India yesterday (Feb. 6) bid adieu to her favourite singer Lata Mangeshkar. But moments before her body was consigned to flames in Mumbai, another of the country’s favourites created an iconic moment that, in its simplicity and sincerity, left most of the country overwhelmed.
In a farewell gesture to the legend, Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan stepped up the platform on which the legendary singer’s body was placed for cremation at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park ground yesterday evening.
Clad in white, the movie star then took a few moments, raised his arms together to say a dua (Islamic prayer), bowed a little, and, after lowering his mask, gently blew air over the body.
His loving act, framed by the approaching dusk, was made all the more poignant by the presence of his manager Pooja Dadlani alongside him, praying with folded hands as is customary in Hinduism.
Photographs and videos of these moments moved millions of Indians, especially on social media, as this was viewed as the coming together, one last time, of two distinct religious streams of India to bid farewell to one of its giants.
After all, Lata Mangeshkar’s oeuvre of music, built over the past seven decades, has been owned by natives of the Indian subcontinent, irrespective of religion, caste, or creed, as their own.
It also came amid an increasing number of reports of harassment of Muslims from across the country. The visuals involving Khan and Dadlani, then, have turned emblematic of what many Indians seek in the country today: social harmony.
Not surprisingly, the Hindu right-wing has found reason to feel offended.
Several social and mainstream media users alleged that Khan had ritually spat on the late singer’s remains—sparking an outcry on this side of the political divide.
They were immediately countered and corrected, too, but unfortunately, such fractiousness is now an everyday occurrence in India.