustration, anger and perhaps even fear.
To Khan’s credit he did not mention at the press conference that he was held up at the airport. In his speech he joked about it briefly, saying “Whenever I start feeling arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America.”
Here is a little known fact. This was actually the third time Khan was stopped for questioning by the US immigration. The first time was in 2009 at Newark. The second time was last year when he was flying to Los Angeles from London via Toronto. His US immigration check-up was in Toronto and he was stopped for additional questioning. Khan never mentioned this to the press in India.
I can only speculate, but it seems the US immigration watch list must include the name Shah Rukh Khan and obviously it is not the star we know. Bureaucratic procedures will take a while before that can be fixed.
The news was given all the twists by the press. For the 24 hours news channels in India, hungry for breaking news this is an event of substantial value.
Even the politicians are having a gala time jumping on to the train to bank on the problems of Khan. After the 2009 incident Ambika Soni suggested that India should do a ‘tit-for-tat’ towards Americans.
This time S M Krishna and Nirupama Rao have stepped in. With no disrespect to Khan, but is this the most important work for India’s external affairs minister and his ambassador in the US?
I am sure Khan is not the only Indian with a Muslim name who has been stopped at an American airport. How come the politicians do not speak up for those other Indians? I suppose those people are not newsworthy for the ratings hungry media and a matter of little importance for Indian politicians.
Through all of this it is remarkable that Khan has stayed quiet. For that I respect him.
Judging on the basis of colour
This is with reference to Aseem Chhabra’s last week column ‘Prejudices about race’, (PM, April 8).
The killing of Trayvon Martin, an African American, by a half white man identified as George Zimmerman lay bare the hollow claims of the United States of being advanced and tolerant towards various cultures and ethnicity. It is also a shame for a country which boasts itself of being the superpower to have racial discrimination in its backyard.
The fact that the accused had been let off shows the true colour of the US judicial system which tends to favour people with white skin. The United Nation should intervene and ensure that the US gives the case a fair trial.
- Bijoy Mark
Put your house in order first
The United States has always meddled into the affairs of others while it forgot to put its own house in order. Technology wise the country may be far ahead of others but it is still backward as far as racial equality is concerned. This is where countries like India stand out and as an Indian I am proud of it.
- Sanjeev Shastri