Chef Atul Kochhar’s comment on Priyanka Chopra’s twitter handle has created a storm. and it refuses to die down.
A lapse in judgement and a backlash with irrevocable consequences. London-based Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar’s comment on Priyanka Chopra’s twitter handle that took a dig at her, has had huge repercussions. The chef immediately realised his folly, and retracted the statement, apologising profusely. But society is unforgiving. Kochhar’s deemed Islamophobic comment had journalist Rana Ayyub up in arms, “This has not been a one off statement. The times we live in, online hate is manifesting offline with lynchings and murders. Celebrities have a bigger role in ensuring diversity and a peaceful co-existence,” Rana had tweeted. True, that.
Columnist and novelist Shobhaa De feels such remarks should not be made on a public forum and the price he is paying is too harsh, “It’s an extreme reaction to a thoughtless and insensitive comment. While there is no justification whatsoever for Atul’s tweet, I believe he has a right to express himself, same as everybody else. The price he is paying for that offensive tweet is way too high. He could have been warned, ticked off by the management — not sacked!”
It is a point to ponder over the extreme reactions. Easily provocated, his grave mistake has cost the chef. And an apology does not alleviate hurt sentiment. Shah Faesal, a Mason fellow HKS Harvard University tweeted, “Recall Ta’if. The spirit of Islam is forgiveness, not retribution. Now that @atulkochhar has apologised and withdrawn his Islamophobic comments, Muslims must set a healthy precedent and leave it there. Intolerance has to be fought with tolerance.” But no one wants to give bigots another chance. Or forgiveness.
Chef Abhijit Saha of Fava and Caperberry feels, “Social media is a double edged sword and can hurt you if not used correctly! Getting caught on the wrong side of the law in a foreign country can be a traumatic experience, and lead to unexpected consequences. I hope Atul’s apology is accepted with grace. This is sad.”
Sad, yes. Yet, the reaction could have been more sagacious. Columnist Mehr Tarar tweeted a call to forgive, “As a Muslim I found Atul Kochhar’s tweet very misguided and deeply offensive. As a Muslim I believe his apology must be accepted. The Quran lays huge emphasis on the virtue of remorse, apology, forgiveness. One of Allah’s traits: His forgiveness. Log kaun hain na maaf karne wale.”
Kochhar’s statement was in response to Chopra’s apology for an episode of the television series Quantico where she uncovers a terror plot by Hindu nationalists. There are even calls to prosecute him for his anti-Islam comments, and Kochhar’s contrite words, “It was a major error made in the heat of the moment. I fully recognise my inaccuracies that Islam was founded around 1,400 years ago and I sincerely apologise. I am not Islamophobic, I deeply regret my comments that have offended many,” is of no avail, and has now taken a life of its own, fuelled by hurtful rhetoric.
Manu Chandra, chef partner Monkey Bar, Toast & Tonic, and executive chef Olive Beach says, “It’s unfortunate how this has blown up to a point that many people’s employment is at stake. I cannot support bigotry in any way; but to err is human, and we must learn to forgive.”
Sanchez executive chef Chef Vikas Seth is saddened, “It takes more than a lifetime to achieve what Chef Kochhar has achieved with his food. Really sad to see him getting trolled even after his repetitive apologies! Hope people understand! Forgiveness and peace!”
A public forum needs to be handled with extreme sensitivity and care and Chef Arzooman Irani thinks this incident sets a precedent, “My chef brother made a mistake. He should be forgiven. He had a temporary lack of judgement. He is paying for his mistake. The (reaction) may be extreme but I feel it sets a strict precedent... People who are in the public eye have to be extra careful of what they say.”
The London-based chef has even had customers expressing their anger on his London restaurant Benares’ website. Sociologist Sowrabha C brings the focus on learning from mistakes, “To err is human but once a person realises the mistake and apologises, and changes for the better, I think the system has to permit it. Everyone is prone to making mistakes. The thing is to grow out of the mistakes. That is what our system has to work on. Having said this, one cannot antagonise natives. One should know their limits. People are waiting for a chance to put the other down. This is where people should deal with things carefully. You live in society, and that is where your behaviour is determined and defined. So it’s very important you act as a member and not as an individual. At the end of the day, one is part of a group and has to be cautious.”