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Dear Aryan – An Open Letter From Shobhaa De

Dear Aryan,

Relax! This is not going to be a preachy ‘Aunty letter’ telling you to behave yourself in future, vaghera. You have several well-meaning relatives and friends around you to do just that. Why add to the sermons and noise? This open letter is being written to tell you just one thing and one thing alone: You are not alone. And you are not any kid. You are not even just another star kid. You, my dear Aryan, are the son of Shah Rukh Khan. That carries a lot of weight. And that also makes it a whole different ball game with countless implications and subtexts. Context is everything.

Shah Rukh Khan isn’t one more mega star in Bollywood. He is his own firmament. This is the reality. And with this reality comes baggage. It is what you have known from the time you were born. But perhaps, this is the first time that the full import of this unique father-son relationship has been thrust on you under extreme circumstances. Twenty-five days spent in an Indian jail are enough to shake off any illusions of privilege and pampering you may have nurtured during your twenty-three years being the son of Gauri and SRK. Till the arrest happened, it was the only life you knew.

But here’s the thing about doing time. In a strange and perverse way, being behind bars often serves a bigger purpose: you are forced to deal with your ghastly and very scary situation all by yourself, virtually in isolation. You have no choice but to face your fears and deal with them – solo! Minus the support systems and comforts you have taken for granted all your young life. Did that happen to you, Aryan? Maybe not on the first day (you looked dazed and shell-shocked like A stricken deer), not even during the first week, but later, when the period inside a cramped cell with zero comforts kept getting extended, and you had no idea when you’d get out or what your future held. What were your thoughts during this critical time? Did you weep uncontrollably, unashamedly? I hope so. Society feeds us on nonsense like “Real men don’t cry. They toughen up and carry on…” It is such a bogus and hollow expectation. You must have been terrified! Your eyes said everything! Anybody would be terrified inside such cold, intimidating places – first the relentless questioning at the NCB headquarters’ and then after you were thrown into Mumbai’s notorious Arthur Road Jail.

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I am sure you met other prisoners in that barrack. Anonymous young men waiting for their cases to be heard. So many of them have been languishing in jail for years, without money or anybody to represent them. You must have listened to their stories, and they, yours. Something inside you would have been deeply affected, being the sensitive young man you are. These under-represented men are often referred to as “hardened criminals”, as you also were. There were serious charges filed against you and you must have felt defeated, depressed and despondent – just like them. Except that you lived with hope. Huge difference. You lived with the assurance that your wealthy, famous and powerful father would move heaven, earth and the entire cosmos to get you out as fast as possible. Which he did! He hired the best of the best in the legal world to fight for you. Those others have no such hope. They may grow into middle age waiting for their cases to be heard! Some of them may even die inside the jail, their bodies and spirits broken by an unfair legal system inherited from the British. A system so rotten, corrupt and antiquated, it is shameful that India in 2021 is still carrying on with draconian laws and government agencies like the NCB, which function extra-constitutionally and have been allowed to become laws unto themselves.

You are fortunate, indeed, and blessed to be born as Shah Rukh Khan’s son. This was not just your battle, but his! You were not the one on trial – your father was. People were not judging just you, they were judging King Khan – the legend and icon. Just as you were physically alone in that cell to confront your demons, so was your father – alone – to fight for you and justice. Yes, it must have been hurtful for him as much as for you to face nasty accusations and deal with so much hate. To make matters worse, nobody of any consequence from the vast film fraternity SRK belongs to came out publicly in your support during those dark hours following your arrest. But today, thousands will express their love for you and the family now that bail has been granted and you’ll be back at home in time to celebrate Diwali and your dad’s 56th birthday on November 2. 

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This is just a thought: maybe your trauma inside prison will push you to create better awareness about the warped legal process that forgets basic human rights’ issues when it throws thousands of innocents into prisons across India and conveniently overlooks them. You have the power, voice and reach to start a meaningful campaign on behalf of those who live without a chance of getting justice. You at least will get a hearing – and then the courts will decide. Do think about all those whose precious years are spent behind bars for crimes they may or may not have committed. If you undertake this important mission, that will be your legacy, Aryan Khan. Your father already has his in place.

In peace…and with love,

Shobhaa De

(Shobhaa De is an established writer, columnist, opinion shaper and social commentator, who is considered an authority on popular culture.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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