The Khan at the airport

You had to know you hadn't heard the last of Rehman Malik. You didn't think you'd get away that easily, did you? Malik recently crashedlanded onto Indian headlines for sarcastically suggesting (at an Indo-Pak lovefest no less) that India should extend better security to Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan. It was, I think, an attempt at wit. As everyone knows by now, the filmstar wrote a piece about how it felt for him to be a Muslim, both in India and abroad (if this were a game show, that topic would be a giant red button that, when you press it, drenches you in dishwater). It is a tricky subject and was almost immediately interpreted by the mean-spirited to mean that Khan was somehow dissing India, whispering that he didn't feel safe, and championing a Pakistani cause at the expense of his "Indian-ness".

Predictably, anyone who's actually read the article doesn't see this. It's an informative, self-deprecating and funny essay on what is an uncomfortable but truthful modern condition: Muslims all over the world are under constant suspicion when anywhere near an airplane, even if you danced in Devdas. Khan describes being stopped and searched at airports in America because of his last name. He wrote of some extremely right-wing local parties who say that he should run back home to the Muslims next door, which for Pakistanis is both generous and a little bitchy. He mentions how he deliberately chose "pan-Indian" names for his kids to make assimilation easier (newsflash: celeb babies have names like Apple and Shiloh nowadays. I really don't think assimilation is the goal here.) and that, at the end, he is a secular humanist Indian before he is anything else.

That's lovely, but it still won't get you through immigration without a fight. Khan describes what a Pathan is in his mind (6 ft, big nose, warrior, like a butch Barbra Streisand I imagine) and how the physicality of his ancestry acts as an unsanctioned confession of his lineage, and by extension I suppose, his being a Muslim. He doesn't look like Pathans I know, but whatever. I know what he means.

... contd.

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