ENTERTAINMENT

Tagore, Taimur And Twitter: Another Attempt At Hindu-Muslim Polarization

Who are we kidding?

21/12/2016 3:39 PM IST | Updated 21/12/2016 4:32 PM IST
Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters
Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan (R) arrives with actress Kareena Kapoor on the green carpet for the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards in Colombo June 5, 2010.

Poor Karan Johar. This has not been a good year for him.

First came the Ae Dil Hai Mushkil storm about Fawad Khan and the fine/donation the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena tried to extort from him. Then we got a Supreme Court ruling that mandated every movie theatre play the national anthem thanks to a cranky retired engineer from the Central Warehousing Corporation who was upset by KJo's use of Jana Gana Mana in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.

And now his delighted tweet announcing to the world "My Bebo has a baby boy!!!!!!! Am so happy!!!!!!! #TaimurAliKhan" helped bring more brickbats than blessings on the newborn.

As Twitter raged about the "jihadi mindset" of the Pataudis in naming their scion after a plunderer who ransacked Delhi and whose military campaigns supposedly killed almost 5 percent of the world's population, others lamented that we had gone from Tagore to Taimur.

Actually we have gone from Tagore to Twitter.

It shows, if nothing else, the abysmal depths of our celebrity culture, where we worship at their altar, lap up every baby bump of news (please Google "Kareena baby bump") and then turn on the same celebrities with wanton viciousness just because we can.

This was a controversy spawned by a tweet, a furore tailor-made for a Twitter age, fanned by angry Twitterati. Are Saifeena so important that the name of their child, historically sensitive or insensitive, is any of our concern? Why do we even care? Why is #TaimurAliKhan even a hashtag?

It shows, if nothing else, the abysmal depths of our celebrity culture, where we worship at their altar, lap up every baby bump of news (please Google "Kareena baby bump") and then turn on the same celebrities with wanton viciousness just because we can. And celebrities play the same game back, teasing the public with crumbs, tweeting about baby names as if it's news and then reacting with high dudgeon if the tide turns against them.

What next? A somber Saif Ali Khan in a black achkhan posting an explanatory video as Karan Johar was forced to do, to get Ae Dil Hai Mushkil into theatres?

And where do we go from here? Should names be selected by online polls? Should there be a name certification board just like a censor certification board so that they pass the anti-national/national test? Once Communist leaders in Bengal told their followers not to name their daughters Mamata. Should a chit fund scam named Saradha permanently make off-limits the name that belonged to Sri Ramakrishna's spiritual companion?

For those who worry that a name like Taimur will saddle the poor child with terrible baggage in India, relax. Taimur Ali Khan Pataudi belongs to what we call the creamy layer. He could be called Tyrannosaurus Rex and it won't matter.

It does not mean Taimur is the greatest choice or that it's not offensive to many but it's their choice. It's not a choice many others would have made but that's not their concern. Leave aside the Hindu-Muslim bit but my grandmother would not have named anyone Taimur in our family.

She had a lot of rules about names. No flowers because flowers die in vases (and she herself was named after one). No names shared by relatives or relatives of relatives she disliked. No names with too many compound letters that a child would not be able to write in first grade Bengali. It would not have mattered if Taimur meant iron or gold, to her his most celebrated namesake would be an infamous invader, and a lame one at that, and that would have just been a no-go. My grandmother did not care for political correctness.

But my grandmother is not Taimur Ali Khan Pataudi's grandmother. And what she thought is of no consequence to that family.

For those who worry that a name like Taimur will saddle the poor child with terrible baggage in India, relax. Taimur Ali Khan Pataudi belongs to what we call the creamy layer. He could be called Tyrannosaurus Rex and it won't matter. Taimur might well become Tim in his tony school. In these elite circles, your name does not matter, your bloodline does. The DMK's Stalin is doing quite well, thank you very much, even though history has not been kind to Stalin's reputation.

And who are we kidding? This is just another attempt to prod some Hindu-Muslim polarization. Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan's inter-religious relationship still sticks in the craw of many. "They're celebrities, he's named his child after a Muslim conqueror and they're easy to pick on given there won't be any reprisal," writes Arun George in Scoopwhoop dubbing the Twitter outrage as bigotry, plain and simple.

And it might indeed be wrong in my book. But more and more these days, we want our own rulebook to apply to everyone else.

"This has a deeper undertone, one that says that naming your child after an ancient Muslim ruler, especially one who may have been a brutal one, is wrong."

And it might indeed be wrong in my book. But more and more these days, we want our own rulebook to apply to everyone else. That's why someone who does not stand for the national anthem at a movie theatre gets physically assaulted.

I did a little experiment on Facebook today.

I checked to see how many people were named Nathuram. I found a Nathuram Biswas, a Nathuram Paul, a Nathuram Choudhary, a Nathuram Modak just to mention a few.

I wonder if all their parents were naming their sons as a tribute to the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, or because they liked the name Naturam, servant of the Lord.

More importantly why do the rest of us care?

The Nathurams, Adolfs, Stalins and Taimurs will in the end need to make their own mark in the world, unencumbered by the history embedded in their names. They will need to carve out their own lives. As for the rest of us, agitated about someone else's baby's name, we just need to get a life.

More On This Topic

SPONSORED BY &PRIVÉ HD