India

Rajesh Khanna loved Uttarakhand’s culture

Though Rajesh Khanna himself was a renowned celebrity as a first n original super star but after becoming the member of parliament he loved to meet people of different shades. Since I hail from Uttarakhand and was associated with him, Kaka took deep interest in Uttarakhand’s culture as well. He loved the colourful folk dances n songs of Uttarakhand to the hilt n had attended number of Uttarakhandi programmes organised by me n socio-cultural organisations of Uttarakhand active in Delhi.

He infact had special passion for the hills of Uttarakhand n loved its serene beauty n environment. During the  shooting of Ghar Ka Chirag movie KAKA was in Queen of Mountains Mussourie for over two months and wanted to buy a land at a magnificient location to built a house. Kaka used to take deep interest in Uttarakhand’s cultural programmes n sit to enjoy such programmes for hours together. 

He used to seriously interact with Uttarakhandi people around n had never said “no” whenever I requested him to inaugurate such programmes as chief guest. I remember several such programmes of Uttarakhandi cultural shows in Delhi which he attented joyfully n stayed there for pretty long time enjoying every part of it. His deep interest in Garhwali folk dances n adoration for songs as well as the melodious tunes sometimes gave us an impression that he was a Garhwali or from the hills. Kaka even whispered in my ears once how deeply he loves the Uttarakhandi culture n its people. 

Privileged to present a Shawl to Kaka at the premier of Garhwali film SATMANGLIYA at Pyare Lal Bhawan, ITO, New Delhi

The programmes of Uttrakhandi folks organised in Prem Nagar ground, adjacent to Sewa Nagar, New Delhi n Moti Nagar in which Uttarakhand’s swar samrat Narendra Singh Negi’s team performed were a great success where thousands of people, particularly his die hard women n youth fans participated n were mesmerised to the hilt by Kaka’s filmy style speech. Kaka was then contesting from New Delhi as the Congress candidate. 

In the year 2000, there was a premier of a Garhwali feature film in Pyarelal Bhawan in ITO. My friend and organiser JP Bisht , Editor of Chuyaanl, a first Garhwali language paper published from Delhi, approached me to manage a VIP for this programme. I thought , why not to invite Rajesh Khanna ? Kaka was at that point of time in Mumbai. 

Kaka surrounded by exhilarated supporters when he attended a marriage ceremony of my bro Anil Negi in the month of May in 1991

Though I was not sure that Kaka will acede to my request to come to the premier of this regional Garhwali film titled “Satmanglya”. I telephoned him at Ashirvad, Mumbai and requested Kaka, but he had no important reason to come to Delhi. However, I extended him the invitation n pursued my request repeatedly. Initially Kaka said he’s not sure whether he’ll be able to come but on my insistence, he finally agreed.

You will be surprised to know that he came Delhi especially for this Garhwali film’s premier and honoured my request . He didn’t charged a single paisa from the organisers as Bollywood actors’ usually charge exorbitantly and also for the to n fro air journey including luxurious arrangements for the stay etc. 

At a lunch in House number 81, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi

These stars get tremendous money for such filmy functions n commercial ventures like inauguration of companies or showrooms etc . When Kaka reached Delhi I went to see him. I fondly remember that after acompanying Kaka from his Sarvapriya Vihar residence, he first went to South Extention market to buy his spects from Boshch n Lamb and thereafter to the premier of the regional Garhwali film titled  “Satmangliya” at Pyarelal Bhawan where he was presented a shawl by me n cheerfully welcomed by hundreds of his fans.

It’s interesting to note that when I handed over the white shawl to Kaka as a mark of respect, he taught me, how to actually present it. He himself folded it nicely n then gave it back to me again asking to place it on his shoulders. 

I did so and the entire audience were in laughter cheering Kaka n heartily enjoying the moment.

Thereafter  Kaka saw half of the film though it was not up to the mark  but was in the midst of fellow Uttarakhandies for a pretty long time. This was his ambivalent gesture  towards the people of hills whom he always termned as honest, brilliant, sincere n gentleman like.

Kaka was also fond of meeting people of eminence who reached the top by virtue of hard work n dedication. Bachendripal, the first woman Mount Everest conqurer n thereafter Santosh Yadav  are one of these icons whom Kaka adored too much. Bachendr Pal is also from Chamoli district of Garhwal. I remember, while Kaka was the MP, Bachendripal n Santosh Yadav were in Delhi. I asked Kaka if he would spare some of his pivotal time and meet these ladies who’ve made history by climbing the highest peak of the world. 

Though Kaka used to be too busy those days but on hearing my proposal he too showed tremendous interest not only to meet them but also arranged a lunch for them in his bungalow, 81, Lodhi Estate. He met them, exchanged pleasentaries, gave his fans autographs n got number of photos clicked . My trusted friend Pratap Shahi , sr journalist Punkaj Vohra, Metro editor TOI, Sunil Dang, editor of Day After, Sports journo Rajendra Sajwan, etc were also with us in this get together. It was really a very significant moment like a super star of films meeting a superstar of mountaneering expedition Bachendripal n Santosh Yadav, the first Mount Everest women climber of India.

I also remember Kaka attending the Peshawar Hero brave Chandra Singh Garhwali’s death anniversary to pay his respectful tributes at Garhwal Bhawan, Panchquin Road. When I acquainted Kaka about Chandra Singhji’s heroic deeds for India’s independence n this historic event when Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali disobeyed Britishers n refused to shoot hundreds of freedom fighter Pathans led by frontior Gandhi Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan prefering rigorous life imprisonment at Andaman Jail, Kaala Paani than obeying imperialists British, Kaka was so impressed that he agreed to visit Garhwal Bhavan to pay his richest tributes to Garhwaliji.

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