My names is khan

Sometimes, Indian politicians react more strongly than celebrity actors do to uncouth American behaviour directed at Bollywood


After being detained for questioning for two hours at Newark Airport in New Jersey by an over-zealous immigration official who swung into action when the surname Khan flashed on his computer screen, Shahrukh quipped in his inimitable style, “If they want, I can frisk Angelina Jolie when she is here.” The Bollywood superstar appeared to shrug off the incident when he stated that he had experienced similar treatment before.

Speaking to journalists in Delhi on the morning of Independence Day, India’s I&B minister Ambika Soni said, “I don’t think that this manner of detention (in the name of religion) is justified. But, in the US, several examples have surfaced where frisking takes place more than required.” The minister should have just stopped there. But she went on to add, “I am of the opinion that the way we are frisked, I too was frisked, we should do the same to them.”

Imitation, as the saying goes, is the best form of flattery. However, in this instance, imitation could be the worst kind of folly! There is a difference between a cultured civilisation rooted in the concept of Atthithi devo bhava and ugly Americans of the kind Shahrukh encountered at the immigration counter at Newark Airport.

Frisking Americans coming to India — including the official who detained the Bollywood icon for two hours despite being told by other immigration officials that Shahrukh Khan was a reputed actor shooting a movie in the US and that there was nothing suspicious about him or his acting — amount to a knee-jerk response.

Soni and the embassy officials who interceded for Shahrukh should instead present the immigration official with a copy of The Ugly American, the 1958 bestselling novel by William Burdick and Eugene Lederer, narrating instances of rude behaviour that alienated Asians!

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