For Irrfan Khan’s wife Sutapa Sikdar, the actor ‘was not love at first sight at all’, but through life’s journey became her ‘most special man’. From college sweethearts to partners-for-life, the couple grew up with each other and took on the best and the worst of life together and lived up to the saying ‘Till death do us part’.

Irrfan Khan, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, died in Mumbai on April 29.

 “With Irrfan it was not love at first sight at all…The transition happened because of his honesty, for his curiosity, and his passion for his craft,” says Sutapa, adding that  she misses his physical presence “immensely but enjoys talking about him to herself.”

Talking exclusively to Opoyi, Sutapa talks about how she hates shedding tears in public, her evolved relationship with younger son Ayan, how she wants to fullfill all the dreams of the late actor, and her biggest pain.

Opoyi: Love happens in the most unexpected ways to people and your love story with Irrfan was known to all. What made him the most special man of your life?

Sutapa: Back then, I was always more comfortable with men than women as my only sibling is an elder brother, my first friends were his friends. With Irrfan it was not love at first sight at all, he was just a classmate who organically became my best friend and then special then Very special and finally most special for years and years to come. The transition happened because of his honesty, for his curiosity, and his passion for his craft. He was translucent with his pimples and head full of curly hair. He was not macho, he was not overtly masculine, which was a big thumbs up for me. Years after that I saw him breaking, one by one, all the clichés about love, girlfriend, sex, religion he was brought up to believe and question all the definitions he was told as the only truth ..he evolved beyond words…

Opoyi: You and Irrfan both loved cinema and art and shared interest in various aspects of life. With so much in common, how did Irrfan and Sutapa complete each other?

Sutapa: I am not a typical girl either, I am very strange and out of place in most places unless I have my vibe. But I knew how to survive and he learnt on the way… but we both had different ideas about everything… I would not say he completed me or I completed  him, we both looked for completion together in art in life…fighting, arguing, loving, and falling back on each other when we couldn’t find any answer from anywhere…

Opoyi: If Irrfan was a warrior, you were a fighter too. How has this void in life made you a stronger woman?

Sutapa: Well…it’s strange. This journey of his cancer period  is like a beginning, middle, end and a separate story of ours complete in itself… a story where we both are heroes fighting the same villain… I called them (cancer cells) villain he called them ‘unwanted guests’. I am an avid traveller and he always felt he didn’t do enough  leisure travel with me… when we got to know about his disease first thing he said was ‘I wouldn’t  be able to travel with you to all the places you wanted to go with me’. That’s Irrfan remembering this when you are announced you have advance stage cancer and I said, we would. My biggest pain is he believed me, he thought I could and really would be able to take him out of it…

I will travel and make all his dreams come true… I am not claiming to be strong, I wobble, I get paralysed with pain sometimes but what I have learnt is we are just minuscule particle… he was a keen astronomy and physics lover whereas I found quantum physics beyond me when we were together but life taught through this journey quantum practically, the world beyond where we live. It seems surreal that he is no more, I miss his physical presence immensely but enjoy talking about him to myself…reliving every moment. I have understood the meaning of living for the moment and can’t say achieve it all the time but when I do it gives me immense happiness.

Opoyi: For someone who has added responsibility of being both the father and a mother to her sons, is there ever a time when you feel like shedding your stronger side and be a woman who feels incomplete?

Sutapa: I make no bones about my vulnerability, I hate shedding tears in public, so avoiding public but that doesn’t mean I am weak…I am into every detail of my kids, not pitying myself… I can’t fill his shoes and I don’t try. I was always responsible for my kids all through as he was too busy. I stopped my career because of that I plan to begin again when my tears dry a bit… I don’t feel incomplete but I do feel who would I share my genius thoughts about converting an old lock into a paper weight, who would make that cute face and say waah. I actually realized he is always there with me and I was always there with him and it has nothing to do with gender inequality of being a woman or man.  If I would have gone away he would have felt the same. In fact, he was terrified of the fact what if I die before him. “You are a survivor, I won’t survive if you by chance go before me.” 

Opoyi: How has Sutapa the mother changed in all these trying times?

Sutapa: I, as the bad cop now, have to be both ..I have become truly close to Ayaan, my younger son who is very quiet. I am glad he has opened up and though he is younger he has shown me that he will be always there and I have learnt to rely on him completely.

Opoyi: Babil seemed to have matured a lot as a man and his social media posts are a testimony of that. Do you take pride in the fact that he has grown up to fill this space of his father?

Sutapa: I don’t think anyone can fill Irrfan’s space in my life…Babil is Babil he is beautiful and he has his own fragrance… Irrfan is the fragrance I loved, respected  and  through many hardships and problems, the fragrance did not let us leave each other’s hand till it was curtain call and I had to let go of his hand.

Opoyi: Your message to all the women who are fighting odds in their life ?

Sutapa: Take one step at a time just know the universe is listening to you. It has your back…one death, one failure is not life… Life is how you deal with it