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This article was first published 6 years ago  » Getahead » What I learned from acid attack survivors: Shah Rukh Khan's passionate Davos speech

What I learned from acid attack survivors: Shah Rukh Khan's passionate Davos speech

By Rediff Get Ahead Bureau
Last updated on: January 23, 2018 15:48 IST
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The World Economic Forum honored the actor with the Crystal Award for the work done by his Meer Foundation.

SRK Davos Crystal Award

Actor Shah Rukh Khan accepts the WEF Crystal Award in Davos on January 22.
Photographs: Denis Balibouse/Reuters.


The World Economic Forum (WEF) honored Shah Rukh Khan with a Crystal Award on January 22 for the human rights work he has done through his non-profitable Meer Foundation.

With the Crystal Awards -- which kick off the WEF annual summit and Davos -- the WEF celebrate 'the achievements of outstanding artists who have shown exemplary commitment to improving the state of the world.'

This year's honorees also included actress Cate Blanchett and musician Sir Elton John, who have all 'in their own way... taken action to uphold human dignity'.

Shah Rukh Khan, the WEF said, was chosen 'for his leadership in championing children's and women's rights in India'.

The organisation added, 'He is the founder of the nonā€profit Meer Foundation, which provides support to female victims of acid attacks and major burn injuries through medical treatment, legal aid, vocational training, rehabilitation and livelihood support. He has also been responsible for the creation of specialized children's hospital wards and has supported childcare centres with free boarding for children undergoing cancer treatment.'


Shah Rukh Khan Davos Crystal Award

(From left) Shah Rukh Khan with Hilde Schwab, chairperson and co-founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship; actor and fellow Crystal Award recipient Cate Blanchett; and Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, WEF, in Davos.


Excerpts from Shah Rukh Khan's acceptance speech in Davos:

Actors are renowned narcissists. No matter how much we pretend not to believe in external beauty, we tend to be obsessed by it one way or the other.

And perhaps being surrounded by this obsession of beauty, a few years ago I came across a lady who had been brutalised by an acid attack. It kind of changed my life or my perspective of it, at least.

To disfigure a woman by throwing acid on her face, to me, is one of the basest, crudest acts of subjugation imaginable. At the source of it lies the view that a woman does not have the right to assert her choice, say no to the advances of a man or a group of people.

And yet, each of the women I met, I found within them the courage to move on with their lives and to reject the idea of victimhood.

What struck me most about them was this -- what was done to them only made them braver, and stronger and more able to free themselves, to make the choices everyone around them was telling them they could not make or should not make.

From them I have learnt how courage can catalyse victimhood into heroism, how solidarity -- rather than charity -- enables the human will to overcome, how equality is not a concept but a truth that encompasses all living beings, and how the service of others is not a choice anymore for any of us; it is a duty that all of us must fulfill in the name of humankind.

When I journeyed through the life of these heroic women and children through the work of Meer Foundation, I experienced a complete reversal of perspective.

I stumbled upon the truth that there are no benefactors and no beneficiaries between living beings anymore. There is just a vast pool of resources -- natural, spiritual, economic and technological -- that everyone is equally entitled to, but only some have gained by more access to it. Either by accident, as in my case, or by talent, design and hard work as in the case of all of you present here.

Standing here before all of you who constitute perhaps the most powerful group of human beings in the world, dare I say that power is one of these perspectives we like to maintain a certain way, but power actually needs a complete reversal more than any other thing in the world today.

I was babysitting my five-year-old son before I came here and suddenly he screamed, 'Papa, papa my eye went into my hair. Can you get my eye out of my hair?' He didn't say get my hair out of my eye, like we all believe we do.

And it is a bit like that when you have power, you think things get in its way, but it is actually power that is getting in the way. It gets in the way of universal access to resources because it seeks to control and enclose them, so we, the powerful, need to get out of the way, I think.

To pick the barriers apart -- the ones that give us names and colours and races and hierarchies.

We need to get out of the way and into the work of breaking open access for each and every one with a true sense of ourselves, not as more powerful or less privileged, but genuinely as equals.

That is what I have learned from my beautifully scarred women.

I am grateful to these brave women and children who I work with for all they have done for me, to World Economic Forum and all of you present here today for recognising the heroism by conferring this award upon me.

Also, I want to thank my sister, my wife and my little daughter for bringing me up well, and teaching me the value of requesting, sometimes imploring and, if I may add, sometimes even begging a yes from a woman, instead of forcing it upon her.

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