Interview with Harish Salvi from The Forbidden Daughter
HS. Children are the most vulnerable of human beings, more so than the elderly or the disabled, because their minds and bodies are not fully developed. They don’t have any experience with life. When they hurt they don’t know what’s happening to them, why they’re in pain, who they can turn to for relief. Children are also our future, and someone has to make sure they grow up healthy enough to run the world and protect it. Pediatrics was something that I picked almost instinctively.
Q. Were you in love with Isha Ketkar (the heroine) when you two were students in college?
HS. Not at all. I had a crush on her. We were teenagers and she was younger than me. Half the boys in college thought she was cute, and so did I. But that’s where it ended. Did I have plans to pursue her? No. Did I want to marry her? No. It was more like admiring a movie heroine or someone like that. I wouldn’t call it love.
Q. Then why did you feel this instant sympathy for her, this special connection almost the minute you saw her in the convent?
HS. I think it was the shock of seeing her at first. Isha was a buried memory. I’d forgotten about her, so seeing her after so many years, in a convent, obviously living in near-poverty was upsetting. I had imagined her happily married to some rich, influential chap, shopping at the best stores, spending her time in social clubs. A poor widow with two children was not how I had pictured Isha. I felt this urge to reach out and help her when I saw her in that unusual and unexpected situation. As a doctor I was in an ideal situation to help her, too.
Q. I can see how that might happen, an offer of friendly support. But then you seemed to pursue her, subtly, in your own way. Why was that?
HS. It just sort of happened, almost without my knowledge. The more I saw her and the way she was handling a difficult situation, my admiration for her grew. A rich, spoilt girl had grown into a strong, mature woman with high principles. And her children. How could anyone resist such adorablechildren?
Q. Isha and her children came as a package. Most young, single men would be intimidated by that kind of responsibility. How did it affect you?
HS As a man who likes children, the package of Isha-Priya-Diya was actually attractive to me instead of scary. For the first time I could almost imagine taking on the role of husband and father, something I had not thought about seriously before.
Q. What about your parents and the rest of your family? You knew they would have issues with you courting a widow. Did that affect your thinking?
HS. Of course it did. I’m very attached to my family and they have only my best interests at heart. I had to take their feelings into consideration. Isha was a woman who used to be the wife of a prominent local man and that meant she’s always fodder for gossip. In our small, conservative town, Isha would bring scandal to our door, what with her husband’s high-profile death and her subsequent escape from her in-laws. All those issues were something I had to give plenty of thought to before I could admit even to myself that I was falling in love with her.
Q. The kidnapping. What are your thoughts on that?
HS.That is something I don’t want to talk about. I try not to even think about that episode. It’s a nightmare I want to put behind me. The important thing is that Isha seems to have recovered from the trauma and so has baby Diya. That’s all that matters.
Q. Now that things have settled a little, do you see a future for yourself with Isha and her children, or are you skeptical?
HS. (Grinning) She’s a stubborn woman with her own ideas, and by refusing me I think she actually believes she’s doing me a favor. But I can be just as stubborn as she. When it comes to tenacity, I can beat the best. Hey, I’m a champion chess player, aren’t I?