By Rajesh Kumar Singh, Glamsham Editorial
That is what Bollywood's badshah Shah Rukh Khan had to say about the recent controversy regarding his article titled "Being a Khan" published by The New York Times, Outlook-Turning Points 2013. He owns up the article and contends that those who are raising hue and cry about it have not read it in its entirety and an 'unwarranted twist' has been given to it. In a carefully worded statement he does not respond directly to the provocative statement by Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik though some may have expected him to do so.
However, he indirectly and strongly refutes Malik's interpretation of the article when he says, "... nowhere does the article state or imply directly or indirectly that I feel unsafe, troubled or disturbed in India... It does not even vaguely say that I am ungrateful for the love that I have received in a career spanning 20 years. On the contrary the article only says that in spite of bigoted thoughts of some of the people that surround us...I am untouched by skepticism because of the love I have received by my countrymen and women."
He talks about his three defining identities the two of which 'fortunately' come with birth. One is the birthplace; he refers to it as the 'Motherland', and the other, the family name and parental upbringing. According to him being an Indian and a Khan is 'a matter of unconditional love and acceptance' and thus he is proud of both. The third identity comes from the profession he has chosen, which is of an artiste and a celebrity and media personality. "I am what I am, because of the love and admiration that comes with being who I am in my profession...so I thank everyone for making me the star I am."
And then he goes on to add, to quote from the press release issued from his office, "Why should not the love we share be the last word in defining us instead of the last name? It doesn't take a superstar to be able to give love, it just takes a heart and as far as I know, there isn't a force on this earth that can deprive anyone of theirs."
While the press statement paraphrases parts of the article to buttress his point, it carefully omits those parts that have caused the controversy and some 'tongue-in-cheek' reference to his religious identity reflecting his trademark humor. Here is the last lines of the article, "I am a Khan, and that's what it has meant being one, despite the stereotype images that surround me. To be a Khan has been to be loved and love back - that the promise that virgins wait for me somewhere on the other side." The words in italics are not in the press statement.
SRK's article seems more as a reaction to the racial profiling by the American Internal Security establishment that has led to his being subjected to thorough frisking at the US airports on various occasions. Here are some more quotes from it: -
"So I am a Khan, but no stereotyped image is factored into my idea of who I am. Instead, the living of my life has enabled me to be deeply touched by the love of millions of Indians. I have felt this love for the last 20 years regardless of the fact that my community is a minority within the population of India. I have been showered with love across national and cultural boundaries, from Suriname to Japan and Saudi Arabia to Germany, places where they don't even understand my language."
"Beneath the guise of my superstardom, I am an ordinary man. My Islamic stock does not conflict with that of my Hindu wife's. The only disagreements I have with Gauri concern the color of the walls in our living room and not about the locations of the walls demarcating temples from mosques in India."
"I am neither six-feet-tall nor handsome (I am modest though) nor am I a Muslim who looks down on other religions. I have been taught my religion by my six-foot-tall, handsome Pathan 'Papa' from Peshawar, where his proud family and mine still resides. He was a member of the non-violent Pathan movement called Khudai Khidamatgaar and a follower of both Gandhiji and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, who was also known as the Frontier Gandhi...My first learning of Islam from him was to respect women and children and to uphold the dignity of every human being. I learnt that the property and decency of others, their points of view, their beliefs, their philosophies and their religions were due as much respect as my own and ought to be accepted with an open mind."