Shell-shocked after not being able to attend his father's last rites, lyricist Gulzar decided not to cremate him and did so only five years later when his revered filmmaker Bimal Roy died.
"When my father passed away in Delhi, I was working with Bimalda as an assistant in Bombay. My family did not inform me about it. My elder brother who lived in Bombay, and who knew what had happened, took a flight out the same day," the veteran poet recalls in a chapter in a new book Housefull: The Golden Years of Bollywood by journalist-critic Ziya Us Salam.
"I was informed by one of our neighbours in Delhi a few days later. Immediately, I rushed home by train. In those days, Frontier Mail, the fastest train to Delhi, took 24 hours to cover the distance. By the time I reached home, everything was over," he added.
Gulzar was a struggling poet at that time and returned to Mumbai with a "vacuum in my heart. I never cremated my father, so he lived on, as dead. It weighed on my body."
Five long years went by, and Roy was on his last journey. "Every night I used to cry as cancer consumed Bimalda, bit by bit. All along, I was there beside him, reading his favourite script – Amrit Kumbh. On January 8, 1966, when he died, we cremated him, and with him, I cremated my father," says Gulzar.
Gulzar, 76, worked with Roy for the first time in Bandini (1963). His first composition was Mora Gora Ang but music director SD Burman prevented Gulzar from singing it himself to Roy fearing the young poet might spoil Roy's mood with his amateurish rendition.