Column | How to be a family: version 2.0

Aamir Khan’s daughter Ira Khan’s wedding was a refreshingly new take on contemporary relationships

February 01, 2024 02:22 pm | Updated February 03, 2024 11:12 am IST

A family portrait from actor Aamir Khan’s daughter Ira Khan’s wedding in Mumbai, January 2024.

A family portrait from actor Aamir Khan’s daughter Ira Khan’s wedding in Mumbai, January 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

Ok, I’ll just come out and say it. My secret pleasure is celebrity weddings. What better way to gawk at the clothes and jewellery and all the shenanigans of the rich and the shiny than at their weddings. Especially considering how easy it is now that everyone has a phone camera and celebrities themselves are spending all their time leaking Instagram videos of their private event. This has been a good season for celebrity wedding enthusiasts, and despite the wide array of choices, for me, it has not been difficult to choose a favourite. It was that of Ira, Aamir Khan’s daughter’s wedding, which was a glorious demonstration of a functioning blended family.

Actor Aamir Khan (right) with his former wife Reena Dutta at their daughter Ira Khan’s wedding in Mumbai, January 2024.

Actor Aamir Khan (right) with his former wife Reena Dutta at their daughter Ira Khan’s wedding in Mumbai, January 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

Here’s a primer on Khan’s life and the relevant characters for those not in the know. Khan was married in the ‘80s to Reena Dutta and they have two kids, Junaid and Ira. Khan and Reena divorced in 2002 and in 2005, he married an assistant director, Kiran Rao. They have a teenage son, Azad. In 2021, Khan and Kiran too divorced, but said they will remain loving co-parents. Last month was Ira’s wedding to Nupur Shikhare, her fitness trainer, a man so consumed by his profession that he literally ran 8 km to the wedding altar and was married while attired in a vest and a pair of shorts. It was all rather cute, if you ask me, cocking a snook at the perfectly outfitted little maharajahs and maharanis, which is the staple look at other celebrity events.

As is usual, many videos of the event emerged. In one, Reena and Kiran are taking gifts to the groom’s home. They are seen chatting with each other, one presumably makes a joke, the other laughs. It is clear they share an easy relationship with each other. In another video, Kiran is standing next to the groom’s mother. Khan is chatting with her about something and in response to something she says, he pulls her in for a warm peck on her cheek. Unless they are both excellent actors who are constantly aware of the presence of cameras, it seems to be a simple moment between two ex-es who are now friends. It’s a refreshingly new take on modern relationships.

Actor Amir Khan greets his former wife, producer Kiran Rao, at his daughter Ira Khan’s wedding in Mumbai, January 2024.

Actor Amir Khan greets his former wife, producer Kiran Rao, at his daughter Ira Khan’s wedding in Mumbai, January 2024. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

A tenuous balance

Being friends with the ex is challenging, but rewarding. As is being part of a blended family. When my husband and I decided we were better off living separately, all our efforts went into minimising the disruptions in our child’s world. He stayed close by, dropped in every evening until bedtime, stayed over when I was travelling. We still go on holidays together. I visit his mother when I am in her town. None of this is easy, the relationship hinges on a tenuous balance and one wrong word or decision can easily bring back the old anger and re-open closed wounds. But when it works, it’s magical. Now, 10 years later, even though our child is grown up and there are fewer reasons to be together, what we are left with is the friendship that first brought us together. When people see us together or hear our story they are astonished.

In India, where tradition is paramount and centuries of wisdom suggests that two people stay bound in a marriage no matter how unsatisfying, there is no template on how to live if you move out of this track. You are pretty much abandoned to figure your own way out. The only examples of post-separation life suggest that you remain at loggerheads with your former partner and spend the rest of your lives fighting them inside and outside courtrooms. A cordial break-up, where you are not interested in flinging mud at each other, is so far beyond people’s imagination that it is impossible to explain your situation and not be looked at like you are an exhibit in a zoo.

Real people

Add to this the possibility that one or both of the partners meets someone new and embarks on a subsequent relationship, it’s enough to make the neighbourhood WhatsApp uncle’s head explode in outrage and confusion. He is aghast at watching Kiran sing a goofy song at her former husband’s daughter’s wedding, he needs a flowchart to just work the relationships out. These are connections that don’t lend themselves to language, even in India where every possible relative has a specific word. And yet, as Ira Khan’s wedding videos showed, these are real people. And even though society expects that they be miserable and angry because they haven’t shown the ‘institution of marriage’ the respect it supposedly deserves, they have managed to build a happy life.

Khan’s celebrity endorsement of this lifestyle is critical, it shows a path out of marriage that is not bitter and helps people understand, even if not appreciate, that an alternate reality is possible.

The writer is the author of ‘Independence Day: A People’s History’.

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