Roundabout: Kabir Bedi always in tune with the Punjabi of the interior

It was while hosting a session called “Punjabi by Nature” at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in 2013 that I saw Kabir Bedi sitting in the audience with his daughter Pooja. Among other things, there was a heated discussion about the pride of patriarchal society, including offensive Punjabi pop music. Listening to all of this with a gentle smile, Kabir intervened, saying, “The men in Punjabi may have a harsh exterior, but in reality they have a pretty tender heart. To tell you the truth, they are like teddy bears.

The remark brought back the general good humor and restored good humor. A few years earlier as the wine flowed on the eve of the JLF, Kabir had quietly entered the lawn enclosure, as he was on the jury for that year’s literary prize, and a bit high on Sula. I stood up and gave a loud welcome speech. The actor who had wowed Europe and Hollywood as a star politely asked, “Was I? When I said “nobody”, it was her turn to laugh, obviously enjoying the improvisation, and to say: “So, it was like that!

Not quite like that

Well, it wasn’t really “just like that” as it was a short story written by him in the Illustrated Weekly of India, edited by author Khushwant Singh, which had captured the heart of a young girl from 14 years old in the early 1970s. Called “Ramblings on the Beach”, the story tells of school races held on the beach with students in brown uniforms lined up neatly in rows. It has been included in his recent memoirs.

Witness to the race, he is more concerned with the girl who loses and writes: “In her eyes, I see the shame. I see the fear. I see the desperation of not knowing what to do next. I see the face of a child who has been bruised and humiliated. I see a soul that is bruised and brutalized by comparison, being forced to compete with the physically strongest on beaches and playgrounds. In the classrooms, the same game will continue. She will be compared to the smartest, to those with better memories and to those who can write faster than she … I want to tell her that she is beautiful and sensitive, that this breed does not matter, that it’s just a silly system that the adults invented for their own reasons. I want to give her something to make her feel better. In my hand I have an orange. Impulsively, I lean forward, take this child’s hand and put the orange in it, “Take this,” I say. “It’s for coming in second.”

Actor Kabir Bedi’s eye-opening memoir “Stories I Must Tell: The Emotional Life of an Actor” takes you on a journey from his college days to his romance and subsequent marriage to Protima Gupta. (Photo HT)

It is not known what the little girl’s reaction was to this act of empathy, but Kabir had found a forever fan in me as I was the hopeless failure in the playground as well as in the classroom. until there. But somewhere, this story gave me a glimmer of hope and taught me not to wallow in inferiority.

An eventful journey

As one reads impatiently these revealing memoirs of a long journey, starting with a scoop interview with The Beatles as a young reporter for All India radio, one of the odd jobs that Kabir did during his years. at St Stephen College to support his college education, one easily passes from his years of advertising in Bombay to his theatrical performances with Alyque Padamsee and the romance and subsequent marriage to another enlightened soul, Protima, the tall and dark model, who shocked everyone with a series of footage.

Of course, she would later find her true talent as a renowned Odissi dancer, trained by none other than Kelucharan Mohapatra. When I mentioned to a friend that I was awake most of the night reading Kabir’s stories and enjoying them every moment, the answer came: “Kabir Bedi has always lacked intelligence and little that he had existed in his groin! A harsh remark, of course, but intelligence is not everything, he never lacked a generous soul which is the pride of a Punjabi.

The second son of the idealistic couple Baba Bedi of Lahore and the British scholar Freda, who chose scholarship and philosophy as a way of life rather than as wealth, Kabir had a stormy life. Married four times and a father of three, he saw the pain, sorrow and tragic death of his son Siddharth Bedi but took it all with hope and grace, courageously marrying Parveen Dusanj, the girl from Punjab of British descent, 28 years his junior, a day before he was 70 years old. In an interview with Preeti Gill of Majha House, Amritsar, he spoke proudly of being a Punjabi by nature and therefore more in tune with his fourth wife.

Recalling his reading of Punjabi scriptures to his bhabhoji (paternal grandmother) for whom he had taken the trouble to learn Gurmukhi, he adds with conviction: “You can get a Punjabi out of the Punjab but you can’t get a Punjab out of a Punjabi!

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