An Open Letter to Shahrukh Khan

Sumati Mehrishi, a journalist with The Pioneer, has written an open letter to Sharukh Khan, a noted actor and owner of an IPL team. The letter has been published in today’s edition of The Pioneer.

Shah Rukh Khan does not belong to cricket. He belongs to hockey, the game that he gave a boost to with his Chak de India. Hockey may not have the glamour or the money that IPL offers, but it’s India’s national game. Hockey needs SRK as much as he needs a break from cricket

Dear Mr SRK,

Hope you had a nice weekend. Your hankering for brawls and altercations has pleasantly kept you and the nation busy, and confused. No matter how increasingly gruff, gorgeous and resentful you have become over the last few years, you are an important person, a revered actor and a beloved celebrity. No matter how increasingly indignant and clueless we are feeling as citizens of this country, we have all the time to reflect on the sweet tantrums you throw inside the country and outside. We always will have the time. We can multi-task.

Your latest spat at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, where you got into a wrangle of words, a sequence of push and shove with a dutiful bunch of guards and officials, is a case of discounted dignity. It’s nice to smoke a cigarette. But, it’s a tad silly to burn your own fingers and shirt with it at the wrong place, especially a sports field. You don’t expect someone who has captained the hockey and the football team during his school and college days to be wasting temper in the most disgraceful manner, inside a cricket stadium.

Don’t get me wrong, but this kind of temper suits a hockey turf before the final hooter. With this hot head, you could become a worshipped custodian of the national sport. With this nerve rattling wrath you could help scare the wolves and villains (yes) languishing at hockey federations and associations. The fans would love you. And I would love you more. Read these lines and this open letter as a compliment.

I do understand the enormity of the Wankhede ‘crisis’, looking at the way India’s political figures of repute like Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah have given the unfortunate event their precious time and thoughts over the last few days. May be, you ask yourself, in a repeat of the punch line of a product you endorse, “Have I made it large?”

Ms Banerjee bats for the brand ambassador of her progressive State, Mr Pawar tries spinning a hushed gentle retake at the five-year ban slapped by the MCA on a man who is sort of a handsome money-ridden horse for the BCCI, and Mr Abdullah, in a typical polite and firm way, has suggested the global icon calms down. Yet, I feel, you haven’t (made it large). A woodenhead someone from the MCA has suggested in a statement to the media that you “do not understand the game”. Now that’s insulting!

Still, it looks like cricket is not where you belong. You belong to hockey — the national sport you showed little interest for during 2007 and concern for in 2010, when players in the disgruntled men’s squad had refused to perform at the World Cup held in the capital owing to pending dues and paltry payments. Unfortunately, today, your business sense does not even allow you to play the activist-cum-businessman — a role one of your rivals in the industry is playing on primetime quite convincingly, with tears and all that — aided by a team of committed research assistants and volunteers, not a team that guzzles down booze at after-parties worth a million and more.

Co-owner Shahrukh Khan with Juhi Chawla and her husband Jay Mehta at the launch of the new logo and marketing campaign for KKR in 2012

Your ferocious involvement in cricket and its money-fetching IPL format does not allow you to see the bigger, better, brighter picture of Indian hockey. You foolishly missed an opportunity (deliberately, may be) of owning a team in the recently concluded World Series Hockey, a league event on the lines of IPL. On the national front, the sport is being led to a long-term development plan aimed at a podium finish in 2016 and 2020 Olympics. And, this is what you could never sense back in 2007. After 2007, when your film, Chak De India, had made people notice the sport and you in a different light, you quietly stepped out from the scene in your KKR jersey.

No issues. But look back. You will realise that in the helter-skelter of cricket, the money and the madness that it brings, you have missed being part of a ferocious growth and a hope-ridden success story that Indian hockey is inching to become at the moment. Post the success at the Olympic qualifiers, corporate initiatives and timely felicitations from sponsors like Sahara have helped the players and the support-staff realise what they mean to the country. The result is beautiful. The players have gained confidence. Things are looking good. And dude, the money is rolling in, even if slowly.

Be a man first, a ‘gentleman’ later. Come back to hockey. If not as a brand ambassador, then may be as a businessman. If not as a business man, return as the ‘icon’ or the ‘activist’. If not as an ‘activist’, then like the simple Shah Rukh who would move stick with friends like former coach Harendra Singh during the days in Delhi. Forget Wankhede. Connect with the Major Dhyanchand Stadium spiritually. It will help you play the much awaited coveted role of the hockey legend in a deeper sense.

As for me, I am no Khan. Allow me to quote from the Quran: “Soon will your Lord give you so much you shall be well pleased…. Did He not find you poor and make you rich?”(93:4).

In the true KKR spirit, Karbo, larbo, jeetbo, with the self over hockey, SRK.

With best regards,

Sumati Mehrishi

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