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07-06-2009, 06:45 PM #1
'Khan' name comes with a baggage - Kabir Khan
Kabir Khan may have just delivered a thought-provoking hit, New York, on terrorism, but that doesn’t guarantee him from becoming the target of bigotry. The name ‘Khan’ carries much baggage with it, as he discovered recently when he went to the passport office. He had wanted to join his wife Mini Mathur in Malaysia for a holiday.
“How could a Khan be married to a Mathur?” they asked Kabir at the passport office. The director says, “It’s hard to believe that in this day and age, I am asked why my wife’s name is Mathur, when mine is Khan. Mini’s anchoring a reality show in the Malaysian jungles and I wanted to join her. But at the passport office they say, ‘How can your wife have a different name and that too from another community?’ I’m used to it. But it’s still shocking to know that such a mindset exists in supposedly cosmopolitan Mumbai.”
Though Khan managed to get his work done, it left him in an introspective mood. “On a subjective level, I don’t mind the questions. They don’t take away from my identity. Even today we get invitations for ‘Mr & Mrs Mini Mathur’. I don’t mind being known as Kabir Mathur. But the point is that I’m questioned for being a ‘Khan’, and that’s not easy to live with,” he muses.
Kabir feels the ‘Khan’ name does create travel problems for him. “But I honestly think a part of the global fear is justified. We can’t blame people for being paranoid after what has happened.”
For the first time, Kabir reveals the trauma he faced in the US after 9/11. The naked horror seen in New York of being incarcerated and tortured for being a terrorist suspect was not engendered by news reports alone.
Recalls Kabir, “I was accompanying my wife to the US with the Morani brothers. We were flying from LA to Washington just 15 days after 9/11. So the fear and paranoia was not unjustified. We were waiting for take off and talking to each other in Hindi when some passengers complained that we were talking in a ‘strange’ language. Within no time, two burly FBI agents came on board and took me and my co-passengers to the front of the plane. When they learnt my name, they questioned me for over two hours, googled my name for terrorist links and then finally allowed me to fly. They asked me if I had been to Pakistan. I said ‘no’. If I had told them I had been to Afganistan, they’d have freaked out.”
But the story didn’t end there. He says, “Two other passengers on board refused to fly with us. So they were asked to deplane, the logic being that if my name was cleared, by no means could I be prevented from traveling. So you see, post-9/11, persecution comes with its inbuilt safety measures.”