When Shah Rukh was born, his father was undergoing a serious financial slump. Meer's partners in his transport business had cheated him and the venture he worked upon had to be shut down, like several others before it. Meer experimented with furniture and once ran a canteen at the famous National School of Drama. But his successes were quite limited and it hardly did anything more than just raising a family. The family hovered at the circumference of discreet poverty. Shah Rukh believed that his father was too honest to be rich. His father possessed a law degree and was fluent in six languages.
Shah Rukh was born on Mangalwar i.e on Tuesday. Fatima often told Shah Rukh that he was a Manglik child. But since Hindi was not her native language and Fatima was an Urdu speaker from Hyderabad, so the child could not actually understand what exactly his mother meant; that he was born on a Tuesday, or that he was born under the astrological sign of Manglik, which is considered unlucky by Hindus.
They lived in a locality called Rajinder Nagar, which was an old-fashioned housing locality in west Delhi. At times, the family was forced to borrow money. However, this enduring financial toil did not dampen Meer's morality. His spirit was shaiyrana, which meant that Meer was a romantic who, in the tradition of the best Urdu poets, clinched to life with an old-world chivalry. Meer kept his sense of humour against the face of all calamities. Affectionately he called his wife Kanha that means in Urdu "dimples". With such a jovial and witty father, their mundane life became magical.
Fatima could not tally with the poverty. Meer's stubborn refusal about using his political contacts was not justified to her. He was a certified freedom fighter on a first-name basis with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, his wife used to call him an "honest failure." Once, after a particularly fiery fight, she shifted to Kanhaiya Lai's house for a few days. Every few years the family shifted from one small, run-down rented apartment to another.
Meer was a simple man who could manage his living with his bitter tea and paan, but Fatima was much more stylish. Fatima was very particular to keep an eye that her children enjoy material comforts. Shah Rukh and his elder sister, Shahnaz, grew up in a shielded zone created by Fatima. They were hardly aware that there was an inharmonious note in their near-idyllic childhood. Shah Rukh inherited his father's serenity. As a toddler he spent hours playing just on a small pink toy piano. At three he was so tranquil that Fatima sometimes went out to do chores, leaving him all alone at home. On one such day, a cobra slithered into the living room and Shah Rukh was sitting on the deewan, seeing the snake, he had spilled ink around himself and the snake could not come any closer because the thick wetness was obstructing it to move.
Shah Rukh was an accident-prone child and often suffered from bouts of malaria, fractured back muscles, and frequent dog bites. But the illnesses didn't last long. He spent hours in his own company. In a small storeroom he made a secret lab, where he melted his mother's lac bangles. Sometimes he played being a superman and hit the pillows as if they were the bad people. Shah Rukh dreamt of being a hero since then.
An interesting event in Shah Rukh's childhood was when he was just four years of age, Shah Rukh happened to throw a hard rock at a neighbourhood boy because of which the small boy's teeth broke. Late at night that day, the child's father came down to Shah rukh's house in an intoxicated state holding a knife. Shah Rukh's father opened the door and when this man threatened to kill his son for what he had done, he calmly came and asked his son as to whether or not he had committed the act of mischief. When the child confessed, Meer asked him to go out and explain himself to the man who was both drunk and armed. Shah Rukh had to go outside and apologize for his deed.
Shah Rukh had lots of friends and played cricket on a dusty patch of land near the house. Fatima and Meer were lenient parents and did not scorn their children unless they got good grades. Sometimes they were also allowed to skip school for no other reason except that they "didn't feel like going." The religious education given to Shah Rukh was very informal; since his mother was a more traditional Muslim than her husband. She suggested them to say her namaaz (prayers) five times a day. But Meer was devoutly secular.
Meer and Shah Rukh called each other yaar, a deviation of the Pathan yarra, or friend. Meer was more of a friend than a father. He imparted to Shah Rukh his strong sense of humour. He often sat with his son to recall the stories of the freedom struggle. Meer told Shah Rukh inspiring, real-life sagas of brave men like Badshah Khan and Saifuddin Kichlu. They spend their summers in Bengaluru at their maternal grandparents' luxurious home. During this time, Meer never accompanied his family on these trips. He was too proud to accept his in-laws hospitality.
Shah Rukh was already performing at the age of four. When he danced to the radio, his aunts smiled and called him a lady-killer. Shah Rukh danced all around the room, especially if the song was from a film starring the actress Mumtaz. He also imitated Mumtaz's hip-swivelling walk and coquettish mannerisms. However, Shah Rukh routinely failed in his Hindi language tests. Once, his mother, Fatima promised him that if he could get a good score in his next test, then she would take him to see a Hindi movie. Shah Rukh, crammed the whole night before exams, studied till dawn and got full marks. Fatima took him and Shahnaz to seejoshila (Zesty) at the Vivek Cinema Hall in Patel Nagar. Shah Rukh was so short that he had to sit on his mother's purse to see the screen properly. But he fell in love with movies soon.
Shah Rukh had won the Sword of Honour in Class XII (1984-85) for the Best all round performance, loyalty, obedience, integrity and sportsmanship and the Raman Subramanyam Award in Class X (1982-83) for character, all round performance in studies, sports and extra curricular activities. Shah Rukh studied in Delhi University's Hans Raj College, and Shah Rukh did his Economics Honours from the institution between 1985 and 1988. While, Hans Raj celebrated its Golden Jubilee, the college gave away 17 shields to its alumni who had excelled in their lives and respective professions and Shah Rukh was one of them. After graduating from Hans Raj College, he went took admission in Jamia Milia Islamia's Mass Communications Research Centre to do his masters in filmmaking and journalism.
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