In the narrow lanes of Varanasi’s Bharadwaji Tola, a memory lies flanked by dilapidated boundary walls. More than six decades ago, this plot of land housed a palatial haveli – the Khwaja Manzil – where Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s mother was raised.
While celebrating his birthday in Mumbai on Monday, Khan said: “My biggest wish today is that I can buy my mother her ancestral home in Varanasi. My mother spent her childhood in Varanasi. I’ve seen that home. Since then, it has been in my mind if I can request people there and get that house.”
However, the actor’s dream is one vanquished by time. There is no house on the plot now – just a pile of garbage dumped by residents of the area and two mounds of mud that local children sit and play on.
The plot, which shot into the limelight in 2009 when Khan visited it in disguise, belongs to BJP leader Badrinarayan Gupta – a former councillor – and his brothers. Syed Hasan Raza, a resident of the area, recalls directing the actor to the place.
“I was sipping tea at Chhunna tea stall in Chauhatta when Aamir came searching for Khwaza Manzil. First, he and his autorickshaw driver had tea, and then asked me about the building. I accompanied him till there. Aamir kept walking around the plot, looking at it,” the 45-year-old man said.
Raza said Khan had come disguised as a middle-aged man, complete with protruding teeth and a muffler wrapped around his neck.
That wasn’t the last Raza saw of the actor. “The next day, on December 13, 2009, Aamir returned with a gift for me – a gold ring – and thanked me for helping him find the plot. He also gave me a letter that said: I am grateful to you because you helped me locate the haveli where my mother spent her childhood,” Raza said.
It was only while he was lunching with the actor at the nearby Tej Biryani corner that Raza realised who his new friend really was. Khan, however, asked him not to tell anybody about him for the next few hours – he could do without the media attention.
In 2010, the actor invited Raza to Mumbai. He gave him a grand welcome and arranged for his stay at a luxury hotel, all expenses paid. “Aamir is a big actor and a great human being. I am still in touch with him. He responds to my phone calls. I have called him up many times over the last seven years,” Raza said. The last time he dialled Khan’s number was on Monday, to wish him on his birthday.
Tea stall owner Chhunna Bhai also wished that the actor would visit again, but undisguised.
However, the question remains – what happened to the Khwaja Manzil? Speaking to HT, Gupta said: “My father, Chauthiram Gupta, and his elder brother, Rajaram Gupta, bought the haveli at an auction in 1947. It caved in around 15 years ago. His cousins had already taken their share of the plot.”
From what Gupta has heard from old-timers, Khan’s mother was 10 years old when she and her family left the place.
When asked to comment on Khan’s plans to buy the 5,000-square feet plot, the 55-year-old former councillor simply shrugged his shoulders. “As of now, we have no plan to sell it. Several people wanted to buy the plot, but we refused. So far, Aamir hasn’t contacted us with any such proposal.”
Gupta, however, wished the actor on his birthday. “May he live long and keep making great films like Sarfarosh,” he said.