Im­ran: An In­tense, In­ti­mate En­counter

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We fixed up a meet­ing and he came over to where I was stay­ing, hob­bling on his plas­tered foot. The leg which has kept him out of cricket for so long, is still in plas­ter, but it is amaz­ing how much mileage he can get out of it. He can do al­most ev­ery­thing with it, in­clud­ing drive a car… and most things, ex­cept play cricket.

I was very con­cerned about the plas­ter. I wanted to give him a cush­ion to rest his foot on. He said, “Re­lax, I’ve lived with this.” He was quite amused about the in­ter­view, would not take it se­ri­ously to be­gin with. And then, he be­came very in­ter­ested in it the minute I told him Zeenat and I are spe­cial cor­re­spon­dents for the magazine, han­dling par­tic­u­lar sec­tions. He wanted to know about Zeenat, he asked whether she was go­ing to marry Frank. I asked him if he’d ever met Frank and he said he had, a cou­ple of times.

It was an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me, in­ter­est­ing be­cause he turned out to be quite un­ex­pected. He is an at­trac­tive man, there is no doubt about that. But then, just be­cause he has this im­age of be­ing a sex-sym­bol, you’d think he will flaunt around his sex-ap­peal greatly. I had pre­sumed he would try to bowl me over with his phys­i­cal charm and it was very re­lax­ing to see that he did not at­tempt that at all. We did not re­late as man and woman and we did not try to play any un­der­cur­rent game at all. We just se­ri­ously talked.

I’d not known what we were go­ing to talk about. I’d not had any­thing spe­cific to ask him. We just talked around and, at some stage, I switched on the tape

recorder that was ly­ing in the flat. Just be­fore he’d come, I’d got a call from my fam­ily in Bom­bay. I was told about the ri­ots in Bom­bay, the ag­i­ta­tion in Pun­jab, the jour­nal­is­tic spec­u­la­tion that Pak­istan was be­hind the ag­i­ta­tion. So I sup­pose it was up­per­most in my mind and it was nat­u­rally the first thing we be­gan to talk about…

ON IN­DIA

Im­ran ar­gued: “What in­ter­est would Pak­istan have with the Sikhs? I can’t imag­ine any Pak­istani do­ing such a thing.”

I said the arms def­i­nitely came from Pak­istan. Where else could they have come from?

“Arms can come from any­where. There are so many mer­ce­nar­ies around. In­di­vid­u­als sell arms. At present, the arms racket is the big­gest one in the world and makes the most money.”

What­ever it is, what hap­pened in Bom­bay was ter­ri­ble. I am very sec­u­lar. I am not in any way an ob­ses­sive or fa­nat­i­cal Mus­lim, but even I was shocked by what hap­pened.

“Ev­ery time, in the past, I used to go to In­dia and en­joy its hos­pi­tal­ity. Then, when I would go back to Pak­istan and talk to the el­ders, I would say, ‘Why did we have to sep­a­rate’. And they used to tell me that it had to hap­pen: If it did not, a ‘Mus­lim

in In­dia would have suf­fered. And I used to feel sorry, I was never sure about what they said. But now, I am con­vinced that it was very im­por­tant for the sep­a­ra­tion to have taken place. In­dia is for the Hin­dus. Why else are the Sikhs ag­i­tat­ing? Aren’t they too blam­ing the Hin­dus for ex­ploita­tion?”

But it is a wrong con­cept that In­dia be­longs to the Hin­dus. In­dia be­longs to ev­ery­body who lives in it!

“Says who?”

Says Ms Azmi! “Ask the Hindu me­dia. They will tell you how ev­ery­thing is Hindu con­trolled.”

How can you say that? I don’t think there is any ques­tion of ma­jor­ity or mi­nor­ity. And if you look at it from that an­gle, the Hin­dus them­selves be­come mi­nor­ity be­cause they too have so many sub-di­vi­sions. “Sub-di­vi­sions there may be. But once it is a ques­tion of Sikhs or Mus­lims or any other mi­nor­ity, the Hin­dus be­come a whole body.”

ON WOMEN Would you ever live with a woman you loved even if

you are not earn­ing and she is?

“It would de­pend upon the re­la­tion­ship.”

You feel it’s the man’s job to earn the bread and but­ter of the house­hold?

“I do be­lieve that if, ac­cord­ing to a cer­tain re­la­tion­ship, a woman is in a po­si­tion that en­ables her to tem­po­rar­ily help a man to earn his bread and but­ter, it’s okay. But if a man just lives off a suc­cess­ful woman, then it must take a cer­tain type of woman to ac­cept such a sit­u­a­tion.” Why is it per­fectly okay for a woman to live off a man hap­pily ever after for­ever and ever Amen, in spite of the fact that she may be ed­u­cated and lit­er­ate and can go out and take up a ca­reer? That is hap­pen­ing all the time. So why is it not ac­cept­able the other way around? “Ac­tu­ally, I don’t even agree with a woman liv­ing off a man. I think the ideal sit­u­a­tion would be one where the woman too is in­de­pen­dent.”

In­de­pen­dent, but just so much less than her man, isn’t it?

“I don’t go into de­grees of in­de­pen­dence. I think

in a re­la­tion­ship, two peo­ple should be – as much as is pos­si­ble – eco­nom­i­cally and pro­fes­sion­ally in­de­pen­dent of each other. That would en­hance their re­la­tion­ship. But if they are de­pen­dent on each other, then one way or an­other, the de­pen­dence de­tracts a lot from the re­la­tion­ship. It be­comes a bur­den.”

If a woman was earn­ing just that much more than you, would it hurt you?

“It wouldn’t hurt me at all.”

If she was more pop­u­lar and suc­cess­ful than you? “It wouldn’t hurt me, de­pend­ing on our re­la­tion­ship. If be­cause she is suc­cess­ful and pop­u­lar, our re­la­tion­ship be­gins to de­te­ri­o­rate, then I would mind it. But if her achieve­ment did not come in the way of our re­la­tion­ship, it would not bother me.”

ON MAR­RIAGE

Do you wish to get mar­ried?

“Not at the moment.”

Do you think mar­riage is nec­es­sary any­more?

“Yes, be­cause of chil­dren.”

You can have chil­dren out of mar­riage.

“I dis­agree. Apart from any moral judg­ment that so­ci­ety might cast on you, the chil­dren are go­ing to suf­fer un­less you hap­pen to be liv­ing in a very lib­eral so­ci­ety. And I dis­agree with the one-par­ent fam­ily too. I don’t think those sit­u­a­tions do jus­tice to the chil­dren.”

The more I look around, the more I see all mar­riages break­ing up. Tell me, how many of your young mar­ried friends are re­ally happy with each other and not dis­sat­is­fied with the whole damn thing?

“A lot de­pends on your state of mind when you go into mar­riage. I think when you marry, you must be very aware. The dan­ger of mar­ry­ing very young is that two peo­ple grow apart. When they fall in love and marry, they are on the same wave­length. Then the man goes up in his ca­reer, he be­gins to do well, he is men­tally grow­ing. The wife sits at home. After 10 years, they re­ally have noth­ing in com­mon be­cause the wife is at the same point and the man has gone miles ahead.

I re­ally be­lieve that the brain is some­thing that keeps grow­ing all the time, the more you stim­u­late it, the more it will grow and if you sit at home, then the brain will not be stim­u­lated un­less you

are the kind of per­son who makes it a point to re­ally read a lot, keep in touch and keep pace with your hus­band. Only then can you stay together and re­main together. But what nor­mally hap­pens is that peo­ple (I’ve found this with my friends) who start at the same level, they be­gin to grow apart and after a time there is no meet­ing point and that is where the prob­lems be­gin. That is why I think peo­ple should marry when they are older.”

But isn’t it a fact that the older peo­ple get, the more rigid they turn?

“I don’t know why peo­ple say that. On the con­trary, I feel that the older you are, the more sure you will be of what you want and you will not be will­ing to com­pro­mise much. When you are younger, you think love is ev­ery­thing. When you are older, you know it is not, you be­come more of a re­al­ist. I’m all for mar­ry­ing at an older age.”

Which means you wouldn’t like to get mar­ried now?

“I don’t feel ready for it now. It’s not a ques­tion of wait­ing for the right per­son nor do I look on mar­riage as a goal to be reached. I’m sim­ply wait­ing for the stage when I’ll feel I need it, whether for chil­dren or what­ever.”

Do you have any sis­ters who are not mar­ried? “My el­der sis­ter.” Do you have this fear that time is run­ning out for her? “No, I don’t feel that be­cause she has done so bril­liantly in her ca­reer, she is so suc­cess­ful and I know that it is giv­ing her so much per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion.”

Oh, so the rules of the game be­come dif­fer­ent for some­one who is suc­cess­ful?

“I think so. I had a mis­con­cep­tion ear­lier maybe. But then, at the time when she was el­i­gi­ble for mar­riage, she could not find some­one of her in­tel­lec­tual level, she was al­ways more in­tel­li­gent than the oth­ers in her age group, much brighter and aca­dem­i­cally so much ahead that it would have been a pity to have stemmed it all with mar­riage for mar­riage’s sake. I’m glad at her suc­cess and I’m so happy for her. On the other hand, I do un­der­stand that if you are a woman, say for in­stance a woman in Pak­istan, then I can see a woman mak­ing a com­pro­mise just be­cause she feels it is the best al­ter­na­tive since she doesn’t have a ca­reer. With my sis­ter, I knew she was bril­liant, she went to the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics, got her de­gree, went through a few jobs in Pak­istan, did some­thing for women – re­search, fi­nally got into the United Na­tions, and now, at an age which is rel­a­tively much younger than the oth­ers, she has got a per­ma­nent job as an econ­o­mist in the UN, she is based in New York.”

Doesn’t your sis­ter feel the need to go back to Pak­istan and con­trib­ute to the sit­u­a­tion in some way, per­haps help the women there? “I think at the moment her am­bi­tion is more to es­tab­lish her­self as a top econ­o­mist.”

What is your con­cept of an in­tel­li­gent woman?

“A woman who has the ca­pac­ity to grasp, some­one who has got a lively mind, some­one who is not rigid, who is ac­com­mo­dat­ing, who keeps grow­ing, chang­ing.”

Do you think in­tel­li­gent women are a rare species?

“No, be­cause I was brought up in a house where I had four sis­ters and all of them were very bright girls.”

What at­tracts you to a woman first and fore­most?

“Looks and per­son­al­ity. If she doesn’t have some­thing to back it, the at­trac­tion goes. There are some women who may be very in­tel­li­gent, have high IQs, but they are not stim­u­lat­ing. To put it briefly, I think my def­i­ni­tion of love is to meet some­one who can be your best friend.”

In­ci­den­tally, Im­ran de­nied hav­ing ever made any dis­parag­ing re­marks about Hindi film ac­tresses. He said the re­marks had been made by some­body else and had been at­trib­uted to him.

I asked him: Do you re­ally in­tend to go in for an ‘ar­ranged mar­riage’ with a Pak­istani girl?

“I find that dif­fi­cult to an­swer be­cause it is so hy­po­thet­i­cal. Frankly, I have never ever had the urge to get mar­ried. So there has only been this sub-con­scious thought far back in my mind that like ev­ery­body else in the fam­ily, I will get mar­ried when the time comes and when it is ar­ranged. That has been my phi­los­o­phy in ev­ery­thing. Even as a crick­eter, I never planned I would play cricket as I am now on a pro­fes­sional level. When I left Ox­ford, I thought I’d give my­self one year of cricket and then go into civil ser­vice or some­thing; I never thought I would just be play­ing day in and day out. So that is why I think there is no way of look­ing into the fu­ture. I don’t have a crys­tal ball.”

ON CRICKET Are you aching to get back onto the field?

“Only in Australia, I sup­pose be­cause I’d wanted recog­ni­tion in Australia. As it is I had a lot of recog­ni­tion there. But the Pak­istan team was never re­ally looked on as a very real team or a great one. But for that match, we had ev­ery­thing and I knew that if we’d bowled in that se­ries, we would have beaten Australia and that would have been the only time we would have ever beaten Australia in Australia. And the whole pub­lic was wait­ing for it be­cause it was sup­posed to be a tremen­dous con­fronta­tion; we were on par with West Indies. Pak­istan, when I was cap­tain, was rated as the best team in the world. So ev­ery­body was watch­ing and the world was watch­ing. And I just couldn’t play. At that time I ached.”

I find the com­pet­i­tive spirit in sports very fright­en­ing. I know all of us are in com­pet­i­tive pro­fes­sions. But in sports, the com­pe­ti­tion is ter­ri­bly naked. Do you have a kind of ‘killer in­stinct’ when you go out on the field?

“I would not call it a killer in­stinct. Fast bowl­ing is more of an ag­gres­sive act. And I would do it not be­cause it is In­dia or be­cause it is Australia, I mean I don’t take na­tion­al­ism that far. I would do it be­cause I am a sports­man. Like say Gavaskar does it. I rec­og­nize Gavaskar as one of the two or three great­est bats­men in the world.”

What about Kapil Dev?

“Kapil Dev may have done a lot for In­dian cricket, but not as much as Gavaskar. To do what Gavaskar has done is just in­cred­i­ble. Kapil has got more im­por­tance be­cause he is the only medium fast bowler that In­dia has got. Be­fore Kapil, In­dia did not

have a bowler of any pace. If Kapil Dev had played in the West Indies team, no one would have heard of him, he would cer­tainly have not got into the team as a bowler. Pos­si­bly as an all-rounder, but not as a bowler. On the other hand, Su­nil Gavaskar would get into any team in the world as an open­ing bats­man and that is why he is a great bats­man. Not only in In­dia, but abroad as well. Very few can do that. Even our play­ers, like Tayab Baaz, they may play well in Pak­istan, but the out­side record is dif­fer­ent.”

How long will you be off the field?

“I don’t know whether I will re­cover from this in­jury. I’ll see what hap­pens when the cast comes off. I’m not pre­pared to com­pro­mise. If I can’t be a fast bowler, I’m not go­ing back to cricket. I’ll think of an­other ca­reer.”

Would you be able to give up this glam­our and live in anonymity?

“I think so. When I started play­ing, I’d never an­tic­i­pated there would be all this. Even now I get sur­prised when I en­counter it in Australia or In­dia and of course Pak­istan. It still sur­prises me be­cause I con­sider my­self a crick­eter and noth­ing more, hav­ing played most of my cricket in Eng­land where crick­eters are crick­eters and not big su­per he­roes. So when there is no more cricket, I sup­pose I’ll just have to think of some­thing else. I met Is­mail Mer­chant the other day and he asked me to work in films.”

ON FILMS

Would you like to?

“No, I don’t think so.”

Why? Are you scared?

“Well, I’m a crick­eter and not an ac­tor, it’s as sim­ple as that. Not any­one can act, just as not ev­ery­one can play cricket. I don’t want to just make a fool of my­self on the screen. Does that sound log­i­cal?”

Even the money wouldn’t tempt you?

“If money is all I wanted, in­stead of act­ing, I could have done mod­el­ing. I’ve turned down quite a few of­fers. Just to make money, I would not be able to do some­thing I don’t be­lieve in, like mak­ing a soap ad for in­stance. There was only one ad that I wanted to do but be­cause of my leg, I couldn’t – it was a Mercedes ad where all I was re­quired to do was stand as a crick­eter be­fore a Mercedes – a car that I love –

and in front was writ­ten: ‘The per­fect all-rounder’. Then I did some jeans ad and when I saw it, I felt em­bar­rassed and I haven’t done any since.”

Do you see any Pak­istani films? “No, be­cause most of them are pretty bad.”

Why did you make those dis­parag­ing re­marks about In­dian film ac­tresses?

“I’m glad you’ve brought this up. I have never made those re­marks. I was shocked that they were at­trib­uted to me, es­pe­cially after the warm re­cep­tion given to me by the film in­dus­try. I must have sounded a real heel.” Why didn’t you deny them? “Oh, you know the press as well as I do. Had I de­nied it, the whole thing would have snow­balled and I would have ended up giv­ing in­ter­views for ever after.”

Even so, it was im­por­tant that you should have done so. I re­mem­ber get­ting very an­gry when I heard about it. “You shouldn’t have be­lieved it at all. Well – I sup­pose, how could you – you’ve hardly met me… But I apol­o­gise now lady for some­thing I haven’t done… Who baat saare fasane mein jiska zikr na tha, who baat unko bahut na­gawar guzri hai. That’s all the poetry I know, so don’t im­me­di­ately start ask­ing me ques­tions on poetry now!”

Have you seen any Hindi films? “A few, I saw ‘ Sahib Biwi Aur Ghu­lam’ on video. And Wa­heeda Rehman seemed good to me. She’s the most at­trac­tive woman I have ever seen.”

More than Meena Kuari? “There is no com­par­i­son. Meena Ku­mari in that film was melo­dra­matic. I thought she over­acted and I wished she didn’t cry that much. But Wa­heeda was strik­ing. I saw it with a cou­ple of English­men and even they found her stun­ning.”

In­ci­den­tally, Im­ran had not seen any of my films, but he said he had heard I was pretty good in one or two films. He could not re­mem­ber their names.

With Kapil Dev

With Su­nil Gavaskar

With first wife Jemima Gold­smith

With Jemima, their sons Su­laiman and Qasim, and Princess Diana

With sec­ond wife Re­ham Khan

With Jemima, Re­ham and third wife Bushra Bibi

At his swear­ing-in cer­e­mony as Prime Min­is­ter of Pak­istan

Prime Min­is­te­rial mo­ments

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