I really don't know if we have this here ... i enjoyed every bit of it Gauri Khan’s Candid Confessions This month, that year Stardust May 1996 I was curious about Gauri. I had been since I met Shah Rukh a year and a half ago. He wasn’t married to her then. He wasn’t sure if he would get to marry her at all. Rarely spoke to her. “8th of October? You share your birthday with my girlfriend,” he said once. “Oh! You’re a Punjabi too,” he exclaimed another time. So I knew that he had a girlfriend somewhere in Delhi, who was born on the same day as mine and she was a Punjabi. I didn’t know her name because Shah Rukh never mentioned. He didn’t owe it to me or anyone else, to talk about her if he didn’t wish to. He spoke about everything else under the sun, personal or professional, without hesitation or provocation – incessantly. Shah Rukh’s energetic and relentless ability to talk has been well and properly established in his short association with the industry. The subject – Gauri’s was hence conspicuous by omission. As it is now by repetition. From absolute pre-marital restraint to the frantic post-marital proclamations of love and passion, Shah Rukh has gone only from the unusual to strange. This may or may not be my opinion. But this is certainly how the industry has reacted to Shah Rukh’s “I am obsessed with my wife” – “I love her body” – “She has me by my balls” – “She’s the only woman on this earth I love.” Men, in or outside the industry, don’t go around proclaiming such obsessive and rebellious love for their wives. Even those, few or more, who do love their wives, normally don’t find it necessary to make a feverish display of their ardour. And then, our beautiful but damned film industry, with all glory and glamour, fame and wealth, and the equally damaging pressures of maintaining and retaining these heady powers, has not exactly been a very ideal altar for marriages. So you could say its envy of people deprived for years of such marital vibrancy. Or just disbelief. Cynical distrust. Of a relationship so idyllic, set in a world of entangled, troubled relationships, marriages struggling to survive. Shah Rukh’s marriage seems too perfect to be true. I would say it’s too new. It’s that glitters need not be gold, we need not suspect all that glitters either. The devastatingly sexy-looking 23 year old Gauri, clad in a micro-mini, radiant, confident, defiant, smug, almost purring on her star-husband’s arm. The unconventional star-wife who broke every rule in the book, who refused to clothe her vivacity in the traditional pallu and walk behind her husband on the toed line. Who defied every snigger with a more sniggering snigger. Is Gauri really so insecure? Yes she is. Or let’s put it this way, she’s unsure, uncertain. She was always skeptical about the industry. She hated the thought of Shah Rukh joining it. She had already seen what fame and recognition, even at its lowest, could do. Shah Rukh was already a television star, but the film industry was something else altogether. It was too gigantic in proportion and prospect. And too scary. She would rather not have Shah Rukh at all than have a star-husband. Or that is how she made it out to be, if some of Shah Rukh’s friends are to be believed. “She kept the pressure hanging on his head like a sword. She tried everything under the sun to keep him away from the industry. And she gave him real hell after he came to Bombay. The boy was miserable. He had just lost his mother. He was in a new city, new atmosphere and Gauri didn’t make it any easier for him.” The pressure showed on Shah Rukh. I clearly remember what he had told me in his first interview after he came to Bombay. “I don’t know what is right or wrong,” he said in the Stardust September 1991 issue. “I don’t know if I will be more miserable if I leave people I love for my work or if I leave my work for them. I want to act. This is the only way of life I know… They must understand… Please, if you love me, stay with me. If you go away it will hurt me, but I can’t turn around and say please stay. I’ve learnt to live alone… I can’t be how I used to be. It’s not that I don’t need you but I need to be with myself… I need space… You can never understand the extent of my sadness… It’s not your fault but it’s not mine either. I guess I am too much of a coward to do anything…” Shah Rukh had not taken Gauri’s name even once in the interview. In fact, he refused to talk about her. “Don’t involve her please; I’m as it is having a lot of problems.” But if you read the interview again you’ll realize that despite his effort to keep her out of it, she was all there. I never existed, neither did the dictaphone. He was talking about her all along. Her insecurities had obviously rubbed off on him. The process of doubts and uncertainties, assurances and reassurances had already begun. It is understandable why once Gauri had accepted him as husband; it became imperative for Shah Rukh to reinforce the procedure. His profuse pronouncements were just a part of it. But like everything else Shah Rukh does in life, he overdid it. The industry didn’t take very kindly to it. Gauri’s miniskirts only added fuel to the fire. But let me tell you, behind the rebellion and bravado of this young newly-wed couple lies the vulnerability of two people very much in love – against the world. “I think it’s dumb. You can’t please the industry either ways,” says Gauri. “If you keep your wife at home, you are hiding her. If you take her around, you’re flaunting her. If she’s the quiet kind, she’s a doormat. If she talks, she’s overbearing. They are sick. It’s really stupid,” she shakes her head and rolls her brown eyes. I had never really met Gauri. I was fleetingly introduced to her at Ramesh Sippy’s party months ago. And then I saw her in photographs, which I think didn’t do justice to her. I almost did not recognize her that day when I went to Shah Rukh’s rented apartment at Bandra. I think she had come straight out of her bath to open the door. She was in her bathing robe. Her face soft and warm after the shower. Fresh, flawless complexion, brownish hair wet at the ends with a hesitant smile, she said, “Hi, Shah Rukh’s not in, but do come in.” The Khan’s make-shift house (he is in the process of buying one for himself) is devoid of furniture except for a refrigerator, a VCR, a television, a telephone and of course Shah Rukh’s computer games. And a few mattresses thrown on the floor. A few suitcases and a row of sports shoes. “We have most of our meals at Chikki’s (Chunky’s brother) place. Or sometimes we just get a tandoor chicken and a few bottles of Thums Up or Pepsi from outside,” Gauri smiled. “I guess the real settling down will start when we shift into our own house.” She excused herself for a minute, went into her bedroom to get a house coat, came back and sat down on the mattress in front of me. “Why are these guys after me ya? I mean every month, every magazine I pick up, there is something cheap written about me. And they have the same dirty picture of mine which they keep printing. I wear minis, so what’s the big deal ya?” she said perplexed holding her knees together with her arms, her fingers around toes. “I dress up like any other girl my age would. All my life I’ve dressed like this. And come on, these actesses, they go around half-nude in most of their films. No one seems to be reacting to that. Then why me? I mean, why do people even want to write or talk about me? I am not some actress. Shah Rukh is a star, not me.