Author : Shubha Shetty-Saha
He’s the son of a freedom fighter, a self-made man, highly secular and hugely successful…Shah Rukh Khan is arguably the perfect icon for the children of Free India
‘My dad, the freedom fighter’
My father passed away when I was 15. Before that, dad used to take me to meet a lot of freedom fighters who used to gather every weekend. These meetings had the likes of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and they used to discuss that era in such detail that it is all embedded in my memory. They would meet at places like Karol Bagh, Jama Masjid, drink kawa and chat. Dad used to talk to me like a friend and tell me about their freedom struggle - the time they spent in the jail, about partition and a whole lot of things.
I keep those memories close to my heart like a treasure. The children post my generation, like my own children, would be unfortunately completely out of touch. The best thing my dad taught me is never to dislike anyone. He not even once demeaned the status of the British, but at the same time he had absolute high regard for people like Subhash Chandra Bose and others. Dad would read out poems and explain it to me since I didn’t know Urdu. He just wanted me to be a part of that history, and thanks to him, I am.
‘Secularism is in your upbringing’
Secularism is something you learn at home. I was made to read the Koran at home. I learnt about Christianity in school. I was brought up in a Punjabi locality, literally brought up by the Aroras, Diwans and Chabras. I have all the practical knowledge about Hindu festivals. I married Gauri, a Hindu girl. I have had an absolutely normal childhood since children don’t believe in any religion. My parents were naturally secular. Today, I like to read to my kids about Prophet Mohammad, Ramayana and stories of Christianity.
‘I cannot afford to crib about India’
I like everything about India. I like the bad roads, pot holes, uncontrollable rains, corruption in places, the bad traffic…I like all that India offers. I am glad that India, unlike some foreign countries, is not mechanised. I am glad there is sadness and poverty in this country, which makes me understand how humane we are and how plastic some other countries are. I love coming to India from wherever I am. Dad used to say that lets be proud of what you have, because we make our own cars, ambassadors at that time, while lot many developed countries export cars.
I love being rooted to reality. At the end of the day, neither you nor I have had a rich lifestyle and most of us come from a lower middle class. I love the fact that that India is still so pure that we still get excited by smallest of things. Big cars and big homes don’t turn me on; I still get turned on by small pleasures like meeting friends and having a cosy dinner with them. Just the other day, some friends got together impromptu to celebrate the success of ‘Chak De’. It was so much better than a big impersonal party.
‘All we need is education’
We need educated youngsters who believe in the winning mantra. When I was much younger, I trained for parachute jumping for my television serial ‘Fauji’. I had to jump across ten feet, but my trainer would say learn to jump 80 feet, only then you will be able to manage 15 feet. So, we all need to aim higher and for that, education is a must. Not all of us will get ready made opportunities, but we need to aim for the best. There is no harm in being materialistic. For one to lead a comfortable life, one has to be materialistic and aim for success. I truly believe in winning at all costs except dishonesty.
(As told to Shubha Shetty-Saha)
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