Unfazed by his detention at a New York airport by US immigration authorities for a couple of hours, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, joked about the incident later at Yale University, where he was honoured as a Chubb Fellow.
Khan, who has millions of fans in India and around the world, was detained at New York’s White Plains airport, about 35 miles from New York, when he arrived Thursday on a private plane along with Nita Ambani, wife of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani.
While Ambani, whose student daughter Isha is president of the South Asian Society at the university, and the rest of their group were cleared immediately, Khan was allowed to go only after his hosts intervened and took up the issue with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, according to sources.
Later talking to students, Khan, dressed in a chic black suit thanked Ambani for getting him to the US after a long flight. Then he was “detained at the airport as always”, said Khan adding with a smile, “It was nice, as it always happens.”
“Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America. The immigration guys kicked the star out of stardom,” he said.
But he always has his “small victories” even in such circumstances, said Khan, who was detained at New York’s Newark International airport in August 2009 too when he arrived to take part in an Independence Day event in Chicago.
“They (immigration officials) always ask me how tall I am and I always lie and say 5 feet 10 inches. Next time I am going to get more adventurous. (If they ask me) What colour are you, I am going to say white,” he said.
However, he made no mention of the incident during a press conference or his lecture to a capacity crowd as he spoke to them about success and failure and how to live life to the fullest.
Encouraging young people to find fulfillment in creativity, to learn to laugh at themselves and to never become cynical about their lives, he said: “Failure is a fiendish friend that can lead to success by teaching one to be pragmatic, to work harder, and to be true to oneself.”
But sources said Khan’s detention at White Plains airport had caused “tense” moments for Khan and his team as they were “struggling” to get the situation sorted out.
Later, after the intervention by the Indian consulate here, the US Customs and Border Protection authorities expressed “profound” apology in a letter to the mission.
Khan’s name was “flagged” in the system and airport people needed approval of ‘senior’ authorities to clear him, it clarified.