Meena Kumari – I’m in Love With A Married Man
YES! I am in love with a married man! I am proud- of it. He is my very own married man because, you see, he is married to me. In the words of an English song which was one of the hits a few years ago and is still very popular around Bombay, “I am in love, yes in love, with a married man, who is married to me.”
I hadn’t heard of it at all—I mean the song — not till the “Filmfare” people came round to ask me to write this article. I refused, of course. It seemed such a dubious title. But when I heard the song and realized its delightful and charmingly innocent meaning, I agreed it could be the theme song of my life, for nothing is more true than that I am deeply, terribly, frighteningly in love with a married man who is married to me, my husband.
Love goes deep into a woman’s life, striking its roots into her heart, the very core of her being. Love is terrible in the surrender which it enforces, complete and unquestioning, the full and permanent sacrifice which it demands of oneself, and in the fear which is ever there that one may love and not be loved in return. Love, finally, is frightening, horribly frightening in the transience and mortality of the very conditions in which it is born, and by which it flourishes: individuals change and life passes, inevitably.
And so the ecstasy and the thrill of loving and being loved are never quite free from the dogging fear of the thousand calamities and vicissitudes which hourly attend life and the living thereof.
Young as I am, in the brief years of my life, I have gone through it all: the first fluttering, half-conscious stirring of love in my heart as recognition dawned of an ideal long cherished in dreams in a man I had never met but who seemed to me to embody that ideal as nobody else; the chilling fear that I would never meet him, that if I did he may not return my love; the joy of meeting and knowing that I was loved as I loved; the supreme happiness of attainment when we were finally united in the bond of marriage, and the bliss of knowledge which is beyond all fear that not even death can part us now.
Like everyone else in the world, I have cherished many dreams in my life, not all of which have come true. The course of my life was never smooth. It was not, in the words of the poet, “Roses, roses, all the way.” There were in fact more thorns than roses in it. Most people’s lives are like that. If there is shade to shelter with its grateful coolth, there are also stretches of burning rock to scorch and torture with their heat. The beauty of the waterfall alternates with the terror of the sandstorm. That is Life and that is Nature. Sufficient is it for me that, having journeyed so far and suffered what had to come because it was written from the beginning, I have reached the peak of my hope, achieved my desire from earliest childhood. Looking back from that peak upon the way I have travelled, it appears only as a faint line fast losing in the glow of realization the frightening contours of rugged difficulty which once filled me with dread and apprehension. Looking ahead, my eyes are filled with a brightness which excludes everything else from my vision.
From childhood I had an inordinate love of reading and my girlhood ideal, enshrined in the privacy of my heart and worshipped in my secret dreams, was the vague figure of a man combining the genius of a great poet and a great writer of that literary excellence which makes an art of expression. In the course of my wide and discursive reading I came across the work of such a man and became acquainted with his name. Admiring the work, I was drawn strangely towards the man and wondered what he was like.
Then, one day, I saw a photograph of Kamal Amrohi in a magazine. Lightning flashed before my eyes, bringing realization with a stunning shock which left me trembling, sick with a strange apprehension. This was the man of my dreams, the ideal enshrined in my heart. I did not want to believe it. I refused to entertain the thought. I tried to deceive myself. The vague figure I had cherished in my thoughts, hasty shadow of my dreams, had suddenly taken on the shape and substance of an individual human creature. It could not be, I kept telling myself. But always there was a voice which seemed to say, “Do not be afraid to recognize me. I am really your ideal, not just a figment of your imagination.” And finally I gave up and believed the voice.
But that was a long way from my dream. Everybody around me seemed to know Kamal Amrohi. After the grand success of “Mahal,” his was a famous name. I alone had never met him. Every artist I knew wished to work under the great director. So in my heart of hearts did I. It was a craving with me. But I dared not. I was afraid to yield to the pull of my heart-strings which were dragging me to him. What if my love was not returned? The thought was shattering.
One day at Bombay Talkies, during the shooting of “Tamasha,” I was introduced to Kamal Amrohi. At last, I thought, the moment I had so long dreaded and prayed for has come. Trembling inwardly but making no sign of it, I gave the man I loved, the beau ideal of my secret heart, polite greeting. He returned it perfunctorily, barely glancing at me. He is proud, I thought. I was shaken at the time, eve a little hurt. I loved him as much as ever, but dreaded more than ever the prospect of meeting him.
You can imagine, then, my state when Kamal Amrohi came in person and offered me a role in the picture “Anarkali”, which he was going to direct for Filmkar. Glad as I was and grateful beyond expression at the auspicious chance which now offered of working under the man I loved, I was so flustered by the meeting and so fearful of falling short that I almost collapsed from sheer nervousness and anxiety.
And then accident, or should I say a special dispensation of Providence, opened the door to me. On the-way from Mahableshwar to Bombay my car met with an accident which shook me badly and left me with a hand so severely injured that it seemed doubtful I would have its use again. I was taken to the Sassoon Hospital at Poona and kept there for nearly three months.
Sympathizing friends and people filled with pity flocked around me as I Lay in bed through dark despairing weeks filled with an ever-present dread which went far beyond the black prospect of a career blighted in the bud. It was infinitely more bitter to think that the secret hope of my life so recently strengthened by my engagement to work under the man of my dreams should also have gone with it. While everybody in the industry whom I knew came to visit me, the one person I longed most to see did not come.
My thoughts were at their saddest and my feelings at their lowest ebb one specially lonely evening when l lay wondering at my fate and what my future was to be. I looked up to see him there, beside me. Kamal Amrohi had come to see me. My ideal the man of my heart, who haunted all my waking hours and filled my sleep witth dreams, stood there in the flesh asking in his quiet soothing voice after my health, the state of my hand. I hardly heard him. I was in a haze, utterly lost in a heaven of my own, uncaring of what was said or done, content merely to look and to know that Kamal was there at last. That he for whom I had longed with such yearning and sorrow and despair had come to see me.
He was very sweet that first evening, and before his reassuring presence all memory of the bitter weeks which had passed fled away never to return. He came again and again, and each visit was such sweetness that I prayed fervently to God not to heal my hand so that the sweetness could continue. That accident was God’s blessing in disguise, for though it broke my hand, which is disfigured to this day, it brought me my present happiness which was born of those blessed beautiful meetings when Kamal Amrohi visited me in my hospital bed at Poona. Love crept into our hearts during those delightful hours of which I can never lose the memory as long as I am alive.
There came a day when my hand was finally healed, and I had to leave the hospital and some back to Bombay. In the bustling life and scurry of the city the halcyon memories of our budding love in Poona were soon overcast beneath an increasing load of problems connected with our work and our future which seemed to multiply at every step. Of one thing we were certain: we could not live without each other. And so, with the courage of a love which had grown up with my life and which was returned with a devotion equal to my own, we took the step which bound us together for life and were married in the presence of our dearest friends, Kamal’s and my own.
A year has passed since then, and I am still the happiest person in the world because the man I have married is still the ideal man I loved before I had ever met him. We understand each other completely. Kamal has lived up to my every thought of him. I have found him exactly as I had dreamed of him- I hope, indeed I know, he will say the same of me. Something of this deep understanding and kinship of soul which lies between us may perhaps be seen in the picture we have just made together, “Daaera.”
It is true that there the relationship was of a director to an artist. But we are husband and wife, too, and there is between us the bond of a love which transforms all human activity and invests its most prosaic manifestation with the beauty of transcendent art, makes poetry of the ordinary actions of everyday life like fetching your, husband’s slippers or laying the breakfast table or breathing the morning air, or merely reading the paper together. You don’t believe it? Well, maybe you aren’t in love with a married man who is married to you. I am! (This interview was conducted in 1953).