So its a pity that an actor of the repute and international stature of Shahrukh Khan got hauled up and questioned by US immigration. The media has suddenly got a focus other than the Swine flu pandemic and a big hue and cry is being made about it-so much so that theaters and schools are re opening in spite of no concrete medical evidence that the pandemic has been contained and that our children are now safe.
This hullabaloo is by any measure minuscule compared to when President Adbul Kalam was accorded similar treatment and that too on Indian soil by the American airline guys who were following American laws when they asked him to deplane..Blasphemy! disgusting! the indian media whimpered for a day or two before they got back to focusing on the cleavage of the new it girl on the block
Both cases were Airport immigration scandals involving international and diplomatic protocol and national icons.Both the men-Shahrukh Khan And Ex President Abdul Kalam have been magnanimous and said forget about it.
Of course -what else will you expect them to say.They are fine cultured men
President Abdul Kalam is granted exemption from checks by international protocol by virtue of being ex president.
Shah Rukh Khan by virtue of being a film star definitely does not enjoy that status-and certainly not on foreign soil.
But did Abdul Kalam pull the persecuted Muslim Trump card? Obviously not. He is not Machiavellian or purposefully inflammatory enough to do that. He’s just a guy who wanted to travel to America on some business and so he did. His silence shut the media up
But in the Shah Rukh Khan case Bureaucrats and politicians are jumping into the sizzling hot frying pan by issuing immature statements like they will accord the same treatment to all Americans even if it is Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie because an Indian star of the repute of Shah Rukh has been insulted.How dare they? they froth
The fact of the matter is if any of these stars like Angelina Jolie or Tom Cruise or whoever( i am just citing an example) were insulted we would certainly not hear about it.Because they would not run to the press about it pronto. We would probably never even know about it. They would come in to India in spite of the perceived insult, respecting alternative culture and laws, . do the work they have come to do and go back to their homes where they belong. Where they feel welcomed and unthreatened.
But what happens when an Indian film star gets questioned on foreign soil?That too American? Is there a reverse cultural economic complex in play here? An almost barbaric subversive one-like we aspired to you all these years-now you!you bloody debt laden losers-you better accept that we are superior to you!We are the guys with the money and the power and the clout!
Yes moving away from our need to avenge our inferiority complex towards all those who made us feel small and insignificant in our growing years and coming back to home turf and its internal cultural workings I agree that we are are a star struck and bollywood crazy nation.
But to lose all perspective -especially on a matter as frivolous as this- it is a shame to say the least.
What i am asking is-why are we condemning an officer for doing his job? In this case the US Immigration officer.Yes sometimes in the case of celebrity there is a perverse reverse psychology in play-people feel the need to put a famous person down just to feel better about themselves. But in this case from the media reports i am reading(its my only access to this information) this immigration officer just didn’t know and genuinely didn’t care that the guy in front of him was India’s biggest film star(as those around him were apparently telling him-as per media reports again)
Was that perhaps the bigger problem for Shahrukh rather than the problem of “My name is Khan?
so he chose to cower and glower behind the unabashed minority exploitative trump card once again.
I have interacted enough with international celebrity to know that when it comes to laws and protocol they treat each other as equal human beings. Religion, economics, nationality etc simply do not come into play. Nobody expects special treatment because they have a retinue of body guards and hangers on following them-after all even the Mafia has that. And everybody knows that.
Yes some American officers and bureaucrats-(like their Indian counterparts) have a blood soaked towel shoved up you know where and are desperate to score a point, but they themselves respect their own laws too much to abuse that and put themselves and their meager livelihood in jeopardy. In the west its harder to use influence or pay a bribe to retain your job and these guys are well aware of that
I know of an instance where India’s biggest film star of the last century was treated similarly not so long ago. But the film star in question chose to take a dignified and mature stance about it and got on with his primary business -ie of acting in movies. Few of us even heard of it.
Lets face it-anybody who has traveled frequently abroad in the west-especially in America post 9/11 is subject to these random checks. Sometimes its a computer that bleeps you off and sometimes its just the expression on your face that pisses the immigration officer off.Sometimes it is followed by hours of humiliating grueling questioning-and frankly-I feel safer for it. I would rather be taken off a plane than be on one that blows up because of lax security
I was almost declined permission to board a London Washington dc flight not so long ago because of god knows what and i was in tears. I subsequently had to wait it out and take the next London Washington Dc flight which was many hours away even though my name is as non muslim or non christian as it gets-apparent even to the most ignorant. I could blame it on the colour of my skin but have enough global exposure to never use that especially because i know that that would be a lie.
I know at least 10-15 other indians/ non Whites /Whites who have been through similar experiences traveling to different destinations across the US.. In a way i have always felt grateful that these checks-(if they could happen with someone as seemingly harmless looking as me) are actually ensuring that the world is a safer place.
I hate to sound like a cynic here but this whole thing reeks of a publicity stunt for Shahrukhs new film ‘My name is Khan’
Its about getting to the delusional stage where a film star can no longer separate the real from the reel.
I hope to God i am wrong-and please correct me if i am