Kamalrukh Khan, wife of late music director Wajid Khan speaks about her love story, her marriage and the special marriages act. She gives us the reason for speaking up, especially for her kids and wants them to get what is due to them.
Tell us about your love story and marriage
Wajid and I were college sweethearts; we met in Mithibai College. Our courtship lasted over 10 years. In those days he was a musician with Bappi Da and he travelled a lot for shows. We always kept in touch through letters. He used to perform in collegiate and intercollegiate levels and always win.
When we eventually decided to get married, the topic of religion was discussed by us. Wajid came from a family who expected me to convert to their faith, if I chose to be his wife. I was not very happy with the idea of conversion and he was worried this would be a hurdle in our marriage. So we decided to take a month off to think about this issue and post that thinking period, he decided to respect my choice of not converting. Love prevailed over religion. Obviously, his family was not at all happy with his decision to marry me but he nevertheless went ahead with it. The first few months of marriage were bliss, even though his family had minimal contact with me. However, over a period of time, his family, especially his mother, started pressurising him to make me convert and over the years especially after the birth of my kids, the endeavours to try and convert me reached epic proportions, to a level where the rift in my relationship with Wajid widened.
When you got married, was there any opposition from family?
In the case of my side of the family, apart from the usual skepticism around marrying a person from a different faith, there was none. In fact my family even tried to break the ice by suggesting that we arrange a wedding including traditions from both faiths.But his side of the family blatantly refused. Things got worse after marriage; almost everything that I did, including my motherhood, was linked to my religion; not being Muslim meant that my children were already estranged as Wajid wouldn't be home.He was torn and confused- his family forced their orthodoxy on him and me and when I didn't budge, I was made an outcast of sorts. He became an absentee father and husband.
Was there any discussion on religion when you decided to get married?
Yes as mentioned earlier, I was not happy with the idea of conversion and after much thought we decided to marry under the Special Marriages Act. Had religion been so important to Wajid, he would not have married a Parsi. The fact that he married me in spite of knowing that I would not convert showed that he was broad minded enough at that time to respect my choice. It was later that he succumbed to the pressures of his mother.
Was there any endeavour to force you to convert?
Yes direct pressure for sure! And a lot of indirect pressures too.For instance, Wajid's family kept insisting that our children were illegitimate as was our marriage since we had not married as per Muslim law (nikaah, which if I was to do, would mean me converting to Islam). For them the Special Marriages Act didn't mean anything. I could never celebrate any Parsi festival without them making a hue and cry over it. They also stopped coming to any of our Parsi family functions and his mother would openly tell Wajid, in my presence, to re-marry, which he obviously did not agree to do. His family's behaviour was disrespectful towards me. Wajid's refusal to budge on his beliefs, his refusal to accept another point of view, and his family's unnecessary interference and influence ensured that he never stood by my side as a husband should. Another scare tactic was him filing for divorce if I did not convert. Of course, eventually we did not end up getting a divorce as he realised his folly.
What and when did things go wrong?
The constant interference from his mother and other members of the family coupled with the constant pressure to convert took a toll on the health of our relationship. He moved out after a fight when Arshi was about 2.5 - 3 years. He came back again after three years. We had Hrehaan. And again due to the same pressure ensuing, he left again in 2014 and filed for divorce. There was this constant leaving the house and returning back, again to leave again. He was not around for hospital visits or responsibilities towards çhildren. I was handling everything single handedly. When he filed for divorce in court, I was devastated and felt extremely let down. However, for the sake of my children I continued to endeavour to have extremely amicable relations with him whenever he came to visit them. We travelled together, we went out for meals and movies, just like a regular family.Towards the last one-one and a half years of his life, he would visit us often and would apologise profusely to me and the children for leaving us but never was able to gather enough courage to go against his mother and come back to us. His failing health and his mental state made me take it easy too; after all I had loved this person all my life! Even from the hospital, in his last days he was constantly in touch with us a couple of times a day during the lockdown.
Why have you chosen to speak out now?
Now, when what is due to his kids is being taken away, I feel compelled to speak out. Life has brought me to a point where I need to fight for my children's due inheritance as his family has usurped his assets post Wajid's death. I am both father and mother to them, and in practical matters, always have been! My daughter is 16 years and my son is 9 years. I have to pay for their education and our upkeep. I work as a clinical hypnotherapist and our primary source of earning has been Wajid's marital support. If that too is being snatched away (by those who havent bothered to keep in touch with me or my children for the past 7-8 years, on such unfair grounds, I need to fight back on every front.
Also my reasons for speaking out is tied to an inherent sense of justice. No woman should have to face what I have faced during these 17 years of marriage. If my children's inheritance is under threat and my reputation is being dragged through the mud, I will speak out. No one should be able to get away with this. Legal battles apart, people should know. If an educated, independent woman like me can go through this just because she married for love and did not convert, a lot worse can happen to others that are less empowered. Beyond forced conversions and marriages tied to conversions, I want to focus on the trauma that I have faced. My post isn't against any one religion. All religions are equal, it is how one uses faith to distort matters. I stand against this distortion.