Rama Prithviraj Kapoor
Ramsarni Mehra: 1908-1972.
She was born on the 25th December, 1908,
and lost her parents when she was very young. This delicate, petite and beautiful lady we always addressed as Chaiji, which means mother in punjabi. Married at the age of 15, she was the mother of three children, Ranbir, Nandi and Devi when her husband left Peshawar to begin a career as a film actor. She joined him in Bombay in 1930 and they setup house at different rented places, suiting the pattern of her husband's career. It was at their third place of residence that tragedy struck. She lost her second and third son within the span of a week. Devi died of double pneumonia and Nandi of poisoning when he swallowed some rat pills strewn in the garden to thwart off snakes.
The year was 1931, and the memories of the loss of two young sons were stilI afresh in the minds of my parents. My mother was expecting once again, and both my parents wanted to take no chances. They were very cautious about my arrival on the scene and brushing aside the traditional practice of delivering at home, I was born on 21st October at Ajinkya Hospital on Charni Road.
Incidentally, that also made me the first Kapoor offspring born on soil that is today independent India.
Chaiji was a woman of intense strength and full of energy. The entire household revolved around her and she played mother not just to us but to all the other family members and friends who were staying with us. She toured with Papaji and his drama company and shared the tough touring life with them.
Life with a touring company was a very hectic affair and it meant a lot of hardships. There used to be atleast 80 members travelling together like a huge family in a third class compartment with loads and loads of stage equipment. This meant loading and unloading all this equipment at all the halts for putting up performances and living in varied accomodations from time to time. Papaji's drama company toured various places and a typical tour schedule would comprise of halts at Surat, Baroda, Bharuch, Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Rajkot, Porbunder, Jamnagar and many other places. At any given time, the Drama company would be touring on road for two to four months at a stretch and these hectic routines and irregular timings would take their toll on Chaiji's health at times.
Despite the hardships of the touring life, Chaiji always played the perfect mother to all the members of the touring company. She was always around taking care of everyone and making sure that everybody was looked after. We were a very large family on road, almost clannish and everyone looked up to her as a mother figure.
Chaiji was a woman of substance and she seemed to know what the future held in store for her and Papaji. They were both suffering from cancer. During the last days, Papaji was staying at the Prithvi Jhopda at Juhu while Chaiji continued to stay at Matunga. She met him for the last time when he was at the Tata Cancer Hospital. Papaji's end came on the 29th of May, 1972. Chaiji too was suffering from cancer at that time and she was at home when he passed away. We asked her if she would like to see him for the last time, but she refused. She did not want to see him in that lifeless state. She wanted her mind to be filled only with warmer memories of the brighter days they had spent together.
Papaji's body was taken to the Prithvi Jhopda and he was duly cremated. All the three of us, myself, Raj and Shashi wanted to take Papaji's ashes for immersion at Haridwar. Chaiji stopped us and said only Raj could go. Shashi and myself would have our chance later. She seemed to know what lay ahead. Chaiji passed away on the 14th of June, 1972, exactly 16 days from the demise of my father. Shashi and myself took her ashes to Haridwar along with my brother-in-law Charni.