To Pearl, with love

Updated on Aug 22, 2013 01:13 PM IST

Alyque Padamsee gets emotional about his beloved, late Pearl Padamsee in a chat with Reema Gehi.

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HT Image
Hindustan Times | ByReema Gehi, Mumbai

Alyque Padamsee in an emotional flashback about the unforgettable Pearl Padamsee, in whose name an award has been instituted for excellence in speech and drama. Reema Gehi switches on the tape-recorder.

The award has been instituted by Raell Padamsee in memory of her mother, Pearl, the theatre stalwart who passed away in the year 2000. At his tasteful Warden Road home, her father Alyque Padamsee gets nostalgic about Pearl:

The drama queen
She and I worked on dozens and dozens of plays. To start with, I was the director and she was the actress. Later, she became a brilliant director of unusual plays like Serpent, Equus, Children of a lesser God, Deceptions and most importantly Godspell, the first big musical ever performed in Bombay even before my own Jesus Christ Superstar.

Contribution to children's theatre
Among her vast array of child actors were Shashi Tharoor who is now with the United Nations, Kumar Mangalam Birla and Farid Currim. We all miss her and I most of all.

Their love story
I met Pearl when I was at St. Xavier's College in the 1950s. She was the secretary of the college's Dramatic Club. I was immediately taken by her bubbly nature. Prompted by my elder sister, over a period of a year, I fell in love with Pearl, she must have been 17.

Then she broke my heart and went to study anthropology in Australia. I pined for her in Bombay, writing a love letter almost every day and listening to Till then by The Mills Brothers, our favourite song.

And then?
I left for London to study at The Royal Academy of Arts. Meanwhile she returned to India and ran away from her parents' house to marry an older businessman.

When I returned from the U K, she was married and had a daughter. I don't know how it happened but we fell in love all over again.. or maybe we had never fallen out of love.

But once again we were parted like Romeo and Juliet because of circumstances beyond our control. Finally she got a divorce.

We got married despite my parents' wishes. I don't know how I had the nerve to propose. I was only earning Rs 750 a month and I'd been disinherited by my parents. I designed a terrace flat where we held many workshops and performances.

We eventually separated but there isn't a day when I haven't thought about her.

Pearl the cook
She was always inventing weird new dishes. She'd potter around the kitchen, speaking to the vegetables. She'd tell a brinjal, "You beautiful baingan,sorry to do this but my guests are expecting your bharta."

Fondest memory
In Amsterdam, we lunched with a hippie couple and their crazy friends. Pearl (who I always called Pixie) cooked up a fabulous sort of flower–power biryani. Our host served us home-made brownies for dessert.

That evening, Pearl and I caught a local train back to my brother's house in Dahek.

When I looked down the compartment, it stretched on for miles. She looked out of the window and laughed, "My God! In Holland they are so high that they have psychedelic street lights.' Our Dutch hosts hadn't told us that they were spiking the brownies with LSD.

That was so symbolic of my life with Pearl. I still talk to her every day in my prayers.

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