Dr Ashok Chopra was a warm and kind person with infectious energy, as I discovered in September 2010.
His daughter Priyanka Chopra’s birthday was fast approaching; I was making a special show on her for the Times Group’s Zoom TV, collecting trivia about Priyanka from her family and friends. I fixed an appointment with her parents, Dr Ashok and Madhu Chopra. Being doctors, they invited me and my colleague to their clinic. While walking towards their room, we noticed a flower bouquet that we had given to Priyanka while visiting her at her house.
Chopra told me over a cup of coffee that Priyanka “is not my daughter, she is my son”. “Mera Beta hain voh” is the line that always lovingly came out of his mouth. He wanted to be a singer, but could not pursue that as a profession, so he said he felt proud whenever he heard his daughter sing.
This was few years ago, when none of us had an inkling that Priyanka could sing. He told me Priyanka is a great singer and was confident she wouuld make a big mark internationally when it comes to singing. I was surprised then but now whenever I see Priyanka singing, it reminds me of her father’s words. When told about the conversation with her father, at the launch of her album In My City, Priyanka got lump in her throat and said: “Don’t all the fathers think the same about their daughters? My father thinks I am the greatest person in this word, but his support and faith in me keeps me going in life and career.”
On many occasions, the Chopra family sang together, such as at a ceremony the Chopra family attended at director Anil Sharma‘s house, where Chopra and his son sang many bhajans together.
Chopra told me that Priyanka was never a passenger; she was like a engine, taking a lead wherever she would go and somehow she would always end up centrestage. He added when she was a child, one day she came home and was angry. “She took me to the door towards the name plate and asked me ‘Papa… you, mummy and I stay in this house, then why is my name not mentioned on the name plate?’”. He immediately went to the local shop and got a new name plate which read: Major Ashok Chopra (MS surgery), Captain Madhu Chopra (MD), Miss Priyanka Chopra (Upper KG).
Her parents were an army couple, and discipline was in-built in Priyanka.
When I asked Chopra about her getting married, he said “if I had my choice, then right now, but it’s Priyanka’s call. I hope she finds a nice person, whom she really likes, he should also come from a good family, because you do not marry a person, you marry a family”.
Priyanka was taking a vacation with her friends during that birthday, but her parents said she deserves that vacation since she had just completed Saath Khoon Maaf, where she has put a lot of effort emotionally and physically, they want her to take a rest and enjoy completely on her birthday. He told me about the birthday tradition in their house, where every year they write a letter to each other and say things that they have always hesitated to share with each other. He ended our meeting by saying he is the proudest father and in every birth he would want Priyanka to be his daughter.
— Arti Dani is a Dubai-based writer.