I thought it might be nice to write a little personal essay story, I haven’t really written that kind of story for him yet this year.
Shahrukh has been my talisman this past year. Not the person, but the concept, if that makes sense. When I first left home and was trying to find myself in college, I found Shahrukh. Shared fandom, shared movies, that was how I made friends. Putting up his pictures was how I defined my own personal space in my dorm room. And getting a little framed photo of him as a joke from my parents that Christmas was a small acknowledgement that I had grown away from them and had my own identity now. I graduated college, lost all my friends, lost my dorm room, lost everything, but I still had Shahrukh. I put his photos up all over my first apartment, I still went to see his movies opening day. And then I found new friends and introduced them to Shahrukh Khan movies, made a game of “see if you can find every photo of Shahrukh in my apartment”. I built up this whole wonderful community about myself, and Shahrukh wasn’t the reason for it exactly, but he was the symbol of it.
That community had been weakening for a while before COVID. That group of friends grew up and apart a bit. But I still had something, I still had the few close friends I saw on a regular basis, and all my lovely new blog friends. And then all of a sudden it all went away and I began to lose track a bit of who I was in the world.
My Mom is always encouraging me to go out and interact with people when I feel down, because she describes it as “bumping up against other people helps you figure out who you are”. And she’s right, being all alone in a room your edges get blurry, you lose track of what makes you, you. But when you go out with other people, you can find your outline again, define yourself against what you AREN’T.
That wasn’t an option during COVID. The only people I saw, for weeks, were my parents. We merged into one cozy 3 person blob, which was warm and safe but not healthy. During that time, to remind myself of who I am on my own, I clung to the blog, and I clung to Shahrukh. I brought that little framed photo with me when I moved in to the room at my parents, and looking at it reminded me of all the things I had done in life that were my own, just me.
Once virtual groups started up, I started Zooming with my Shahrukh standee behind me. It was a little thing I acknowledged every time a video call started. It was a way of saying “here I am, this is me, this is what makes me special and unusual and Myself”. I didn’t say all of that of course, I’d just say “Hi, I’m Margaret, and this is Shahrukh Khan behind me. Sorry, he always shows up in Zoom calls”. But inside of myself it helped me feel like yes, I was still Margaret, I am still being present in the discussion even if I am not physically present.
So I want to say “thank you” to Shahrukh right now, for making his image available to me. For letting himself be turned into a symbol for myself and billions of others, a symbol of who WE are, not who HE is.