Aryan Khan, the ‘Poor Kid” syndrome  

In Aryan case, the focus is less on the crime, in case it was committed, and more on the trauma of seeing a child languishing in jail. However, there are objective voices too who feel that the law must take its course.

Whether one is 23 or 46 years of age, for a parent, an offspring will always remain a kid. Therefore, a parent’s anguish in adversity is neither misplaced nor unexpected. If anything, it is a natural progression, particularly if the consequence is as serious as being thrown in jail.

So also, in the case of Bollywood’s star couple Shahrukh and Gauri Khan and their eldest son Aryan.

That Aryan was sent to judicial custody is big news. Short of hitting headlines on a daily basis, it is top of the mind for most. Each time there is a development, be it bail or any other, newshounds go berserk; fans wait with bated breath and netizens kind of break the internet.

Amid all this, is the anguish of the Khans: the 23-year-old accused Aryan and his celebrity parents Shahrukh and Gauri.

In one single stroke, their dream life came to a standstill at the unexpected turn of events that have haunted the family since October 2, this year. Aryan was formally arrested the following day.

When Aryan left home to go on a cruise, neither he nor his family knew what was in store. The National Narcotics Bureau, popular as the NCB, swooped and seized a haul of drugs and detained over half a dozen people including Aryan.

By the agency’s own admission, there were no drugs found on Aryan, even though his friends were in possession of the contraband. The sleuths, however, claim to have recovered “incriminating material” from his phone as also his alleged confession of consuming drugs in past years.

Opinion is divided on whether the NCB has overstretched itself or kept to its brief. Some are crying foul on the grounds that because Aryan’s father Shahrukh is a celebrity, the “poor kid” is being targeted.

There are also insinuations about his being a Muslim and hence the BJP gunning for him. For the record, Shahrukh’s wife Gauri, also one who enjoys an independent celebrity status, is a Hindu.

Political overtones are contributed by likes of state minister Nawab Malik who has alleged that the NCB is targeting cine stars for “publicity” and that the case against Aryan Khan is fake. For the record yet again: Malik’s son-in-law was arrested earlier this year by the NCB: hence the angst.

On the other hand, there are objective voices who feel that the law must take its course and no one should prejudge investigation or jump the gun like Malik has done. More importantly, celebrity kids and their parents need to be “more correct” than others because of their being role models lest the “if they can do it why not we” syndrome sets in.

There are three aspects to this case: emotional; legal and political.

On the first almost everyone would be, and perhaps should be, on the same page about parents being torn apart on a child’s suffering, irrespective of whether he is guilty or not.

Here the focus is less on the crime, in case it was committed, and more on the trauma of seeing a child languishing in jail. Hence the desperate and justifiable effort to see him out as soon as possible. And for this any parent would give his right arm and a privileged one like Shahrukh, move heaven and earth.

Yet Destiny has its own ways. This time around it has shown how powerless even the most powerful can be. The Khans who have the world at their feet and Aryan who had everything for the asking, are today knocking doors that seem firmly shut.

Shahrukh Khan’s overreach has often exceeded his limited talent. The “King” prefix is rather presumptuous if not self-laudatory. But then, Time, they say, is the great leveler. Remember Ozymandias, “King of Kings”?

Emotion apart, there is a law and with it comes logic. Those who are bemoaning the poor rich boy’s custody seem to forget that the law has its own pace and reasons.

Then there are those that are casting aspersions on the NCB. They need to hang their head in shame because an investigative agency’s mandate must be respected. If the NCB has exceeded its brief then the courts are there to intervene and take stock of wrong-doing if any. There is no need for judges outside the Court.

As of now, the NCB is working on building a water-tight case and connecting the dots to nab the big fish. As things have panned out, Aryan Khan is allegedly that link to the bigger network at play.

Having said that, this does not in any way indicate that he is part of a drug nexus. Neither is he completely absolved as of now. His case hangs in balance and for anyone to rush into a verdict would be jumping the gun, like politician and state minister Nawab Malik.

Equally, to write-off the NCB as publicity hounds is a commentary on those who have contempt for anyone who dares to touch the heroes: in this case Bollywood.

At this point, we should stop and ask ourselves whether these self-styled demi-gods of Bollywood are above the law? Touch them and there is a hue and cry even while turning a blind eye to hundreds and thousands of those languishing in jails whose cases have not come up in months.  In the case of Khan, a battery of the best lawyers in the country are representing him.

In any case, decrying the NCB for Aryan’s prolonged custody is somewhat misplaced because granting or refusing bail is a function of the Court. Add to this, the fact that if bail was initially refused after intense and long arguments by both sides, the special NDPC courts may have had good reasons to do so.

One must concede that the NCB has had the gumption to summon big names from Deepika Padukone down the line and substantiate that the law is equal for all. By doing so, it has also come out of its oblivion: from being hardly known to being a household name now. If this is what critics call publicity, then it is not only welcome but also long overdue. However, it must take the cases, Aryan’s or any other, to their logical conclusion lest this hullabaloo turns a damp squib.

As of now, the NCB is caught in a cauldron: a damned if you do and damned if you don’t kind of a situation. If it acts, it is targeted and if it doesn’t it is written off as an agency that is inert and dormant. Having said that, since the past one year, it has emerged as one that stands to be counted.

In a country like ours where one is always accusing custodians of law for dereliction of duty, this is time to salute those in uniform for not only doing their job but doing it well and fearlessly in the face of personal allegations. There are instances of NCB’s Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede being accused of extortion.

That apart, one must debunk politician Mehbooba Mufti’s religion theory. Even the suggestion that Khan is suffering because of his surname, is not worth a thought. Aryan Khan’s alleged crime goes beyond religion. To use that card is a desperate attempt to derail free and fair investigation.

However, to be fair none of this has been said or insinuated by either Shahrukh, Gauri or Aryan Khan. It is their loyalists at work. Whether they are acting on a cue or on their own is debatable.  But their enthusiasm in pre-judging on-going investigations may do more harm than good.

At another level, this case has a strong message for millennials. An Aryan Khan in jail can send shivers down their spine. Aryan Khan’s unfortunate example is enough to tell young men and women that if it can happen to the likes of Aryan Khan then it can happen to them too.

Harsh as it may sound, had Aryan got bail in the first instance the messaging would not have been as strong as it was, in his extended stay in jail. It is the counting of each day that has added to anxiety and fear put together.

As for Aryan these trying days and weeks that he has slept on the floor, used an open toilet and dunked biscuits in water for food are lessons, though bitter and unfortunate but ones that will inject a never again sentiment in him. In this sense, a jail could work as a corrective. It would also bust the myth of a protective layer because of the celebrity status of a parent.

While on millennials one question that should be asked is how young is 23? There is an outpouring for the “poor kid” but at 23 is one really a kid? In a country where one gets to vote at 18 and some even support families, the definitions need to be reworked.

Even though one’s heart goes out less to him and more to the distraught parents, this clamor of sympathy is completely misplaced.  There is and cannot be any excuse for foolhardiness and irresponsibility. Neither can one justify any attempt to brand an adult as a kid. On that there can be no compromise.

Like there cannot be, on the dirty world of Bollywood where rave parties and drug consumption are a norm.

On this count, the NCB must be commended for showing a mirror to an industry which went about with a who can touch me swagger. (ends)