Ashok Kumar and me (2001)
The world knew him as Ashok Kumar, a fine artist of enormous talent.
I believe that he worked in over 250 movies, for over 6 decades!
People affectionately called him Dada Moni.
Which means: A jewel of a brother.
I called him Baba, like his children did. You see, I was a college classmate of his son Arup and we still enjoy a close friendship.
Over the years, his wife Niru has become one of my closest Spiritual confidants.
I go and visit this beautiful family often.
Sometimes I would go and visit Baba with them.
Baba Ashok Kumar’s personality fascinated me.
He seemed self-sufficient and appeared to derive pleasure from simple things.
He had a certain number of Classic books on his mantelpiece, which he read from cover to cover, over and over again.
He confided that he enjoyed them more, the more he read them.
He was fun! It was a treat to hear him sing! Yes, he could!
Once at a dinner he entertained us with a song that he had recorded:
‘Rail gaadi, Rail gaadi, chook chook chook!’
Baba was a private person, yet he would go out of his way for those who loved him.
I remember, once I had guests from oversees, who told me that one of their greatest ‘armaan’ (desire) was to meet Ashok Kumar.
My husband and myself smiled. We may not know many celluloid personalities, but somehow there seemed to be a possibility that we may be able to fulfill our friends’ wish.
I called Arup, who asked his father who graciously agreed to convene with my guests.
Needless to say, my friends were delighted and I am quite sure that their meeting with this wonderful human being from Bollywood was the highlight of their visit to India.
Over the years I have learned that people love to have their ego fed.
Once the adulation of a film star wanes, I have seen them joining politics, and then taking to philanthropy. The salient reason, more often than not, is to remain in the limelight.
Baba was different. He would win trophies, and he would refuse to take calls, because he did not want to go anywhere to receive the award.
He was a true Karmayogi.
I believe, that he loved his work, but was unconcerned about the fruits.
Those who are familiar with the Bhagvad Geeta will recognize that the above is one of the most important tenets that Krishna taught Arjuna.
Ashok Kumar lived a dignified life and passed away peacefully at the age of 90 years.(2001)
I went for the condolence meeting.
There were prayers and speeches. But the highlight was a song that he had wanted played, when he passed on. It was sung by him.
‘Na jaaney kidhar aaj meree naav chali re…’
Which means: ‘My boat moves on, one knows not, to which destination…’
And the curtain went down.
The illustrious drama of Ashok Kumar’s life may be over; but he will continue to live in the hearts of millions who adored him, me included…
Arup, Niru and myself still enjoy a warm friendship. I love spending time with them!
The house where Baba lived has been converted into a building. Arup and Niru have a beautiful apartment in it, where they claim one room is for me, to unwind whenever I wish.
It is wonderful to have friends like this…I often wonder…why people do not nurture friendships when all it takes is ‘true love and caring’ and
An understanding friend is better than a therapist;
Above from left: Arup, myself and Niru (2006)