I ran into Hema the morning after the night of Esha’s Bidaai. My spontaneous reaction was to hug Hema. Now, as anybody who has ever known Hema Malini will immediately tell you, Hema does not belong to the ‘huggy-kissy ’lot in Bollywood. You don’t hug or kiss Hema. You bow! Hema is the original, aloof, imperious Queen. But I just had to hug her – and did. For one, I was feeling really sheepish and guilty about not having attended her precious baby’s wedding, nor any of the other lavish functions. The crowded airport that morning was not the place to go into apologies and explanations. I just wanted to convey my congratulations warmly, and tell Hema I love her – which I do. She looked miffed and said so. Which is also why I like her. Hema doesn’t bother to camouflage her feelings or mince her words. I managed to mumble a clumsy apology and hastily changed the subject, telling her I understood completely what her emotions must have been... and wasn’t she relieved it had gone off so splendidly? Hema ‘s big brown eyes clouded over, she took a deep breath, raised her chin defiantly, held back the tears, regained her composure quickly and said softly, “Not relieved. Sad. I felt sad watching Esha leave...”It was a beautiful mom-to-mom moment. We both left it at that.
I was travelling when Esha got married in the ISKCON temple at Juhu. I am sure I missed a really special ceremony. Once I got back, I caught up with all the press coverage and noted what a Herculean task Hema had undertaken, almost single-handedly. It was her show – and it showed! I don’t know how involved Daddy Dharmendra was, nor does it matter. Hema has always been an extraordinarily capable and hard working woman, running her life and career on her own, handling the affairs of her daughters, getting into politics and taking her new,neta role seriously, choreographing and dancing in ballets across the world, and most importantly, minding her own business. Hema’s unconventional and bold decision all those many years ago to make her life with the much-married Dharmendra came with a hefty price tag. Hema paid it without ever discussing the downside. Which is all the more reason why it seemed a bit of a shame that Dharmendra’s sons and their families chose to stay away from their half-sister’s big day. Surely, one puts differences aside at a joyous time such as a family wedding? I guess the men had their reasons. Who knows what the real complications and implications are in such domestic arrangements? Despite the obvious snub, Hema conducted herself with admirable dignity, and with her head held high. That’s our Hema. Proud and dignified at all times.
I watched her stride briskly into the Departure lounge. No fuss. No hangers-on. A woman of today. It was back to work, less than twelve hours after getting her beloved daughter married. Here’s another hug, just for that, Hema!