Fauji to Jawan: Shah Rukh Khan’s Delhi connection

- September 16, 2023

A portrait of King Khan, who was born and raised in the Capital, based on people who saw him in the city, roaming around Bengali Market and Janpath during his student days, and visiting the graves of his parents at Delhi Gate

PROMOTIONAL ACT: Shah Rukh Khan used to spend time in Connaught Place and Janpath for promotion of TV serial Fauji PHOTO: GETTY

Not many people would know this, but when Doordarshan was airing the television serial Fauji, Shah Rukh Khan and other actors in the show were often sent to commercial hubs like Connaught Place, Janpath, Karol Bagh and South Extension Market.

The idea, mooted by director Raj Kumar Kapoor, was to reach out to the viewers and spend time with them to ascertain their opinions about the show. 

During one such trip, the Fauji unit visited the famous cold coffee joint, Depaul’s, and Adarsh Store in the busy Janpath Market to have a quick bite.

Adarsh Store owner Dhruv Bhargawa vividly recalls his meeting with the actor who would later go on to become one of the biggest Indian superstars.

“I recognised Shah Rukh Khan immediately as he came to our shop as I used to watch his acting in Fauji. Since meeting him, I have become his die-hard fan and watch all his movies without fail. Now, I am going to watch his latest blockbuster, Jawan. I love him for two reasons — he is a very intense actor and a Dilliwaala at heart.”

Delhi lives in the heart of Shah Rukh.

“How can he detach himself from the city where he was born, raised and educated? This is impossible. His younger days were spent with his friends in Defence Colony’s Nirula’s Hotel [which shut down a few years later], Jor Bagh Market and Bengali Market. This city has given him a solid platform for Bollywood,” says JP Sharma, an acclaimed Astro and Vastu expert, who was often consulted by Khan’s mother, Fatima Latifa.

STAR ALUMNUS: Shah Rukh with students of his alma mater St Columba’s School when he visited it in 2019

Yes, even after becoming King Khan and shifting to Mannat, his luxurious house in Mumbai, Khan has more often than not boasted of his Delhi roots on television shows. 

During a charity show at Delhi’s Ashoka Hotel before the pandemic, Khan told Kapil Sharma, “Hum Dilliwale hain [I am a Delhiite]” a couple of times. While narrating his Delhi days to Sharma, Khan also spoke in a typical Haryanvi argot that is still spoken in villages of Delhi.

Another, or perhaps the most important thing that binds him to Delhi is the fact that his parents were laid to rest in Qabristan Ahle Islam, which is also known as Delhi Gate Qabristan.

The last time he visited the graveyard was in March 2022 around 2:30 am on ‘Shab-e-Baraat’ (night of forgiveness and prayer vigil). Just when the Capital had gone to sleep, Khan quietly turned up with a couple of friends and spent some time before the marble graves of his father, Taj Mohammad, and mother, Fatima Latif. He offered prayers and sat there for a couple of minutes. Mohammad Taqi of the Delhi Youth Welfare Association was also present at the graveyard.

“Shah Rukh touched both the graves and was in deep thought. Surely, it was an emotional moment for him. Before leaving the place, he talked to us briefly. Of course, those moments were not meant for selfies.”

Was he thinking that his parents weren’t alive to see his success? Perhaps.

Shah Rukh’s parents

Shah Rukh’s father, Taj Mohammad, was among the uncompromising secularists who rejected the two-nation theory of MA Jinnah and left Peshawar after Partition.

“Mohammad Younus, Taj Mohammad, and my father, WM Babar, along with a couple of others, left Peshawar at the height of communal strife and came to Gandhiji’s India,” says Farhad Suri, former Mayor of Delhi and Khan’s close family friend.

Younus was close to Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and became the life and soul of the Trade Fair Authority of India.

Taj Mohammad had to even run a kerosene oil depot and live in a humble rented house in Gautam Nagar, near Gulmohar Park in south Delhi. 

“Fatima Latif was an extremely dignified lady and a Congress activist. She also served as an Honorary Magistrate in Delhi. She was close to Mrs. Indira Gandhi, too. It was Ms. Latif who ensured that her children got the best schooling,” says Sharma, also a prolific author, on whose recommendation Fatima dutifully changed the name of her restaurant near Safdarjung Tomb from Ramble to Khatir.

The restaurant was shut after Fatima’s death due to cancer. She was admitted to Batra Hospital.

It is said that due to her mother’s efforts, Khan got admitted to the prestigious St. Columba’s School. It goes without saying that his personality was greatly developed there.

ID CARD: Shah Rukh Khan’s identity card from Hansraj College

Apart from his studies, he did extremely well in sports and extra-curricular activities at school.

Thus, he got the ‘Sword of Honour’ prize in his school a year after Ajay Singh, the present chairman of SpiceJet Airlines.

He last visited his school on October 20, 2019.

“In his film Main Hoon Naa, Shah Rukh recreated the character of our sports teacher, who used to speak incorrect English with a tremendous amount of confidence. The role was nicely enacted by Bindu,” informs writer and publisher Joseph Mathai, who was Khan’s junior in school.

Khan shot to fame after passing out from St. Columba’s in 1985.

It is widely believed that he was fond of spending time in the chemistry lab.

However, while talking to the students in his school in 2019, he said, “No, I hated the chemistry lab; it’s just a made-up story.”

He was also the skipper of his school’s cricket team.

Khan also visited Hansraj College in 2016, 28 years after passing out from it. He had studied in the college from 1985 to 1988.

He also collected his BA (Hons.) Economics degree from Professor Rama Sharma, the college principal, during that visit.

Recalls Rama, “As you know, only the best of students pursue Economics Honours and Shah Rukh did it with flying colours. He was active in the theatre club of our college. Of course, the Hansraj College family is proud of the fact that he is a part of us.”

Some say his visits to Delhi have decreased over the years. Yes, he does visit the house of Gauri, his wife, at Panchsheel Park once in a while, but he does so quietly.

Harish Chandra, a veteran film writer and columnist, points out the Bollywood superstar has reached the pinnacle of his career. He is doing so many things successfully.

Naturally, he has little to no time for his old friends and fellow travellers from Delhi.

“One has to pay the price of success. He is paying that price. Your friends from your days of struggle are not the same as those from the days of success,” said Harish Chandra, who has been closely following Shah Rukh’s career.

However, Delhi continues to adore him even after over three decades of his leaving the city.

FAMILY FRIEND: JP Sharma, an acclaimed Vastu and Astrology expert, says that Shah Rukh’s mother changed the name of her restaurant from Ramble to Khatir on his advice

He spent his childhood and school days when he was living in New Rajinder Nagar.  In one of his interviews, he said he had watched his first film at Vivek Cinema in Patel Nagar.  When he was still in Delhi, it had no metro or malls. Of course, the city has changed immensely since then. It has grown into a mammoth NCR and become more diverse.

The likes of Girish Agrawal, the owner of Bengali Sweet House of Bengali Market, and others are fond of boyish SRK.

“He was very regular in my shop and this market as long as he was in Delhi. After his shows at the National School of Drama, he used to roam around here with his friends,” Agrawal says.

(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist and author of two books ‘Gandhi’s Delhi: April 12, 1915-January 30, 1948 and Beyond’ and ‘Dilli Ka Pehla Pyar – Connaught Place)