Change is the rite of time. A Kamala (Worm) turns into a beautiful butterfly with time; Madras, becomes Cosmopolitan Chennai, transforms into Bombay, Mumbai, and Bhanukrekha Ganesan becomes the glamorous line. To say everything away from its roots, but still basically believe that everything has stopped there, as if nothing has changed. We will go to all these cities because the stories of the past are incarcerated here. Stories of a person whose life and love for the past four decades do not take the name of a halt. But first we will go to Delhi, because this is the city from where she stood up from the ashes like Amarpakshi. This is his story.
This was a few years before liberalization in the country. The wealthy section of Delhi started spreading their feet towards Chhatarpur in South Delhi. In the late 80s, if you used to drive from Qutub Minar and drive towards Gadaipur, then through a deserted road your eyes would pass through many farmhouses. Many palatial rooms built on large pieces of land – farmhouses. One of these farmhouses was named Basera. As soon as its gate opened, you used to reach another world.
It was a dream home. Labored with beautiful stone and glass work, this stately farmhouse built on a mountain was surrounded by thick trees all around. This house belonged to Mukesh Aggarwal. Born in a middle-class Baniya family, Mukesh dropped out at the age of 13. For many years he continued to do petty things. Then in the late 1970s, at the age of 24, Mukesh laid the foundation for one of his companies. This company used to manufacture kitchen items under the brand name Hotline. Turning the pages of Mukesh’s past, I met retired IPS officer Neeraj Kumar, a friend of Mukesh.
Neeraj Kumar has been the Police Commissioner of Delhi. Mukesh and Neeraj Kumar met when the Hotline brand made a splash in North India. Neeraj Kumar explains, “Mukesh Aggarwal became a successful entrepreneur on the strength of his hard work in a time when the startup scenario had not come to the fore.” Coming from a simple background, Mukesh was always attracted by the Delhi elite. He had a deep desire to be a part of this class. Mukesh started organizing lavish parties in his farmhouse to establish his coinage in this society. The great nobles of Delhi were seen increasing the intensity of these parties.
If any Bollywood personality came to Delhi, Mukesh would not forget to invite him to his party. Remembering him, Neeraj Kumar says, “He was a very nice person, very good, but he had inferiority complex.” He wanted to show that he had achieved a lot in life. He wanted to beat the sting of his success. In this fad, Mukesh often used to do strange things so that somehow big people get noticed. ‘He bought a horse which he kept in his farmhouse.
When there was news of the arrival of a guest, he would decorate the horse near the gate and sit on top of it and wait for the guest. This horse was also not an ordinary horse but a costly breed horse. Perhaps it also benefited because many Bollywood celebrities had become his friends. He also knew Sanjay Khan and Firoz Khan. She might have learned this horse style from Feroze Khan, ‘Neeraj Kumar recalls.
This was the period in Delhi when the glamorous star Rekha of Hindi films and famous fashion designer Bina Ramani met frequently. In one such meeting Rekha said that she wants to settle down by getting married. Was looking for only one Humsafar with whom he could spend his whole life. It was only in the early 1990s that in Bombay, which had not yet become Mumbai, the bell rang from Rekha’s house. Bina Ramani was from Delhi on the phone. She wanted to talk about Rekha to one of her ‘crazy fans’.
Bina told that this Deewana fan is a well-known businessman from Delhi and is a very good person, ‘his name is Mukesh Aggarwal. May I give it your number? ‘ Rekha refuses to give her number but takes Mukesh’s number from Bina herself. Perhaps Rekha had no idea in those moments that this phone call would change her life forever. Like Rekha’s life, the story of Mukesh’s life was also a film. Like Rekha, Mukesh too could never find a perfect partner.
Recalling the incident, Rekha later said in an interview, ‘Bina Ramani introduced me to Mukesh. Initially I was not interested in him at all. I called Mukesh after Bina said it again and again. The first conversation between the two was very formal but Mukesh was completely obsessed with Rekha’s beautiful voice. Mukesh’s feet were not falling on the ground, thinking that Rekha had called him on the film star, which millions of people are happy with. Rekha had taken the first step.
Finally, in January 1990, Rekha and Mukesh met for the first time in Bombay. Tired of film industry’s false appearances and hypocrisy, Mukesh was like a breath of fresh air. In her simplicity and honesty, Rekha realized a truth. He even convinced Rekha to come to Delhi. Soon the presence of ‘Basera’ Rekha in Chhatarpur was ablaze. But this shine probably made Rekha look different from the glare of Bombay film industry. The praise, respect and welcome received here won Rekha’s heart.
There was a strange bond between the two and their own reasons for being attracted towards each other: Mukesh loved Rekha’s star image and Rekha began to like her fondness towards her. Actress Deepti Naval was a close friend of Mukesh in Bombay. The two met in 1981 at a party in Delhi. They were good friends since then. Deepti said, ‘Since Mukesh spoke to Rekha over the phone and then there were meetings in Delhi and Bombay, Mukesh just kept referring to him. I think she became crazy about Rekha.
Rekha and Mukesh did not think to look into each other’s past. Both did not even think much about the future. All that was there were these moments when they were together. Immersed in love.
(This excerpt from ‘Rekha: Kaise Paheli Zindagani’ has been published with the permission of publisher Juggernaut Books)