We live in strange times. As the #Metoo movement gains strength, and women emancipation steps into 5th gear, we feel at times that we take one step ahead and 2 steps in reverse. The recent AR Rahman fiasco gives credence to this reality.
Here’s the thing. Why do we, as remote social media users feel we have a right to pass judgment on what people choose to wear or not to wear? AR Rahman is someone close to a national treasure in India. But as they say in our countries, both India and Pakistan, when we choose to love, we tend to squeeze the life out of the people we love. We place them on a pedestal and expect every cell inside their bodies to match up to our expectations and exceed them.
If a man who is being honoured for his music, has his daughter come up on stage to celebrate his accomplishments, she must rise to the expectations of the crowd; to look and appear modern, both outwards and inwards. She must speak the right words, with the right intonations, think the right thoughts AND … she has to wear the right clothes! God forbid, if she were to get any of these wrong, she will have to bear the wrath of the internet audience who is waiting to catch that ONE slip up, the ONE mistake that might end up ruining the entire evening. Wait a minute, what were we celebrating again?
The Slumdog Millionaire celebration was organized to acknowledge the contribution of AR Rahman to the music industry of India, but it turned into an internet trolling fiasco with accusations flying off into cyberspace about a girl no one knows much about, except that she stepped up to speak good of her father (wearing a niqab).
Can you imagine what kind of courage it takes to walk up on stage clad in full niqab in front of an audience that is dressed to impress, so she can speak to them about her father? I would love to know what was running through her mind when she walked up those steps. Was it: “Will I be able to do justice to my father’s work and find the right words to celebrate him?” – “Will I be able to provide a personal perspective to the man who is known for his work and tell them that he is not only a great musician but also a great father?”
Or, was she thinking – “Is it okay for me to do this because others might not be able to see past my attire? Will I be trolled after this stage appearance and will my father be asked if he made me take on the niqaab? Will I have to go on social media and answer all those people who celebrated my father’s music, that he is NOT oppressing me in anyway. That the freedom to choose is mine, and I am not coerced into wearing a niqab?
The internet turned viral yet again, this time, to censure the music maestro on oppressing his daughter and making her wear a niqab. And A.R. Rahman replied to social media trolls to answer the criticism over his daughter’s wardrobe choices:
“These people who said such [negative] things are good people. Sometimes, they are over-concerned. They feel AR Rahman is a part of their family, so why is he doing this or that, so such reactions come from a sense of over-protection.”
Perhaps this incident makes us realize that the man behind the music is also an exemplary father. As he went on to explain about his daughters (There was a silent message for the trolls):
“I’ve let them be. They aren’t new to whatever happens around them because of whoever I am. Initially they’d get a little intimidated but now they’re used to it. I make sure they travel the world and learn things from everywhere. They understand everyone has their own journey. They are mature about what they post [on social media] … They make their own choices.”
As we close the chapter on yet another example of why we need to think before we judge, some food for thought: If Khatija Rahman had appeared on stage wearing a Tarun Tahiliani, Nomi Ansari OR, a Deepak Perwani, what would the trolls have said then? I think Tarun would have been the safest bet, what do you think?
About Shazia Habib
Shazia likes to pen her thoughts when she feels passionately about a life experience, a person or an event. She is mother to 3 lively boys and along with her husband, attempts to settle in her new country by taking German lessons so she is able to soak in the culture, language and spirit of the region. "Wake up in the morning, take a deep breath and exhale! Keep on living with a passion that inspires others! "