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#Mehrunima: Saeed Jaffrey’s greatest regret?


Saeed Jaffrey, one of the best-known faces of British-Indian cinema and television, has died at the age of 86.

The Punjab-born British actor appeared in the biopic ‘Gandhi’ as well as many Bollywood films and British television productions.

Among his screen credits in a career spanning more than 50 years, were roles in director John Huston’s ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ and Indian director Satyajit Ray’s ‘The Chess Players’, as well as the BBC television series and the film versions of A Passage to India.

Other roles included parts on ‘Coronation Street’ as well as starring roles in the British series ‘Tandoori Nights’ and ‘Little Napoleons’.

Jaffrey was born on Jan 8, 1929 into a Muslim family in Malerkotta, Punjab, and started his acting career by setting up his own theatre company in New Delhi.

His death was announced on Sunday by his niece, Shaheen Aggarwal, in a posting on Facebook in which she said: “Today, a generation of Jaffreys has passed away. Saeed Jaffrey has joined his brothers and sister and is rejoicing in the lap of his Heavenly Father, eternally.”

Jaffrey was also once married to the famed actor-turned-cookery-writer Madhur Jaffrey.

Earlier this month, an intriguing series of passages, taken from Saeed’s personal diary was published on a Facebook page.  In the entry, the acclaimed and much-loved actor appears to lay out the greatest regret of his life.

“I was 19 when I was married to Mehrunima who was 17. As I grew up, I was very fascinated by the British culture in colonial India.

I learnt to speak English fluently, wear suits with grace, and developed impeccable etiquettes.  But Mehrunima grew up to be my complete opposite – homely, a typical housewife.

All my advices and admonishments couldn’t change her basic personality – an obedient wife, a doting mother and a good homemaker.  But she was not what I wanted.  More I tried to change her, more we drifted apart.  Gradually she metamorphosed from a cheerful affectionate young girl into a quiet insecure woman.

Meanwhile, I started getting attracted to a co-actor of mine who was all what I wanted in my wife.  After 10 years of marriage, l divorced Mehrunima, left my home and married my co- actor. 

I had ensured financial security of Mehrunima and my kids.  For about 6-7 months everything went well.  Then I started realising, my new wife was not caring and affectionate.  She was only concerned about her beauty, her ambitions, her wants and desires.  Sometimes I missed Mehrunima’s caring touch and concern for my welfare.

Life moved on.

I and my new wife were 2 persons living in a house, not one soul living in a home.  I never went back to find out what happened to Mehrunima and my kids.

After about 6 -7 years of my second marriage, I came across an article on a Madhur Jaffrey, an upcoming famous chef who had recently launched a book of her own recipes. 

The moment I looked at the picture of the smart elegant lady, I was stunned.  It was Mehrunima.  But how could it be???

She had remarried and changed her maiden name too.

I was shooting abroad at that time.  She lived in the US now.  I caught the next flight to New York.  I inquired about her whereabouts and went to meet her.  She refused to see me.  My daughter who was 14, and son who was 12, told her they wanted to talk to me one last time.  Her new husband was by her side.  He was also my children’s legal father now.

To this date, I cannot forget what my children told me.

They told me that their new father knows the meaning of true love.  He accepted Mehrunima as she was and never tried to change her into what he himself was, because he loves her more than he loves himself.  He let her evolve at her own pace and never tried to force his wishes on her. He accepted and enjoyed her person as it was.

And she has bloomed into a confident loving affectionate self reliant lady today under her second husband’s selfless love and acceptance.

Whereas his selfishness, demands and unacceptance of her persona had crushed her and then in his selfishness he had discarded her.

He Never Loved Her, He Had Always Loved Himself.

And Those Who Love Themselves, Cannot Love Others.”



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