I’d like Suhana to be a dancer or an actress and Aryan to be a sportsman: Shah Rukh Khan
Shah Rukh Khan is not just a superstar, but also a super parent even though he considers himself just another parent. He loves all children, be it his own (Aryan-16, Suhana-13, AbRam-6 months) or of others. It is for this reason that he lent support to Unilever’s global initiative — Project Sunlight and spoke exclusively to TOI about being a parent. As parents, we all protect our babies when they are as tiny as AbRam and so we restricted our conversation with Shah Rukh on Aryan and Suhana. Excerpts:
You are famously considered a good parent.
I think it is overrated because I am a movie star. All parents are good. My parents were very good. I am an easy-going and physical parent. I play with my children a lot. I am not at all stern with them. I allow them the freedom to fail. I allow them the freedom to say, ‘I don’t know.’ I feel happy when they get things wrong because then as a parent, my job gets extended and I can teach them what is correct. When they have exams, I am the first one they will tell, ‘Papa, this one really sucked.’ I like the fact that they can share that with me. Apart from that, I have always thought of my children as my best friends. This, in no way, gives them any special place in my heart. But somehow, I am childish in my heart. I am oversensitive, playful and happy with the trivias of life. If I had a choice between discussing a big business proposition versus playing PS4 with my children, I would choose the latter. I love listening to their stories. I, very early on decided that because I am in that position that I can give them whatever they desire, I will give them so much that by the age of 10, all that they will desire is to fulfill their dreams. I would like to educate them very well and have explained the importance of education to them. I tell them the importance of flowers. I tell them the beauty of poems, I tell them the greatness of gentleness and teach them the goodness of God. I teach them very simple things and they both have a great sense of humour. I have given them reasons to laugh, which they create themselves and are not artificially created through a car or toy or PlayStation. I have taught them how to smile without having to ask anybody for anything. I have the best discussions with them.
I get advice from them. My father was like that. My mom after my father’s death was like that. We were friends. I get reprimanded at times and am told it is not right. But it is a happy and beautiful relationship. They are beautiful physically. They are not in any which way over awed by what I do at my work place. Every morning they will come and hug me, spend time with me, say good morning to me on their own. I don’t have to ask.Aryan and Suhana are both teenagers. Do they have the usual ‘don’t hug me syndrome’?
No, they both come and hug me very tight, very beautifully. Though sometimes I have to say, ‘Aaj ka hug nahi hua’. They don’t have any issues like that. My son is now taller than me, but he and I walk in London holding hands. With my daughter, I know I will not embarrass her when she is in public, but I drop her to the party. I know she may not like being kissed or hugged in front of her friends so I will do it at the doorstep. You need to take care of each other’s space also. I never ever enter their rooms without knocking. And I get very angry if anyone ever does. They have separate rooms and everyone must knock and ask, ‘May I come in?’ and give them the five seconds of taking permission. And I have done this from when they were very young. With me, you don’t have to knock, you can jump into my bed, talk to me any time. I think I have been able to retain their innocence at least till now.
Are they spoilt?
No, not at all. They are not like me. Really simple things make them happy. To be really honest, I am in a place where there are not too many desires left like that. But they will not ask me for a cycle or a bike or a car. I recently told Aryan that I would buy him a car. And he said, ‘Papa, we have enough cars.’ The other day he said, ‘Papa, I want to learn how to drive a car.’ So I offered to teach him on a bigger car, but he wanted to learn the Santro. I have a rule if I go out of the city and country mostly, I will bring them back a gift and leave it by their bedside always. They are too grown up, but I still do that even now. But I have never got a message from them asking me for anything. Recently, Suhana sent me a message asking me for a simple T-shirt with a cat that she had seen a picture of. And she said, ‘Papa, and I want one T-shirt and not three.’ I asked her why she had not worn it till now and she said, I am saving it for an occasion as it is a special T-shirt.’ It’s still in the packet. My son wears my shoes and jeans. They are not into brands and my son is actually quite unkempt like me. I like to fulfill their wishes before they ask for it.
How different are you as a father to your kids vis-a-vis what your father was to you?
He died when I was 15. So from the age of 11 to 15, we were great friends. He used to call me ‘yaara’, as in Pathans we say that. My parents were not formal at all. We were not well-off, so our games were made up then and there. I did not have a nick name and was always called Shah Rukh though my grandmother called me ‘Shah’. They were both working parents trying to make ends meet. They would work till late so when they came with us they used to give us the best time possible, that I too do with my children. I give them the best time and make sure it is only them when I am back from work. I don’t take phones at that time even if I am just vegetating with them in bed.
You lost your parents early. At the back of your mind is there ever a thought that you should give your kids as much, should you die tomorrow?
I don’t think I can be a better parent to my children than my parents were to me. Except that I would want to last longer than them. My son is now 16, so I have crossed that age. People think I am being delusional if I say, ‘I don’t think I will die’ but it does not come to my mind at all. My life is so full of life that death does not even squeeze in as a vague fleeting thought. I have hurt and injured myself so much, but I know I am long-lasting variety.
Qualities of your children that you like the most?
That Aryan is a gentleman and Suhana, earnest. She believes that if she has to do something she must do it properly. There is earnestness in her eyes. I find that amiss in me at times. She will do it quietly without shouting at the top of a building whether it is dancing or studying or sports. I like the quietude of my daughter and the easy calm that she brings into the room.
Are any of your bad habits passed onto them?
I like them to stay awake on weekends which they do and that is a bad habit. So Mondays are stressful days for both of them at school. My son lasts longer. It’s a thing we look forward to. I’d rather they don’t smoke and I think they dislike it enough as I smoke. They are not angry about it, but they just don’t like it. I’d like them to be more social and communicative. In my personal life I am a little unsocial and shy. I see them improving as they are growing up.
Do you have dreams for Aryan and Suhana?
My biggest dream for my children is that they should remain children for the rest of their lives. Let the world be what it is. I hope they remain as innocent as they are. I’d like my daughter to be a dancer or an actress. I think she has it in her. I’d like my son to be Manchester United centre forward wearing jersey no 10. I’d like him to be a sportsman. Having said that these are things I will never even discuss with them. I always tell them, ‘I have worked so much in my life that if you guys have to work, it will be a shame on me.’ I tell them, ‘Do what you want, be what you want, write poems, write songs, go for a holiday on the river, go fishing without catching the fish’ as I don’t think people should hunt even though I am a non-vegetarian. All the things that I am bereft of. I am caught up in this fantastically material world and I like it and I am not a great nature lover, but they should not have to worry about anything. They should be extremely educated and have the option of not wanting to work the day they don’t want to.
Are they as bright as you?
Hope there is no bias but they are extremely intelligent kids. When they were young, I invoked this sense of yearning for learning in them. I made games out of it, always taught them that it is great to just know things. No need to show off. I would go in the whole house and give them 20 questions where the answers would be scattered throughout the whole house. I would do this the whole night and they would be running around trying to find the answer. This coming first is the worst kind of teaching. It’s like our crappy 100-crore club. This whole wanting to be better than the best, is lowly. You are unique. You don’t have to be better than someone. You have to be the best at what you are unique in. I don’t think they feel jealous and don”t feel the need to be better than others but just like me they are very competitive, but compete with themselves, just like I do.
Are you possessive about your kids?
Yes. I am very possessive about them, but I also give them their freedom. They never come and complain to me about a person as they will say, ‘Papa, you are mad. You would have gone and destroyed that person.’ I have taught both of them that, ‘Anyone messes with your family, you mess right back with them.’ We are very Pathans that way.
Are they possessive about you?
They learnt how to share me very early in my work part. But as a father, I give them so much oneness, that they know I will be always there for them.
Why did you choose to associate with Unilever’s Project Sunlight?
I have been associated with brands of Unilever for years. What they have made is one, artistically very beautiful and the other because it talks about a better future, environment and aims to give our children a better world. So I like the fact that a big company with universal reach and resources decides to spend its time and money and has an attitude that it wants the world to know that besides being a great business house they are looking at utilising their resources towards a better tomorrow. It’s a nice thing that they are looking at improving lives with the products they are making.
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