speaks about the bond he shares with Ona, his daughter from his first marriage
Your wife Neelam
has played a key role in helping you achieve success in your professional life...
Of course, that goes without saying. If I have gained appreciation, acclaim and monetary benefits, the credit goes to my wife. And it is not that she was compelled not to pursue her career. The fact is that she was never interested in her career. When we had started dating each other, I would explain her, that making excuses would never help her in the long run. Neelam used to get calls for auditions and she would not go for any, and say, 'It is too hot' or 'It is too far'. And I would tell her how could she even expect to get work if she continued with that attitude. Her ambition was to get married, have children and be a homemaker. And she has been doing a great job. This also works well for all of us in the family.
What if Neelam was over ambitious and temperamental?
I wouldn't have married her. I don't know if it is known to all, but I was married before I tied the knot with Neelam. I also have a 20-year-old daughter from my first marriage and I have responsibilities towards her too. I remember when I was dating Neelam, neither of us thought of being in a relationship and how steady we wanted it to be, as I had already experienced a not-so-good phase. But things fell into place and we continued to talk, go out and eventually started dating each other.
But hasn't your first marriage ever affected the bond you share with Neelam. Was she perplexed while making the decision to marry you?
I don't think Neelam was ever confused or had to think twice before she made up her mind to marry me. In fact, she often told me that she wanted to marry me the moment she saw me. The fact that Neelam never had any insecurities or fears played an instrumental role in cementing our bond.
What was your daughter Ona's reaction when she met Neelam for the first time?
My daughter was only 14 when Neelam met her for the first time. I still remember, I was driving the car, Neelam was sitting next to me and Ona was also with us. After we dropped Neelam to her place, I told Ona that I wanted to talk to her and she instantly replied, 'I know daddy you want to marry her'.
Ona knows I'm her biological father even though we separated when she was six-months old. I have seen her just once a year that too for a brief period of time. I have missed 20 years of my daughter's life. I have missed her life completely. It hurts when I think of it. But I think that as she is growing older, our bond has begun to strengthen. Now that she studies in the university, we exchange mails once in a while.
Was this decision – of restricted meetings with your daughter – thrusted upon you?
Well, when my ex-wife and I got divorced, she was an illegal immigrant in the US. I could have got my daughter back. It was all about filing a petition. My daughter was also an illegal immigrant. But I thought, and did so correctly, that at that point of time, my ex-wife was a better parent. I'm a fabulous father now, thanks to Neelam. But at that time I don't know. So, I feel that leaving my daughter with my wife was the correct decision. It was an emotionally vulnerable phase of my life.
What's the relationship between your ex-wife and Neelam? Is there any animosity between them?
No, my wives (former and present) share no animosity but the two aren't great friends either. When my daughter graduated (as in after she completed her school), we all went to the US to greet her. Post this, we also attended my ex-wife's wedding. We all went to her house. I don't know why they never shared any animosity. Both have been cordial to each other. Whatever had to happen in the past has happened. But things are going smooth now.
Has the strained relationship with your ex-wife made your daughter grow mature much before her age allowed?
No, she behaves the way kids of her age do. She is an American child – she's grounded, intelligent, and speaks her mind. But I have to admit that she has been brought up really well. My daughter and I have never discussed the topic whether she has ever missed me and I hope that we never have that discussion in the future too. For, it would mean delving into what had happened in the past. I think bygones should be bygones.