Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) got detained at the US airport by immigration officials for a couple hours and India was instantly up in arms demanding an apology from the US. SRK has been detained by US immigration officials before. He knows the drill. If he does not want to subject himself to the rules of arriving in the US, he should just not go there.
But then SRK is in the business of selling SRK. After all he gets paid a lot of money to perform. And Yale University, which invited him to address students, has prestige attached. A league above gigs like being paid to perform at some domestic billionaire’s wedding even though I’m sure the pay is as good, if not better.
Shah Rukh Khan.
The bottom line is that SRK gets paid a lot of money for his song and dance. Occasionally he utters a few intelligent phrases, witty even. I tried to read the speech he gave at Yale and gave up very quickly. All I can say is that Yale’s standards are not what they used to be.
So what makes Somnath Chatterjee want to treat Americans the same way at Indian airports following this incident? India has a hero worship culture that is over the top. The US on the other hand is down to earth about its heroes where they are not rocketed to God status. Indians also love to give and receive awards. Indian newspapers aimed at NRIs in the US are filled with stories and pictures of local organizations giving awards to members of their obscure outfits.
Americans only award the meritorious, barring Yale, and it is a fact that most Americans are clueless about the identity of Shah Rukh Khan. Bollywood doesn’t figure in most American day to day lives. Sadly more and more Americans are clueless about a whole lot of other things that they should be aware of. Especially these days when an increasing number of States are voluntarily turning the clock back on evolution but that is a matter for a different column.
And in the hero worship award nation that is India, we have no qualms about adopting any person with a drop of Indian blood who has made it. The way astronaut, Sunita Williams, was idolized intrigued me.
Suddenly it seemed like India discovered a long lost daughter. Williams took the new found fame in stride and made the best of it and sought to covert the fame into tangible ways to spread awareness about science and encouraged children to reach for the stars.
The pride of a billion people can be a tough thing to tangle with though. As the Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan found out. He was fed up with the sudden interest by India in him just because he won an award and complained about his inbox being clogged up by emails from all a sundry. Indians were predictably miffed by his response.
While I think Chatterjee’s comment was a knee jerk reaction and someone needs to start a finishing school for the likes of Chatterjee with a session on “Curb your enthusiasm,” what I really want to know is why did the US actually apologize? Is it because Yale was involved?