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Giving love a second chance
Eighteen months after his wife and two sons were killed in the 26/11 carnage, Mumbai hotelier Karambir Kang has remarried. TOI-Crest meets some men and women who have loved and lost, then picked up the pieces and loved all over again
Twice blessed. . .
At 19, Vidya Malavade married captain Arvinder Singh Bagga, a pilot. For the next three years, life was an extended honeymoon as, very often, the air hostess and her husband would be on the same flight. Then one ill-fated day, Bagga died in a plane crash and Vidya's world came to a stand still. The pain was unbearable. "But it also made me more sensitive to my surroundings. Looking at my distraught parents, I decided to live - for them and for myself. Slowly, things began to fall in place. I did ad films, then feature films. " Vidya played the feisty hockey team captain in Chak De! India.
It was in a chance encounter, about five years ago, that Vidya met her current husband, filmmaker Sanjay Dayma (he's associate director of Lagaan, director of Ramji Londonwale). Vidya went to meet Sanjay for a role in his next film and ended up getting a permanent role in his life instead. "All credit goes to Gogol (my name for him) for pursuing me," she says. "I was not sure I wanted to ever remarry, but his patience and commitment won me over. We were married last year. Gogol is my best friend, gives me my space and is always sensitive to my every need," she gushes.
"For me, love is the most important thing in life, and in that, I am twice blessed, " says the actress. "I believe that even Bugs (her name for Arvinder) is looking out for me up in heaven and ensuring I have a good time down here. I often call his mother for recipes. I'm also very close to Gogol's mother. I want to sign all future films as Vidya Malavade Dayma to earn that extra smile from her," she adds.
- SUDESHNA CHATTERJEE
Friends forever. . .
They celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary last Sunday. For Arundhati Mukherji, the last 15 years have been pure bliss and she owes it all to second husband Ranjan Mukhopadhyay, who has cared for her, "as an oyster cares for its pearl," she says philosophically.
It was philosophy that brought this couple together. Arundhati is a post doctoral fellow of philosophy at Jadavpur University, while Ranjan teaches the subject at the Visva Bharati University. The two had met at JU as students, when Arundhati was very much in her first marriage, and the two hit it off as great friends almost immediately.
Arundhati was married off soon after high school to Sujit Chatterjee, a man much older than herself. They were incompatible. To top that, she was never accepted by her in-laws. "It was suffocating, but I had no option. My only window to the world was my college and then my university. I fought with my in-laws to continue my education," she recalls.
In May 1981, her daughter Aparupa was born and life seemed a little better. Even Sujit softened towards her. In those days, it was routine for Ranjan to drop by at the Chatterjee residence. "He was a university buddy and was well accepted by both my in-laws and my parents," says Arundhati.
"When I got my Phd degree in July, 1987, I thought that life was not all that bad afterall. I didn't know what was coming," she says. The very next week, Sujit was attacked by GB Syndrome, a rare auto-immune disorder that destroyed all his organs one after the other. In 13 days he was gone. "My little world, though often bitter, crumbled around me and my five-and-a-half year old daughter," Arundhati says.
Soon after, her in-laws started behaving oddly and a legal battle over property began. "I kept the struggle a secret from my father, who had already taken ill on hearing of my widowhood. I was only 26 years old at the time."
Ranjan stood by her like a rock, being a father to Aparupa as well. The little girl, who hardly saw her biological father, welcomed Ranjan's love and attention. "Society was not kind either to me or my daughter and we would be ridiculed for our relationship everywhere," says Arundhati. When Aparupa was in class VII, they took a call. "In fact, it was Aparupa who nagged us into marriage," Arundhati smiles.
Smiling right through this conversation is the soft-spoken Ranjan. "We met as friends and are still best friends," he says. "I have never seen a stronger personality than my wife and I respect her for that. She has won life's battles on her own. I have just stood by her." The couple is now eagerly looking forward to Aparupa's marriage this winter.
- JHIMLI MUKHERJEE PANDEY
Picking up the pieces. . .
On the face of it, everything about Mohammad Mahruf appears normal. He's a family man with a beautiful wife, Shaheen Banu, and five children. It is only this semblance of normalcy that has helped Mohammad get over the horror that life had served him just a few years back.
Mahruf suffered the trauma of being witness to extreme communal violence at the hands of rioters who unleashed terror and death in the aftermath of the Godhra-carnage in Gujarat in 2002. Violence that snatched away his wife of 20 years Bilkis Banu and two children.
Mohammad and his family were hiding behind a water-tank, watching in horror as the rioters set ablaze the entire Naroda-Patiya locality, burning women and children alive. The rioters soon caught those trying to hide and set them afire. Bilkis died along with two of the children, while Mohammad and three kids sustained burn injuries.
The next six months were spent in a haze - shifting from one relief camp to another, taking his son for treatment to hospitals, running around with other riot victims, filing police complaints, giving statements, working with NGOs to find a roof over their collective heads.
"Those were horrifying times and I was left alone to fend for my kids. There were kind neighbours who would give food to my children and look after them in my absence but I knew I had to find a life partner who would soothe the mental and physical scars left on me and my children," says Mohammad, who now lives in the Bombay Hotel locality where most riot-affected people have been allocated homes.
It was Mohammed's family that fixed a match with 39-year-old Shaheen, who would be a mother to his sons who were still coping with the trauma of having seen death at close quarters. "When I first came into the house, the children were scared. But there is nothing that love cannot heal," says Shaheen who got married to Mohammad in 2004. The couple has two children - son Shamshu and daughter Hasanna - who have added cheer to this painter's life. "A human being needs love and understanding of a fellow human to pick up the threads of life and start afresh. I cannot imagine staying sane after all I went through, had it not been for my marriage to Shaheen," says Mohammad.
- RADHA SHARMA
How soon is too soon. . .
For some, the decision to remarry after the sudden death of a spouse is a purely practical decision. When 38-year-old Ranjit Singh's wife suddenly died of a minor illness gone wrong, the London-based businessman was shattered. His mother had passed away the previous year around the same time. With both the women in the family gone, Singh and his ailing father were left to take care of his two daughters aged 7 and 5.
"We already had a live-in cook and a part-time cleaner, so - contrary to popular perception - it wasn't like I wanted free household help. I wanted someone to be there for my girls as a positive feminine influence as they were at an extremely impressionable age," Ranjit says. Some suggested he send the girls away to boarding school, but it was an option he didn't want to exercise.
So when Ranjit met Sarika Malik - a 35-yearold widowed mother of an 11-year-old boy - three months after his wife died, it was a match made in heaven. Singh and Malik were introduced by wellmeaning common friends and got married two months after they met. The two are spending time adjusting to their suddenly-expanded family.
"I know I did not wait for a 'decent' amount of time before remarrying, but now that I see how my family has come out of the gloom it had descended into, I know I made the right decision," says Ranjit.
- SHIKHA MISHRA
The music returned. . .
After his first wife died in an accident, Ramesh Pareek was sure he'd never remarry. The Jaipur-based businessman was finally convinced by his parents and siblings six years after he lost his first wife. "My family did the right thing," says Ramesh who has been remarried for 10 years now. "Not only am I very happy, I have also been able to move on."
The silver jewellery merchant admits that wife Deepali brought the cheer back into his family. "The kids and I had created a world of our own but it was always incomplete," he says. Then his parents came across Deepali, a divorced music teacher. "It was my son who took an instant liking to her," Ramesh adds. "The affection was mutual," adds Deepali. "Punit and Prerna were 11 and 8 when we got married. Today Punit is in the US and Prerna is in college. It was a joy to have them as kids, I think they're closer to me than to their father," she adds.
The couple admits that they both had their doubts about getting married again and, like in any other arranged marriage, had to work on their relationship. "It was not as if we were friends or even knew each other. In fact, I met the kids at their grandparents' more often than I initially met Ramesh. That helped me bond better with them," says Deepali.
"Often Punit and I were the bridge for communication," says Prerna, "Now I can't think of life without Mamma. All of us rely on her for the smallest of things." It helps that Deepali is kind and caring and understands the need for the children to remain connected to their biological mother.
"Even today we have the yearly pooja for my mother, but life has been easier and more stable since our father married Mamma," says Prerna.
- PALAK NANDI
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