EXCLUSIVE: Seema Kapoor remembers Om Puri on his birth anniversary: Ours was a bond from a previous lifetime

by nyljaouadi1
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Yaadein maazi azhaab hai ya Rabb!

(Memories of the past are painful oh God!)

Cheen le mujhse haafiza mera

(Take away my power of retention) …

That’s how Seema Kapoor describes the torment of memories. It’s been five years since the acclaimed actor passed away on January 6, 2017.  But his presence is embedded in her life forever. And it’s not that theirs was an idyllic narrative. It was a trajectory, which was replete with betrayal and regret, hurt and humiliation. Where the past trailed the present. Where the present was incomplete without the past.

Seema was 19 when she met a struggling Om Puri in 1979. After 11 years of being together, they married in 1990. By 1991, Puri wanted to end the relationship (the actor reportedly got involved with writer/journalist Nandita Puri whom he later married).  Seema walked away from an annulled dream only to lose her unborn baby as well.

Around 2009, Om’s marriage with Nandita reportedly hit troubled waters after his biography, Unlikely Hero: The Story Of Om Puri (2009), penned by her revealed a highly personal aspect of his life. Om reportedly sought separation from Nandita. The actor, who had survived a paralytic stroke was also suffering from a knee problem those days, reportedly bonded with ex-wife Seema once again. “When Nandita and I got involved, Seema walked out gracefully… In retrospect, I’ve been unfair to Seema… After we divorced, she lived alone… She didn’t remarry… I want to be with her,” the actor reportedly said.

But the path for Om and Seema was rougher this time round. There were no easy exit points. Seema once again found herself at the core of conflict and controversy. Compassion, she says, was what kept her by his side despite the trials. And perhaps a soul connection, which endures even after his passing away… Not all relationships are destined to enjoy the spring but those that weather tempests, surely have deep roots. 

In Seema Kapoor’s own words…

“It’s been five years since Puri saab passed away. It’s difficult to put in words how these years have passed. They say Time is a healer. But just as I miss my late parents (late theatre personality Madan Lal Kapoor and late poetess Kamal Kapoor, pen name Shabnam) intensely even after decades, I miss Puri saab.

Om Puri with first wife Seema Kapoor first image

“When Puri saab passed away, I feared I’d collapse. Woh kaifiyat (condition) ab nahin. Time does give you the strength to pull along. Because neither can you attempt suicide nor can you die at will. As long as you live, you have to carry on and with gratitude for that strength. One has to work; one has to survive. I will soon be directing a film, the shooting of which will begin in November.

“In fact, I gained this ability to throw myself into work from Puri saab. Given the love that was between us and then his leaving me abruptly shortly after marriage, it was at that point that I learnt to find solace in work. Writing, reading, making films… is a matter of both passion and survival.

Om Puri with first wife Seema Kapoor second image

“The uncertainty of life is baffling. Just a few days before he passed away, Puri saab had undergone a complete health check-up. I requested the doctor to caution Puri saab about his health so that he’d slow down on smoking and alcohol. But the doctor turned around and said, ‘He’s fitter than you’. Surely, Puri saab had undergone a back surgery. He’d suffered nerve damage, which made his hands tremble. But there was nothing critical about his health. Critical were the situations in his life. The circumstances made it difficult for him to hold himself together. He couldn’t handle them.

“Puri saab and I first got into a relationship in 1979. Being young, it was attraction that brought us together. He was a struggler. My family believed it would be difficult for him to make it given his unconventional looks. My parents feared how he’d survive only on theatre. Who knew parallel cinema would take off! Also, he was 11 years older than me. After 11 years of knowing each other, we got married in 1990.

Filmmaker and Om Puri's first wife Seema Kapoor

“The fact that he left me when I was pregnant… that shikayat (complaint) always remained with me. A relationship may not work for any reason but what about the friendship that was always between us? When I lay shattered in hospital (Seema lost her baby prematurely), uss waqt mujhe sirhane par unki zaroorat thi (I needed him by my bedside). I’d already lost Puri saab. Losing the baby was even more traumatic. I kept wondering … woh dost kahan chala gaya?

“But despite the separation of decades, we came together again. We seemed to have an old, deep connection between us. When you’re advancing in age, when you’re growing weak more so emotionally… it’s then that you need an anchor. When Puri saab returned to me, he was in great distress. Had he not been in trouble, he wouldn’t have done so.

ALSO READ: IIFFB present late actor Om Puri with Lifetime Achievement Award

 “Evaluating it logically… why would an established person, who doesn’t lack anything – be it money or power – choose an aging woman to be his companion? A woman, who was his ex-wife and with whom he had a 11-year relationship before that. Had his career or wealth been over, it was understandable. But he was a busy actor and in demand… and he still came to me.

And I, after staying alone for so long, also agreed to be with him. There was an eternal bond between us. Or else why would a man return after so many years? The depth of the relationship can thus be gauged. There was no selfish motive or manipulation as alleged by some people. I didn’t expect anything from Puri saab. In fact, my brother, Anu Kapoorji (veteran actor/host), was extremely upset with me for being with Puri saab. He’d even stopped talking with me saying that he couldn’t see me suffer once again!

Filmmaker and Om Puri's first wife Seema Kapoor second image

 ‘Love’ is a loosely used word today. It begins from ‘I love ice-cream’ and includes many other trivial things. Our relationship was all about compassion. We shared a great understanding. Of course, there were skirmishes and differences during the seven odd years we were together. But despite that we remained one.

Looking back, I have no regrets. I played my part with full honesty. I don’t want to portray myself as a victim. But when you love someone, you endure unjustified demands so that he doesn’t suffer or face trouble. This kind of unconditional love can exist between a mother-child, between siblings and between a man and woman.

It was difficult for me to move away from the relationship though it’s easy for people to say so. We learn from Nature, that a branch, which is cut, continues to bear sweet fruits. It doesn’t hold bitterness. So, when two compassionate people come together again, all the bitterness dissolves… leaving people around to wonder.

Filmmaker and Om Puri's first wife Seema Kapoor third image

Puri saab always regretted deserting me at that crucial juncture in my life. He wrote me letters saying so, even with his trembling hands. He’d say, ‘It’s your mistake. Why did you leave me? Had you resisted and fought, all would have been well’. (Smiles) I call it his pyaari chalaakiyan (charming cleverness).

Truly, Puri saab had many good qualities, which people already know of. But only a wife would know the weaknesses. These are too personal to share. All I can say is that perhaps, ours was a bond, which carried energies from a previous lifetime. There was some connection, which didn’t allow him to break away from me. The same was the case with me. 

Today he’s a free soul. Thankfully, no one can lay a claim on the ‘soul’.  I feel free to connect with him, to converse with him. Having said that, I don’t want to be reborn again. If there’s rebirth there’s also salvation. I don’t want to be caught in the web of the world. Because as long as there’s life, there will be a quest. Puri saab has his own karmic journey, on which I have no authority. A message I’d want to give him? (Smiles) I’d like to tell him, ‘If you return to the world, no matter the relationship you choose, stay away from impulsive decisions and complications.’

ALSO READ: Om Puri’s LAST interview: The India-Pakistan partition was the partition of relationships, emotions & feelings

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