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Missing the point on SRK………

August 16, 2009

I wonder if most of you know who SRK is. At least my American-born readers probably do not. I live in India and I did not know who SRK is. Until yesterday. Now I am all too aware that he is a famous actor in India.

SRK is a famous Bollywood actor – apparently very famous – who decided to celebrate India’s Independence Day in Chicago – yes, the Chicago that is in the United States. As far as I know there is not a Chicago in India. At least if there is, it seems you have to get there via New Jersey. He was questioned by US Customs for what he claims was two hours (Customs says it was 66 minutes) in New Jersey on his way to Chicago to attend an Indian Independence Day celebration. I wasn’t there, so of course, I don’t have all the details. But there is absolute outrage in India that one of the “most famous men in the world” was bothered by Customs.

As you might imagine, I am not outraged in the least. He chose to enter the U.S. He is subject to the immigration process. Period.

First of all, he is an actor. Not a world leader. Probably not a humanitarian – at least none of the news reports focused on what a great man he is – just what a famous man he is – what a famous actor he is. An actor. This makes me crazy in the U.S. too. Why do we give so much credence to actors? It makes me insane. Please do not think SRK’s ego outranks the security of America.

Second of all, most Americans are probably not aware of a lot of international movie stars. The Customs officers are surely not trained on who is famous and who is not. It frankly does not matter who you are – famous people can do bad things too. Besides, we have enough drama going on with our own Hollywood crazies to keep track of stars from the rest of the world. So, while he is very famous in India – he might not be all that recognizable in other parts of the world. Part of the outrage is that US Customs should have known who he was and not bothered him. Seriously. I don’t think (reasonable) Americans would be insulted if Clint Eastwood was not recognized in India. Please do not think that Americans are dismissive of the importance of SRK in India. But, he wasn’t in India. And even if he was – should security be suspended for him? Really?

Even if he is famous all over the world – that doesn’t mean he gets a free pass at Customs.

And most importantly, why aren’t Indians upset that he chose to spend INDIA’s Independence Day in the U.S.? It would be like me going to Switzerland to celebrate the Fourth of July.

And isn’t it lovely that Americans in Chicago were holding a parade to honor India’s Independence? I think it kind of is. Very lovely. How did that little nugget of peace, love, and international bonding get lost in the reporting?

Part of the outcry is that he is quoted as saying that he might have been stopped because of his last name – Khan and that he is Muslim. I am sure you can find many, many Muslims who traveled into the U.S. yesterday who were not detained. He had the benefit of being famous and called the Indian Embassy. Besides a little ego bruising, I do not believe he was harmed in any way.

It is interesting that he has a movie coming out about racial profiling and now he has gotten quite a bit of publicity for that movie. Unfortunately, this issue has stirred up quite a bit of tension too.

What really surprised me is that this story about SRK ran as a headliner on the news before the car bomb story that happened outside of NAT() in K*bul, Afgh*nistan, before the Independence Day stories that happened in Delhi. Really? He is an actor. This was not a crime against humanity. Someone in U.S. Customs felt it was prudent to question him further. I am not saying that Customs doesn’t ever make mistakes. I am quite sure they do. But, if SRK does not want that scrutiny maybe he should celebrate India’s Independence in India next year where he can be recognized as the famous person he apparently is.

I am sad that Indians are upset with Americans over this. I believe it truly was not meant to make a statement or to be an international incident. I can guarantee that Americans are stopped entering our country too. It is a matter of keeping our country as safe as it can be. It was not meant as an insult to SRK or Indians or anyone with darker skin or a passport.

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49 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2010 12:23 pm

    This SRK is a total fraud. He is just a product of media-hype. He is a talentless hack, pretty ordinary-looking too, who managed to rise in Bollywood, owing to his connections with the Moslem Mafia in India (the D-company). Look up the D-company.

    That entire episode in Chicago was his super-ego making him think that he was above the law, just because he is able to manipulate the law in India.

    And then, he had the gall to play the Moslem card – saying that he was being targeted because he was a Moslem.

    And that is exactly the kind of crap that the majority of Indians (i.e. the Hindus of India) have to put up with everyday – the Moslems of India being super-sensitive, and accusing the Indian Government of targeting them because they happen to be moslems, when in fact, the cowardly Indian Government (The Congress Party, i.e.) bends over backwards to accomodate every little perverse whim of the Indian Moslems.

    And you are absolutely right, the majority of Indians are with the US Government, on this one, regardless of whatever nonsense the Indian media might tell you.

    • April 19, 2010 12:51 am

      Wow – where were you when all this happened? I got slammed on my post on this one 😉 My point was simply that he should be subject to the same security that American citizens face.

  2. L. Mukunthan permalink
    April 17, 2010 8:50 am

    Wow! So many comments to this single blog! Have you got any blog with a longer thread than this…
    It’s the fan following and hero worship that SRK possesses…
    And at least for this case, won’t you grant him a customs free, security free entry into U.S.A???
    (J.U.S.T K.I.D.D.I.N.G)
    But, notable is that, Mr. Kalam also was susceptible to security check in an US airport, for which he’s entitled to bypass. But, he didn’t make an issue of it… Hey guys, understand, an actor knows to keep what face in front of whom, to attract. Whilst, a scientist doesn’t care for that…

  3. Sunita permalink
    August 27, 2009 10:38 am

    Just a few more comments for the fun of it. BTW, while I agree that the Fernandez incident was regrettable, he was NOT stripped. He was asked to remove his belt. The media tends to exaggerate. (shocking I know) And the Indian media loves to bring it out when India is wronged or dissed in any way; it just makes the media look like whiners. India is a powerful nation and over 1 billion strong but has a terrible inferiority complex. And yes, SRK is well known to bollywood lovers, but America is not a bollywood-savvy country, so who cares, and besides, he is an ACTOR, not a head of state. The ex-president frisking was also according to a requirement by US law on US carriers. Which does not exempt people from security, with few exceptions. Kamal was traveling without security so he was not singled out for special access. Isn’t it sad that politicians spent valuable time getting crazy over this perceived slight that they may have been able to spend doing something for the country that mattered? Finally, having traveled all over the world, on all continents, as an American I have (amazingly it would seem to one of these posters) never experienced active hating of Americans. American policy? Yes, absolutely.

    • August 27, 2009 11:27 am

      I am whispering this – welcome to my blog. 🙂

    • XYe permalink
      August 28, 2009 4:53 pm

      Sunita, nice try to geather the “wah wah” from the Americans but your so called theory has way many loopholes to let you go scot free. First of all Indian may or may not have inferiority complex (since you seem to judge it all based on the Indian media reports), the the West and (many) Westerners certainly have a lot of superiority complex, believe it or not even after knowing that they can’t even keep up their economy. Take the British for example – if you make friends with a black British guy he will always ask you what you think of or whats your image of Britian is, none so by a white British guy, he doesn’t care not bother. He’s only aim in life is to make money from the stock market in the day and blow it all off in the pub by the night. Trust me I’m telling you stories from the real England. I think the American white guy is a bit better though not fully bereft of such a condesending attitude!
      No matter how much you try, you’ll never be the image of the typical American with the name Sunita. You and others can cry of all the multiculturalism that America seems to depict today, but outside of America it still brings in images of a white girl or boy (even if with a black guy’s cap), so it isn’t really important how people react in the continents you have travelled to, seeing you even if you tell them you are American citizen!
      The ministers are doing their work (no matter how slow), don’t think they need criticism from people who are not even the citizens of the country they government – in other words the peanut gallery!
      BTW, whats your source of the inside details you have about Fernandez’s frisking? Were you standing next to him in line? Ha! I think you haven’t read the comments above-the issue if SRK is famous in America or not was settled in the last century!
      And lastly, it’s KALAM and not the spelling you could manage with your poor research! Suggest you to get a grip.

  4. ram permalink
    August 26, 2009 2:18 am

    Dear a reason to write(sorry to use this as i dont know your name).
    you wrote in your blog about the incidents that were happened to Mr. SRk at US customs Office. This is not a first time issue that was happened to an indian, this was reapted twice or thrice in recent past in US customs history.If you are interested in knowing the details, following are the details.
    1. In the year 2001 when the then Defence minister of india Mr. Gorege fernandez wss on his visit(Official not personal) to US, he was strippedoff his cloths by US immigration.
    2. Same thing was also happened to the MOE (Minister of external affairs)Mr. Jaswanth singh.
    3 More recently Mr. Abdul kalam was insulted in the same manner.

    You may argue on countless times by saying that this is standard drill, rules by book, security precations blah! blah! blabh!.

    I would like to ask one striaght question to you, if this happens to your Mr. & Mrs. clinton with indian immigration officials , do you accept the argument of standard drill, security measures, and they got right to do what ever the indians they it is right?

    please give me a straight answer.

    • August 26, 2009 3:51 am

      Hi Ram and welcome to my blog:

      So here it is – my straight answer to your question.

      1. If you have read more than just this post on my blog, you have seen that I have a sarcastic writing style. This sarcasm is not directly only at SRK, but at most of my topics. It should not be taken personally by anyone. It is the way I write on my blog and express my opinion.

      2. In between the blah, blah, blah that you mention, I said that I would not write again on this – this is truly it. I will not close the comments on it because I have found it fascinating that so many people have jumped on the SRK bandwagon but remain largely unmoved by my posts on poverty and other far more upsetting things in the world. I found it fascinating how quickly we all were to defend our stance on this to the death – although I would argue that most of us could truly care less that SRK lost an hour of his day. I have now spent far more than an hour discussing it and as I said – enough of that.

      3. You cannot seriously be comparing SRK to a head of state or a high-ranking political figure. I do not know the details of what happened to Abdul Kalam – but the reports I read said he was stopped in India before he boarded the plane – I am not sure who stopped him. I think it was the airlines. But I do not compare SRK to him. They are not at the same level of importance. I do not know anything about Mr. Jaswanth Singh or George Fernades. Mistakes happen. Again, a thorough reading of my blog and its comments would show that I do not think anyone is perfect. But I do not think SRK deserves special treatment either.

      So please feel free to comment further – but I will not be responding any further on this issue. India is a big country with a lot of wonderful things to see and people to meet – I am going to focus my time on doing just that and hopefully helping some people along the way.

  5. August 25, 2009 10:04 pm

    Worldwide fame, especially for entertainment “jobs” like music and movies, does attach to those who make it in richer countries. It’s the reason so many aspiring film makers and actors (from all over the world ) will move to a place like Los Angeles or New York.

    Even with sports, if you want to become a world famous soccer star, you have to play in Europe. It’s where the best soccer players in the world are playing. There’s nothing racist about this statement. It’s just the reality.

    Those African women wearing sari’s to weddings has nothing to do with bollywood. Indians have been in East Africa for almost 300 years and the cultures have just blended. So, they’ll celebrate christmas, but also diwali and ramadhan. We’ll eat goat meat, but with pilao and chapatis.

    I find it hard to believe that someone like SRK wouldn’t want to win an Oscar and I think that’s what him and Karan Johar are trying to do with this new film My name is Khan. They’re looking for validation from the epicenter of the film world and that epicenter is based in Los Angeles.

    Anyway, I’ll stick to watching art house cinema.

  6. August 21, 2009 8:51 pm

    Jasmeet:
    You have made an incorrect assumption about me (that I am a westerner, providing western viewpoints). However, I am not a westerner and I’m glad you keep using African countries as examples because I am in fact African! A typical American would probably never have heard of Nandita Das or Shabana Azmi.

    So, when I talk about poorer countries, I am including my own home country and my continent (Africa) in this group. In much of black-Africa (& this excludes countries like Morocco, which are more culturally oriented towards the mid-east) – bollywood movies are not that popular. We have our own “cinema”, which is just as bad and it’s called Nollywood (essentially, horrid Nigerian soap opera’s, which I also can’t bring myself to watch). You mentioned Somalia. I am very familiar with Somalia and yes, they watch many western movies. Actually, in terms of pop culture in Africa, the most popular tv shows, films and music are American. Remember also that many of these American pop icons are black and this appeals to Africans in a very real way.

    Now, in countries like Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, where you have large Indian populations you will see bollywood movies at video rental stores, but they are not the most popular. Indian food is very popular and it’s now become part of the national cuisine in countries like Kenya and Tanzania. Sari’s are also the new rage and you’ll even see many Africans are wearing them to special occasions like weddings & other events, but bollywood flicks? I’m sorry. Give me Roshan Seth any day over SRK.

    • Jasmeet permalink
      August 25, 2009 4:36 pm

      @ke: I don’t judge you by your nationality or skin colour and until this post, I didn’t know who you are and where you from. Your comment on fame only attaches the rich world is hilarious and tad racist considering that you are black (as you say you are).
      Actually in India, apart from the Urban upper middle class nobody gives a damn about Hollywood, though some cult movies like Star War series are very popular but to a very niche audience!
      Hollywood has been around here for ages but by no means surpasses the popularity of local cinema – fame or not! The amazing part is that unlike in countries like Malaysia or Indonesia, India has been able to keep its culture and cinema alive without any governmental regulation or impositions! As you mention, Indian cinema has a huge impact in popularizing the Indian culture… otherwise how many of the sari trotting African women would you have seen on the streets of Tanzania in the 70’s?
      An I don’t think SRK needs to do what YOU think is serious cinema – I mean why should he not stick to what he’s good at without having to receive condescending criticism. He tried doing serious cinema (Swadesh, Dil Se) but failed miserably. I don’t see the need for Jim Carey to do a Schwarzenegger, when he’s not Schwarzenegger. After all SRK is not a wannabe, no matter what people call him he’s the only bankable actor India cinema who can guarantee a hit, and that all that matters – people like he does!
      Roshan Seth maybe be popular among westerners by doing their cinema, however, SRK is popular amongst them by doing ‘our’ cinema. Do you see the difference?

  7. August 21, 2009 1:58 am

    Jasmeet.

    debating with a learned mind is a learning experience. Here , people are still living in first world syndrome.
    We are happy with our Bollywood and its fame which surely surpasses Hollywood. America and oscar is not be all and end all of world cinema.. its approval is not required.. and KE comment on poorer nations is disgraceful and to be mean … whats the employment is US or howz your job buddy… dont worry in 20 years we will be on par with you and believe me i would love to rub u in… Atleast we are growing atleast 5% and people have jobs here.. so much for being wealthy.. and If SRK doesnt have fame then why has California governor invited him for lunch…

    Jasmeet its a waste of time commenting here cause seriously people still live in bubble of first world and third world…

  8. August 20, 2009 8:32 pm

    Jasmeet,

    I have been familiar with bollywood movies for quite some time. Most of the video stores in East Africa were owned by Indians at one point and they rented out several of these bollywood flicks. I could never bring myself to watch them because frankly, they are unwatchable, but that’s not to say that all Indian cinema is unwatchable. I think Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi were amazing in Fire. I also watched Water and Earth and they were fantastic movies. Throw in the Namesake here as well (one of my all time favorite movies). They are talented Indian actors. I just don’t think they’re in Bollywood and it’s too bad that parallel cinema in India doesn’t get the attention it deserves because that’s where the real talent is.

    And I still think it comes down to the wealth of nations. Yes, Bollywood movies maybe watched by more people in the world, but if it’s in poorer countries, the world fame won’t attach, either to the movies or to the actors (unless they pull a slumdog millionaire and win at the oscars).

    If SRK wants to be taken seriously as an actor, then he needs to start doing serious cinema.

    • Jasmeet permalink
      August 21, 2009 5:15 am

      Absolutely wrong again! It’s good you like art house cinema as we call it here in India but those films are generally not created for the masses! The western cinema elites have for ages ridiculed the popular cinema or the mass entertainers as being and the typical answer being that they are not worthy of western recognition – my question is – was SM worthy of the Oscars considering that each an every cinematic technique used by Danny Boyle has has been borrowed from popular Indian cinema, right from cinematography to script (which is even worst than the cheap B-grade flicks we have). But he has been given recognition, you know why? Coz he’s depicted what you guys WANT to see about India. That’s the SOLE bloody reason why it has won the Oscars, nothing more nothing less. The music you heard from Rehaman in the movie could be termed as his 120th great work – I mean we Indian didn’t even bother to see Slumdog Millionaire because to us it’s total hogwash made specific for the western eye and mind. We have own take on poverty – the cinema of the 60’s and the 70’s has depicted it so well the you’ll forget SMs. The Indian audience has hitherto rejected the Fires and the Waters because it doesn’t appeal to us – they have been made for western audience, so does that make them great and the ones Indian like are miniscule?
      Ha! How did you in the first place, come to the conclusion that rich people (namely the western audience have a better taste is art and cinema?)Some of the best artists in history have been extremely poor. When Michelangelo was contracted for the Sistine Chappel, he could barely make a living!
      Your analogy that just because Indian movies are liked by poorer countries and western movies are like by richer audience is hilarious! It’s not the money dumbo, it’s the content – what people relate to – in Somalia where people don’t have enough to eat, would people go and see those super natural flicks like star wars??? You just can’t seem to come to terms to the fact that these days there is a HUGE western audience that LOVES and adores mainstream Indian cinema (something the Oscars judges chose to ignore completely as well) – with the songs and the dance. Recommend you move out of that couch please!

  9. August 19, 2009 5:01 pm

    The truth of the matter is, bollywood is not in the same league as hollywood, both in terms of quality and in terms of how well known it’s actors are.

    American movies gross way more money than any bollywood flick. Why? because there is a difference when people are willing to fork over $12 dollars for a movie in the states vs. (what?) 50 cents for a movie in India?.

    Outside of India and Pakistan, how many people really watch those bollywood flicks? but American movies and American culture is in demand around the world. Young people crave American pop culture, everywhere in the world. Why? because America is still the richest country in the world and people want to live there. Not so with India (at least not yet).

    Michael Jackson was a world figure. Angelina Jolie is a world figure, but SRK? C’mon. I’d give more props to the Indian billionaires because at least those guys have shown that they compete against the best in the world and they can win. SRK has not proven that yet. Maybe if he had won an Oscar….

    • Jasmeet permalink
      August 20, 2009 1:10 am

      @ Ke: Me thinks you need to shore up your general knowledge and I meant big time! Might get you a better perspective of the world around you! You may not know but Indian movies are viewed with frenzy wayyyyy beyond the Indian sub-continent! Go to a remote village in Sudan or Morocco and they will tell you that the only movies that the theatres around the villages play are Indian flicks. The Arabs and the middle-easterners like Indian movies way more than any others (including Hollywood) because Indian movies depict a culture way more closer to theirs!
      In Europe today there are cinema halls and TV channels specially Indian movies! In Norway, the state channel plays back-to-back Indian movies every weekend which obviously caters to the much larger mainstream audience rather than the Indian diaspora! The Berlin premier of Om Shanti Om was such a hit that riot police had to be called in to control the crowd and in case you thought they were Indian living in Europe! No, all of them whites, Berliners, young Germans dress in Indian costumes blowing kisses towards SRK! In the remote towns of Holland people these days can recognise Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwayra Rai and most of all SRK. Sure he may not be as much of the western media’s darling as Brangelina are but considering that SRK depicts a culture totally alien to the west and to America, he sure can be termed popular in the west! Tell me an actor or an artist from the East and working in Eastern movies (and not casted in some stereotypical role in a Hollywood flick) who is as famous as SRK! None!
      A case in point, allow me to correct you on another misconception you have! America is no longer the country everybody craves to be in, thought I agree it continues to attract a large number of immigrant and skilled labour! First the 9/11 and the Bush administration policies ensured that it becomes less and less popular to prospective immigrants! Add the recent economic recession you can get a picture! In the past seven to eight years or so, students going to America for higher studies have drastically decreased, at least in India – one of the biggest chunk of foreign students to the States! In India these days westerners (the owner of this blog is perfect example) are coming in droves, both due to economic reasons and to experience the country!
      Dude/Dudette you need to big time shore your knowledge of the developments around you to make comments like these! Hope you start to look up some news and analysis website after this! Ciao!

      • August 20, 2009 1:01 pm

        @ jasmeet.

        Applause…
        A for america and A for arrogance…

  10. August 19, 2009 8:01 am

    Hmm, yeah, detaining SRK, coz they don’t know who he is maybe all right, but subjecting an ex Indian President to frisking, which he is exempt from as a dignitary, and then refusing to apologize for it, isn’t fine by me.

    http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Kalam-frisked-by-American-airlines-at-IGI-airport/492155/

  11. August 18, 2009 7:21 pm

    I read your post again and I would have to say the title is so right, this post totally missed the point.

  12. Sharmishtha permalink
    August 18, 2009 11:28 am

    When I re-read my comment above, I realized that it came across as rather harsh. Unfortunately, the nuances get lost in e-communication. Was just trying to organize my thoughts to think more broadly about the issue of international travel and legal boundaries. SRK’s experience, the three recent incidents involving Americans, and an incident a couple of years ago involving a non-visa carrying American (business colleague of a family member) landing up at Mumbai airport have started making me think more generally about how people are educated to think about international travel. The incident involving the American in Mumbai did not end well and must have shaken him up quite a bit. Mumbai is a very, very tough place to land up without papers and, according to the story that I admittedly heard second hand, the poor guy was thrown into the airport holding cell with an assorted collection of suspected criminals (Mumbai has a Dubai drug-running problem) and then deported the next day. What we were all amazed at was the fact that no one – not the travel agent, not business colleagues, not the man himself – ever stopped to consider the fact that there might be the need for papers such as visas. And, what is infinitely more frightening, is the fact that the North America-based airlines did not bother to check that he had a visa, and just let him onto a US-India flight on the basis of an American passport!! Can’t you just imagine a terrorist jumping to take advantage of this lack of security to hit India?

  13. Sharmishtha permalink
    August 18, 2009 10:50 am

    Totally agree with keeping the country safe. And Americans travelling abroad should keep that principle in mind. In other words, it should not be a case of “Everybody has to keep America safe” whereas Americans can go barging into North Korea, Burma and other countries. Amazingly, all these violators of customs and immigration rules were all non-celebrities. Does the average American really have that sense of entitlement? I mean, no one goes to North Korea and Burma looking for a job, right?

    • August 27, 2009 2:26 am

      I never replied to this part – no I do not think the average American goes barging into other countries – for the most part I think we are just as much in awe of the rest of the world as it is in us – we are curious and most of us are in a foreign land to learn, not to change the way other countries work – the news stories talked about maybe 6 Americans – that hardly equals the “average” American. And they were not acting on America’s behalf. I do not know enough details about any of those stories to argue that they should or should not have been rescued. They surely knew what they were walking into. They were acting on their own beliefs and their own sense of purpose. The Customs Service is under the direction of the government. There is a difference between an individual acting on his/her own. I don’t think you came across as too harsh – but I think it is an important distinction that the individuals are just that individuals.

  14. August 18, 2009 8:27 am

    Wow. Looks like I’m walking into some serious conversations here. I agree that people immigrating into the US shouldn’t complain about our customs procedures. We have a right to make sure our country is safe. End of story.

  15. August 17, 2009 12:09 pm

    Going through customs makes me nervous 😉

  16. inthecrapper permalink
    August 17, 2009 1:36 am

    @ ar2w:

    > yes, I agree – he can celebrate Independence Day anywhere he likes – but isn’t lovely that
    > America offered him an opportunity to celebrate in the U.S.?

    If I read you correctly, you are suggesting that its great that the US is open enough to accommodate a parade of this sort. I agree – to an extent. However, here, I will theorize again – a parade is probably a function of the size of the diaspora, the enthusiasm of the community leaders in the expat community to organize such parades (including say inviting a celeb to add glitz/glamor/what-have-you), the willingness of the community to make it a success and last (and the least) the host country’s openness to said parade. If these things were the same, say in a country like Canada, Britain, some reasonable western country – heck for that matter if the roles were reversed and some yanks wanted to have a 4th of July celebration in India – I would highly doubt that the host country would reject/prohibit such displays. Diplomatic missions of many foreign countries in India regularly have gala parties – featured prominently on page 3 with most social butterflies in attendance – on the occasions of their country’s independence day/national day. That these parties, don’t garner attendance by say a celeb from the country of origin or does not transform into a parade is hardly a reflection of India’s unwillingness/un-openness to host/embrace either a parade or the celeb. In summary, unless an Indian (or otherwise) is living under an authoritarian regime/dictatorship, I would highly doubt that a host country would prevent, him/her from a celebration/parade/what-have-you. (IIRC, France recently had an Indian regiment march down the Champs Elysee – or some such; so even the French are doing it – also please refer previous note above, about not backing up with links/data – me=lazy fart)

    —————–

    I think things have gone off on a tangent here. So I will attempt to bring them back on track. When I began my first comment, I mentioned at the start:

    > Although I agree with many of the issues raised here, there are a couple of things I’d like to point out.

    One point I agreed with (although I didn’t mention it, as my comment was bloated enough as it is) – the law should apply equally to all. That certain sections (especially the puerile, inane, sensationalist, *insert invective of choice* sections) of the media focuses on the wrong issues, is for me, hardly a matter to bat an eyelid about – I have come to expect it and tend to sift thru the trash to seek out the issue at hand. And over time I suspect you will too.

    However the points(which could be seen as contrarian to the opinions in the original article) I raised were these:

    1.) An individual should be free to choose any place on this planet to celebrate India’s (or another country’s) Independence day (national day of significance)
    2.) A theory on how this event probably came into being – American/Chicagoan organized vs. Indian community organized
    3.) The issue of profiling in immigration/customs/travel

    This third issue is, for me, the weighteist of the three and one that is lost in the brouhaha, echoing the sentiment in the title of this post. As mentioned earlier there have been documented cases of abuses of power/illegal detention/etc against people of color(POC) – many being brown people (and/or brown Muslim/Sikh people). That a person of reasonable celebrity (and the accompanying resources/connections/what-have-you) being subject to the same^, should cast a spotlight (and bring about the accompanying scrutiny) of the systemic flaws that lead to misguided attempts at national security – and this for me is the take away from this incident. NOT that SRK should have had dancing girls throwing rose petals, as he glided thru US customs.

    Such instances of abuses of power by the powers-that-be, are often witnessed in different situations/settings. Here’s a website that documents a large number of these: http://carlosmiller.com/. Many of these cases are against POC’s(some are not) – however to me what makes the above situation worse is that upon the point of entry/egress into a country – a visitor has limited rights, and/or means to legal recompense; to trod on such individuals (again please note – I am not saying SRK was a victim – still awaiting jury to return from recess) is IMHO not the right thing to do, to say the least.

    ^ – The jury is out on whether he was detained, detained for long, strip-searched, cavity-searched, asked to do the hustle or asked to act his way out of a bag

    —————–

    > When I am home, I get very nervous when I am driving on the highway and see a police man – I
    > automatically slow down – then I check to see whether or not I was actually speeding –

    Don’t we all? 😉

    > but it does not mean that policemen shouldn’t stop people from speeding just because it makes me
    > uncomfortable to see them on the road.

    Its interesting that you bought up a driving-related anecdote/example – there’s a race-related issue I would like to bring up here (drawn from years of living in the US) – but that would mean going down another rabbit hole – and perhaps I am not the most articulate to draw out the right points/issues either. So I will leave it at that.

    However I will comment on the pertinent fact that, there is a difference between a policeman standing by the side of the road and you observing him in your rear-view as you, the law-abiding-driver, drive past and the policeman giving a beat-down/taser-ing/shooting at point-blank range especially when the situation doesn’t demand it.

    —————–

    @ Donna:

    > I celebrated the 4th of July in France one year – wearing my Texas Longhorn t-shirt – but no
    > parade was held for me – LOL

    See, now there’s a reason for that – if it were say, a USC T-shirt, it would have been a paaaartttaay!!!. *Runs away very faaaassst* *cough* *wheeze* *pant*

    —————–

    Another long comment. From years of reading/commenting on blogs I have noticed that the longer the comment is, the lesser the likelihood that it will be read and/or understood (which I suspect happened to a degree with my previous one). Another thing I’ve noticed – the writers of long comments are often considered trolls/rude guests – now lest I sprout any anatomical features I am not too happy about or have to be chased with torch and pitch-fork, I bid adieu.

    • August 17, 2009 3:15 am

      totally agree with inthecrapper…
      I think world will be much better place if some countries stop living in a bubble of paranoia…
      It is also funny that author has not chosen to reply to the third point mentioned in the “inthecrapper”
      comment and even mine… Racial profiling does exist… what does author has to say on that..and if author is fine by it in the name of security…
      and the event in Chicago was organized by mumbai based event company for the Indians staying there…
      and I am pretty much sure author wont question the loyalty of bill Clinton if he was in India to celebrate 4th of July with his american compatriots staying in India which i believe is quite seizable in number…
      This is a topic which has two sides and people defending both the sides but i believe the author here has been partial to one side only… hence the reaction… I rest my case…and bid adieu…

      • August 17, 2009 3:58 am

        This will likely be the last I write on this because I feel SRK’s “issue” has gotten too much attention already – as was part of my point – it does not warrant being a headliner – or absorbing so much of all of our energy. I think a re-read of my post and of all my comments will reveal that I do not think the American Immigration system is perfect – it is not. There is room for improvement in any system involving humans. I do not think America lives in a “bubble of paranoia” – there are real threats against America and we have every right to try to prevent any attacks. Karan, you mention yourself how much America is disliked. As I mentioned, if someone does not feel they should be scrutinized when they travel to America, they are very welcome to stay home. I actually used to work for the Customs Service and I am very familiar with how easy it is to throw around terms like “racial profiling”. It is a catchy term that captures a lot of attention – sometimes warranted, most times not. There is actually a science involved in screening passengers and it is not perfect either – but it involves a lot more than skin color or last names. Federal law enforcement is very careful to give legitimate scrutiny to all people most of the time. Sure some, maybe even many, people are asked questions and further screened who end up to be absolutely no threat at all. And not only people of one race or creed or nationality are questioned. I would bet that most of them really don’t mind it as long as they are treated with respect. It means they are safer too. It would be interesting to see the stats on how many people (of all kinds) cleared Customs with no additional scrutiny. But like the policeman on the side of the road analogy – I am glad they are doing their best. And I think it is horrible when unjust force is used against someone – but again that is not the norm. When humans are involved, sometimes bad things happen. Once again, I am not casting stones at SRK for celebrating India’s Independence Day somewhere else – but if he wants to be recognized as a celebrity, he might consider celebrating somewhere he is more recognizable. But with all the frustration the world has with America, it is still a place where Independence Day celebrations happen in honor of other countries. That is lovely no matter how you slice it. We will likely never know why SRK was asked additional questions and in some ways it really does not matter. But it is very easy to call it racial profiling when there is very, very likely much more to the story than that. On the surface, this very much seems to be a case of a bruised ego. To that I say again that being a celebrity doesn’t mean squat when you are clearing Customs. I would love to hear what the other 20 passengers have to say about the matter. Who knows maybe one of them reads this blog. 😉

    • August 17, 2009 11:10 pm

      I wasn’t wearing my Rose Bowl t-shirt – LOL!!

      PS. I like USC, too!

  17. August 16, 2009 10:49 pm

    I just wanted to say –

    I celebrated the 4th of July in France one year – wearing my Texas Longhorn t-shirt – but no parade was held for me – LOL

    Said with much sarcasm –

  18. August 16, 2009 10:05 pm

    He was travelling to Chicago to do a show for his fellow Indians who live in Chicago, I don’t understand what is wrong. and events like this are not organized by Americans for the Indians in their cities, local Indian orgs do that so ppl can feel close to home. He is a famous actor, he was questioned, alright, but detained for two hours??? How much does it take for the customs to get it that he is a big actor??? I am not saying that America wanted to bother the Indian actor but your objections about him spending Independence day in America are really uncalled for.

    • August 16, 2009 10:17 pm

      Sands – I don’t have any objections whatsoever to him spending Independence Day in America – I actually think it is lovely – America has celebrations for so many different cultures – it is truly a melting pot – I just wish that this point that he was invited to America to celebrate India’s Independence Day wasn’t totally lost on the media. It is part of the story. The fact that there was an India Independence Day celebration is tribute to the wide open arms America has. So much hubbub about the fact that this poor guy had to be questioned – I am questioned when I enter America. So boo hoo for him. I wish I had made my point better – so just to be clear – I don’t think it is a bad thing at all that he came to America to celebrate an Indian holiday – it is lovely – America truly does (to be fair, for the most part) embrace all the cultures of the world. But if he comes, he has to go thru Customs/Immigration no matter how famous he is.

      • August 17, 2009 12:07 am

        going through customs is what he does every time he visits, doesn’t he? But this time getting grilled for 2 hours is what the fury is about. He was not invited by any American body for the event but by Indians in America and if America did indeed invite him, they would sure do know how famous he is or for that matter who he is,, then where does the point of cross checking for 2 hours come?

        Sands – I guess we could back and forth on this all day – Customs would argue it was just over an hour – that is not an unreasonable amount of time to clear Customs – I have waited that long myself – unfortunately I did not have an Ambassador to call – it was reported that he has been slowed in going thru Customs before – where was the hubbub then – whoever invited him in Chicago clearly did not check all the boxes on letting those in New Jersey know he was coming – I am quite sure that will not happen again – if it was important for him to be ushered thru Customs quickly, those arrangements should have been requested (especially with him knowing that he had been stopped before – once you appear on those lists it is probably more likely that you will be stopped again) – I will not argue though that such requests should have been granted. There were reportedly 20 other people delayed with him – I wondered if any of them were given such preferential treatment – Customs is claiming they delayed him because his bag was missing – where is his outrage at the airline for not treating his bag with preferential treatment (that it surely deserves being his bag and all) and causing this delay? My point is simply that he is not “special” when it comes to the security of the U.S. And if he was inconvenienced for an hour so be it. You might find this blog interesting: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/onefortheroad/entry/don-t-make-a-big. Of course, I think I was insulted in that blog being a firangi 😉 And my point is that other stories were certainly more newsworthy on that day. There are greater injustices going on in the world.

      • Jasmeet permalink
        August 18, 2009 5:01 pm

        “You might find this blog interesting: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/onefortheroad/entry/don-t-make-a-big. Of course, I think I was insulted in that blog being a firangi”…
        Who said it’s wrong? It’s true! It’s a poke not on foreigners but on Indians who let them in with a butt revealing hot pants or even with pyjama pants but would shrug on Indian who wear Indian clothes to a nightclub. It’s how we subdue our own culture and people! He’s damn right!

  19. inthecrapper permalink
    August 16, 2009 1:57 pm

    Holy crapola, thats a long post. My apologies. I’ll leave now.

  20. inthecrapper permalink
    August 16, 2009 1:56 pm

    @ar2w:

    Although I agree with many of the issues raised here, there are a couple of things I’d like to point out. (It would be nice if I could back this up with the links and data that I am drawing this from, but I am a lazy fart and it is the sunday morning of a very hectic work week. I am not Jewish, but I believe the sabbath ought to be holy – read spent being lazy). Anyways, on to the points:

    1.) To quote from above:

    Exhibit A:
    > SRK is a famous Bollywood actor – apparently very famous – who decided to
    > celebrate India’s Independence Day in Chicago – yes, the Chicago that is in
    > the United States.

    Exhibit B:
    > And most importantly, why aren’t Indians upset that he chose to spend INDIA’s
    > Independence Day in the U.S.? It would be like me going to Switzerland to celebrate
    > the Fourth of July.

    Exhibit C:
    > But, if SRK does not want that scrutiny maybe he should celebrate India’s Independence
    > in India next year where he can be recognized as the famous person he apparently is.

    As you see from the quotes above, what I am hinting at, is the theme of SRK celebrating India’s Independence somewhere outside India. If I am not mistaken (and I could be wrong here) – he was probably invited by the organizers of the ‘Independence day celebrations committee in Chicago’ (if ever there was one) – for a plethora of reasons – being said famous actor, not being the least of them. This is not uncommon – I believe Shilpa Shetty(a Bolly actress *yawn*) was invited to be the grand marshall (or some such) at this years parade in NYC (again on the occasion of the Indian Independence day). It is not uncommon for famous people(read actors/politicians and the like) to get invited to places (American or otherwise) with sizeable Indian diaspora to celebrate Indian holidays. This works both ways – for the Indian community in these places and for the actors. And given that Khan has a movie coming out soon (which is set in America and such), it probably added some promotional/financial incentive for him(and/or movie makers) as well.

    Even if these things were not the case – Khan, or anyone else for that matter is, in my most-humble opinion, more than free to celebrate Indian Independence in India or Antarctica, if they so choose to do so.

    2.)

    > And isn’t it lovely that Americans in Chicago were holding a parade to honor
    > India’s Independence? I think it kind of is. Very lovely. How did that little
    > nugget of peace, love, and international bonding get lost in the reporting?

    I highly doubt that this is the case. And I am theorizing here (so I could be completely wrong and open to being corrected), but a little digging around should be able to verify this (however as noted above *cough* lazy *cough* fart *cough*):

    This event was in all likelihood organized by the Indian diaspora in Chicago, which does have a sizeable one (and to quote from above “As far as I know there is not a Chicago in India.” – maybe not, but there are Indians in Chicago. Interestingly there are several Delhi’s in the USA – I digress again. *sigh*). My guess would be that this was probably not an event organized by Chicagoans for their Indian brethren (at best maybe with Indian American involvement – which is great) and rather removed from the image of an event bringing international bonding/bonhomie/peace/love that you & I wish it would be.

    3.)

    > Part of the outcry is that he is quoted as saying that he might have been stopped because
    > of his last name – Khan and that he is Muslim.

    This does happen alarmingly frequently in a post-2001 America and does have brown/Muslim/brown Muslim people on edge every time they have to catch a flight to somewhere else. It’s sometimes referred to as flying-while-brown(or fwb – goes with driving-while-black) I believe – it was customs here, but in the past it has been anything from the TSA to the FBI and every other governmental agency in between acting in the interest of “keeping America safe” – which is a goal I totally understand/relate to and support. But that does not make these incidents any less harrowing or not worth documenting/discussing/debating/talking about.

    > I am sure you can find many, many Muslims *and/or brown people* who traveled into
    > the U.S. yesterday who were not detained.

    ** – everything in between added by me.

    I doubt that, this nugget is far from comforting to the many folks/families who were/are in fact detained on unreasonable grounds and have far less resources than say, an SRK or an Aamir Khan would. There have been several cases in the past with documented abuses of power/illegal detention/and the like – again some digging around will lead you to the news articles/blogs/et al.

    > I am sad that Indians are upset with Americans over this.

    Not really!! We still love ya crazy Americans – a random (albeit famous and IMHO turdlicious and rather hammy) actor being stopped at some airport is hardly going to dent that.

    • August 16, 2009 10:07 pm

      my goodness – welcome “inthecrapper” – I promised myself a walk this morning – so I will come back to this a little later

      Ok – I am back – yes, I agree – he can celebrate Independence Day anywhere he likes – but isn’t lovely that America offered him an opportunity to celebrate in the U.S.? That is my point. I am sure there is a long list of countries who did not have such celebrations. And it does not matter one bit who organized it – it was organized – and it must have been quite a celebration to capture SRK’s attention. And yes, the American immigration system is not perfect. And yes, it deserves scrutiny. There will certainly be mistakes. When I am home, I get very nervous when I am driving on the highway and see a police man – I automatically slow down – then I check to see whether or not I was actually speeding – it’s a gut reaction – but it does not mean that policemen shouldn’t stop people from speeding just because it makes me uncomfortable to see them on the road. I am sure there are more people not stopped than stopped. I have been on a few international flights now and see many people of all skin tones waiting in the same Customs and Immigration lines I am in – they move on to baggage claim right along with me. I just don’t want to see the story overblown because a famous person got stopped. My point is that he does not deserve special treatment. I am glad to hear there might be some love left for Americans.

  21. August 16, 2009 1:02 pm

    I totally agree. Actors are people like the rest of us and should not be given any special treatment. Nor should their words hold any special weight over anyone’s words. The media takes everything out of perspective to sell itself. Come on people, grow up!

    • August 16, 2009 10:06 pm

      ahhhhh – a friendly face – yes indeed some growing up would be good. 😎

  22. Dylan permalink
    August 16, 2009 11:59 am

    How anyone can compare a prison sentence in North Korea to being delayed for an hour in immigration in New Jersey… is beyond me.

    I would like to add that country borders are long and do not have signs posted every half kilometer where exactly the line is. It would benefit the dialogue if people didn’t assume so much and then have strong opinions.

    • August 16, 2009 10:05 pm

      I don’t think that comparison was being made – just the point that if you enter another country you are subject to its laws.

  23. August 16, 2009 11:42 am

    I m not a SRK fan and it does not bother me at all that he was detained.. if there are rules then it shld be followed…but its not a hidden fact that racial profiling do take place where each Muslim is a suspect and if the author wants to deny this then very well… also in India a guest is treated on par with God.. thats the culture we embed from our society…and it is very well to criticize the media and public but it is america’s own doing…they treat themselves as super power and treat every one below them as nothing… Have american peope ever asked themselves why they are not liked world over.. I dont think they are bothered about this…
    It is a known fact that most people all over the globe don’t like Americans.. shouldn’t u guys we working on ur PR.. and in name of your security you guys have invaded 2 countries.. but India is dissuaded to do the same… and we have lost more people than u guys… double standards? american foreign policy is full of it.. and until Americans start acting less like big brother…u will have this kind of reactions .. all over the globe..

    • August 16, 2009 10:04 pm

      All Americans do not treat others like nothing – we are some of the most charitable people in the- he was quoted in Indian papers as saying it MIGHT have been because of his name – it’s good to remember that there are two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in between, usually left unrealized fully.

      • Jasmeet permalink
        August 20, 2009 3:36 pm

        Totally agreed thats what makes your country and society great 🙂

      • Jasmeet permalink
        August 21, 2009 4:51 am

        Hun, I’m sorry, even after astricising the I*lamabad’s, you got us dis-cussing politics here lol. Really sorry!

    • Jasmeet permalink
      August 21, 2009 4:49 am

      Karan, it’s my personal opinion but to be frank Americans is not responsible for our weak response to terrorism! Infact, my best guess is that American administration was mentally prepared to see India take a stern action after the Mumbai incident but it was us who failed to use it to our advantage, and now see how Pakistanis are making a mockery of our efforts – dossiers are returned by dossiers asking stupid pointless questions while making o headway to get the perpetrators of the Mumbai massacre – they are just passing time till its politically cools down in inside India. The clear evidence is that nothing practical is happening to stem out terrorism on our territory!

  24. August 16, 2009 9:52 am

    Swati – It makes me insane when the US media quotes a celebrity on some political matter – we all have opinions – and they are not experts just because they have a well-known face. A lot of them are easy on the eyes but very hard on the ears. It doesn’t sound like SRK’s “inconvenience” really wasn’t that great.

    Sharmishtha – I agree completely – when the Americans entered Korea, I have itty bitty suspicion that they knew what they were doing. I understand they probably thought their motives were pure – but sometimes you take a gamble and you do not win. I think you would find plenty of people who feel they were taking their chances and did not necessarily warrant a rescue – but they just weren’t concerned enough about it to voice their opinion. And any time I can NOT talk about Bill Clinton’s involvement in anything, I sign myself up. 😉 I am not as aware of the Burma or Iran issues – but Americans who accidentally hike into Iran uninvited – well, the light bulb might not be screwed in all the way. But I do not blame any country for coming to the aid of its citizens – citizens should be more careful not to put their countries in compromising positions.

  25. Sharmishtha permalink
    August 16, 2009 9:26 am

    This is a case of everyone being “half” right. India’s VIP culture runs into American bureaucracy and sense of panic after 9/11. Hopefully, SRK learned a lesson. But I think the American sense of “everyone should follow the rules” would be more acceptable if more Americans themselves followed the rules about entering other people’s countries. In just the last few months we have had huge media outcry about Americans being detained for entering North Korea (Bill Clinton just made a splashy intervention there), Burma (the detained man was just released today) and Iran (some Americans just happened to be “hiking” near the Iran-Iraq border, yeah, right – eyeroll). In none of these cases, did I hear a peep out of any American that it was a) wrong to try and enter another country without going through the proper procedures, i.e. following the rules and b) that every country has the same right as the US to secure itself against undocumented intrusions. Instead, we had a barrage of high-profile interventions to “rescue” these “victims” of high-handed regimes. Hmmmm….guess I have something to blog about.

  26. Swati permalink
    August 16, 2009 8:38 am

    I so agree with you. That is exactly what I have been uselessly arguing with people around me.

    1. U.S. as a sovereign nation has a right to protect it’s people. Especially after 9/11. In fact India should learn from U.S- after 26/11 bombings in India, there was hardly any security at any airport or railway stations.
    2. I hate the culture of VIP treatment for actors, etc. They are not above the law.
    3. SRK is making a big deal of a small issue, he is not the only person in the world who went through the exhaustive security process.

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