Among Seema’s friends, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was nicknamed ‘Extra Class’. It was a term that also came handy at home. Every time she went out for a date with him, she simply had to say, ‘Extra Class’ to her mother. That it took a while for Seema’s mother to figure out that the ‘extra classes’ outnumbered the regular schedule is another matter. When she found out that ‘extra classes’ was a synonym for her daughter’s boyfriend, Seema was packed off to Kanpur.
But what is distance when love beckons? So the dashing young man, presently in the senior rungs of the BJP, headed straight to his Lady Love and said it was now or never. Seema walked out of her parental home and hid in Mukhtar’s bachelor apartment till the marriage registrar was ready with the documents. Hell broke loose. On the one hand Seema’s conservative Rajput household could not come to terms about her marrying a ‘musalmaan’; on the other, the young ‘Lallan’ of the Naqvi household had ‘besmeared’ the family name. “For someone who grew up cleaning the family mosque every day, the inter-religious marriage was a bold step,” he recalls.
But the love-struck couple has not looked back. Even today Seema concedes that Naqvi is “bahut romantic” — except that now she waits for him instead of it being the other way round. “Till we got married, he would wait for hours at the Coffee House. Now I wait. Initially it was
he who remembered birthdays and anniversaries. Now the only dates in his calendar are party meetings.”
Marriage apart, Lallan was an outcast since childhood. He was whipped when he absconded for days enacting the Ramlila. At school, he was chided for being the only one among the eight boys in his class who didn’t make the grade. At home, he was packed off to the outhouse because cops came knocking at midnight when the JP movement was at its peak. “The school lost its prestige and the family its social standing,” remembers Naqvi.
The first time he got money in hand, Lallan took his wife for what he calls an ‘outing’ to the proverbial hill station. In other words, a belated honeymoon to Nainital and Mussoorie with only Rs 2,000 in his pocket. Though unable to buy the ‘purses and watches’ he wanted to, Lallan sufficiently made up for it in later years. While he has flooded Seema with ‘bags and bags’, his own collection comprises ‘ghari and chashma’. Though unbranded, Lallan unabashedly admits that his collections run into hundreds — “Sasti, sasti aur stylish,” he says.
One man who can always get ‘Naqvi-ji’ on the phone is his optician in Mumbai who has instructions to inform him whenever trendy frames arrive. Within hours, they are couriered and Lallan has a field day.
Another thing that gives him immense pleasure is shopping for fish and vegetables. During his ministerial tenure, when the risk of being recognised and hounded was much greater than it is today, he often wore ‘jeans and goggles’ before setting out. If he ever goes missing, the surest way to get him is either at the Kotla Mandi hand-picking vegetables or at Ghazipur’s fish market examining gills.