Excerpts from the conversation that transpired:
It’s with a heavy heart that we talk to you, today on Rajesh Khanna’s 9th death anniversary. He was adored by so many…
Today, I can’t help but recall the days when Kakaji (as Rajesh Khanna was fondly called) was slipping away.
It all started with fever that did not go away and then a few tests revealed that he had cancer. Do you know that he went up to his doctor and asked upfront: ‘When is my visa expiring?’ The doctor did not tell me or anyone else about this diagnosis; he told Kakaji directly.
Kakaji was of course shocked but he had a knack of absorbing things. He absorbed this shock too and after some time, told me, “Theek hai, ho gaya. Ab aage kya?” You know what! He really lived his real life like his role in ‘Anand’. And, according to him, his Babumoshai in ‘Anand’ was Amitabh Bachchan but in real life it was me.
We knew the end was near, especially in the last week. Akshay Kumar, Dimple, Twinkle, Rinkie were all there by his side when he breathed his last. The daughters were on his either side, I was at his feet. Anju Mahendroo was also present in Aashirwad that time, she had dropped in for a visit.
We understand how heart-breaking it must have been…
Honestly, I have still not totally overcome it. We were soul brothers. Today too, I went to Carter Road where Aashirwad once stood. Today, there is no Aashirwad. I sat across the road for a few minutes. I felt he was talking to me and I was talking to him (pauses).
It must have been hard, seeing him go…
Kakaji was clear that he didn’t want to leave this world from the hospital; he wanted to take his last breath at home. Also, he was clear that he wouldn’t undergo chemotherapy, which was an option; he chose to take medicines instead. But let me tell you something that still haunts me no end (pauses).
I remember he called me one day, much before he fell ill. I couldn’t go. Next day, he told me, “Soon, you will yearn to meet me but I won’t be able to meet you.” I think he had some intuition about his death even before cancer struck him.
Had he met Dilip Kumar, who recently passed away?
I distinctly remember one meeting in Delhi when Kakaji was campaigning for Congress. They met very warmly and Dilip saab spoke to him in Punjabi, they decided to sit for a snack etc the next evening. But somehow that interlude did not happen.
Later, Kakaji and Dilip Kumar saab met at an award function. Dilip Kumar saab was not too well then and Saira kept telling him that Kakaji is near him.
Which other heroines visited to see him during his illness?
Besides Anjuji, it was Reena Roy and Mumtaz.
Why did he not get married to Anju Mahendroo?
Their relationship had got into a tangle of sorts. He met Dimple then.
How did he divert his mind?
I don’t think Kakaji needed to divert his mind. As I told you, he absorbed things well enough. But yes, his recreation habit was Kishore Kumar. Whatever his state of mind and be it any day, he wanted to hear Kishore Kumar’s songs. And mind you, not only his own; in fact he enjoyed Kishore Kumar’s songs sung for other heroes as well.