by Dr.KM Cherian, Frontier Lifeline Hospital, Chennai
It is not easy to be the "wife" of the most "charming man of the Bollywood". But the way Krishnaji carried herself and the weight of her husband’s stardom while raising her entire family has always filled me with "AWE". One strong intelligent woman is enough to keep the entire family in line however big or small it is.
The commitment of Krishnaji's life has been immeasurable.
On August 9th, 2018 around 5 pm, on my way to airport in Delhi, I decided to visit Mrs. Reetu Nanda, wife of Mr. Rajan Nanda in their house. Mr. Rajan Nanda had passed away 4 days earlier and I wanted to spend some time and convey my condolences and family support to Reetu on the sudden sad demise of Rajan.
Mr. Rajan Nanda had been a good friend of mine since 1983 and we also shared our birthday.
It was fortunate that I could meet Mrs. Raj Kapoor (Krishnaji) at home. Krishnaji could recognise me after 12 long years! When I asked her how she was doing, she said, "I am fine". And in just 1 month, she is no more. Though I thank God for enabling me to see her before her demise, I am immensely saddened by it. She was an Iron lady, as solid as a Diamond.
The fond memories about her rushed through me as this has been a long and memorable association between our two families.
Whether it is my wife's hairstyle or my daily coffee, I have many fond memories that I spent with them in Devanar cottage - their Chembur House, Mumbai. On few occasions she even got me Masala Dosai for breakfast. She might have ordered it from some South Indian Restaurant nearby.
Whenever I went to Mumbai, I had to stay at their cottage, a fond "order" of Kapoor's family. During one such occasion, I had to take part in the Asia Pacific Meet - a Cardiology conference in Mumbai at the Taj. Many international doctors including Dr. Denton Cooley, Dr. Paul Ebert, Dr. Donald Ross, Dr. Yacoub also attended. When I was getting ready to go to a dinner at the Taj with them, Raj Kapoorji suggested, "Why don’t you bring them all here for the dinner?" Not stopping with that he asked Shammi Kapoorji to prepare the invitation card and instructed all others to prepare a gala dinner with cocktail, next day, the day of the Official Banquet.
After a while when Shammi Kapoorji returned with the invitation card that said, “RK Studio invites you....” Krishnaji asked him to change it to “Dr. K. M. Cherian & family invite you…” I was so touched. At the end of the dinner, Raj Kapoorji and Shammi Kapoorji in their speech said, "We are hosting this dinner on behalf of our brother Dr. K. M. Cherian". Till date, that dinner is an unforgettable one in terms of taste, heart-felt warmth and performance by Karishma, I think she was about 4 or 5 years old with a toy flute.
Raj Kapoorji would travel without any prior notice to capture nature realistically and Krishnaji used to cope with those un-scheduled trips. It was one such occasion that they were shooting for "RAM TERI GANGA MAILE" film. Raj Kapoorji was packing his things in a hurry and his entire production unit was tensed. When I asked what the reason was, I was surprised to learn that they had to capture a "rain sequence" in Srinagar, Kashmir as it was raining in Srinagar. That was the level of perfection Raj Kapoorji would expect and Krishnaji would cope with flexibility and would prepare food for him and co-stars as well. Also, when the final part of the movie was being filmed and his son "Chimpu" (Rajiv Kapoor) was acting, Raj Kapoor introduced the lead lady Mandakini to me.
I used to occupy Chimpu’s room whenever I visited Devanar Cottage.
Once during my stay in their house, “Chirag-Din” the leading shirts brand had invited Raj Kapoorji and Krishnaji for dinner. Raj Kapoorji had fever and could not attend. They both were insisting that someone from the family had to go. So, Krishnaji told me,"Dr Saheb, you please accompany Rima. She knows everyone there.” I was hesitant as I knew no one there. But Krishnaji, insisted that Rima will take care of me and I will not be left isolated.
Every time I visited Mumbai, I would be picked-up from the airport by one of the family members. Rima herself had come 3 times to pick me up. Such was the broad-mindedness of Krishnaji and the entire family was so affectionate. The mother's love and affection always percolated and I could feel their warmth at every little interaction.
Our friendship began when Raj Kapporji’s sister Mrs. Umi Siyal became sick. She had to undergo "Double Valve Replacement surgery". Though they could have opted to go to United States or anywhere else, Mrs. Umi Siyal firmly said, "If I have to die, let me die in India". Out of all places, they searched for me and came to Railway hospital. It was such a humble place for such a grand family. During her stay the family used to stay at the Chola Sheraton hotel for all the 7 days that they were in Madras which showed their attachment with each other. During that time we had many South Indian film personalities visiting Railway Hospital in the evening which included Mr. Shivaji Ganesan, Padmini, Vyjayatimala and others.
Mr. H.P. Nanda (Escort) visited the hospital. On seeing the humble Railway Hospital and the huge amount of work done for "saving very many people’s hearts", Mr. Nanda wanted me to help him to start Escorts Hospitals in New Delhi. Since I could not take up the responsibility as I was deeply involved in the planning and starting of Madras Medical Mission and so I introduced Dr. Naresh Trehan to be the anchor of Escorts Hospital.
When I started constructing The Madras Medical Mission, Raj Ji understood the amount of pressure I was going through financially also. He himself pitched in to say he would raise funds by bringing in his co-stars from Bollywood to Chennai for a Fund raising program. His interest in the construction of MMM hospital was because he knew the difficulties of creating such a big hospital.
It is heart warming to think of such great people who displayed such humility and warmth for fellow human beings.
They are big because they have such big hearts. These big people are not pushed by anything else other than their pure love for the fellow human.