New Delhi: The images of a sobbing, 25-year-old Aishwarya Rai outside the house of former Bihar chief minister and RJD head Lalu Prasad shook her friends and professors in Delhi. To them, this was different from how they remembered her — a “happy-go-lucky” woman.
Over a year after Rai’s husband and Lalu Prasad’s eldest son, Tej Pratap, filed for divorce, triggering a long-drawn media circus, a teary-eyed Rai told reporters Sunday her mother-in-law and former Bihar CM Rabri Devi allegedly beat her and threw her out of their 10 Circular Road residence in Patna.
“My mother-in-law got angry, slapped me and pulled my hair. The women police constables posted there were asked to throw me out. They dragged me out of the gate,” Rai told ThePrint, adding she was not even allowed to put on her slippers.
Upon reaching the spot, her father Chandrika Rai, a six-time MLA and RJD leader, sat on a dharna outside the Lalu Prasad residence for hours.
“So far, my daughter faced mental torture. She was taunted and denied basic amenities. But there was no physical violence,” Rai told ThePrint. “This time, she has been physically abused. We are going to demand the arrest of Rabri Devi and I will approach the state women’s commission.”
The Patna police has lodged an FIR based on Rai’s complaints.
However, the distraught pictures that came out of Sunday’s events were a far cry from how Rai’s friends describe her unanimously.
“She was a happy-go-lucky person. She never revealed anything about her political family. All we knew was that she was a daughter of some politician from Bihar.
“It was only last year when her engagement with Tej Pratap was announced and the whole media started profiling her that we got to know her background. We were taken by surprise too,” said one of Rai’s close friends, who did not wish to be named.
With the spotlight on Rai over the ongoing family dispute, ThePrint spoke to three of her friends and a former professor at Delhi University’s Daulat Ram College where she completed a degree in BA (Hons) History.
‘Never talked politics’
Aishwarya Rai, who did her schooling in Patna, moved to Delhi for graduation in 2012.
“In the beginning, we thought that she is a typical south Delhi girl conscious and proud of the classy brands of shampoos she used. But as the years went by, we discovered the other side of Aishwarya,” said a second friend from DU, who didn’t wish to be named.
“She lived in an expensive paying guest accommodation but seemed happier with us in our low rent flats. We never talked politics though she seemed to know what was happening in Bihar politics and social issues in the state. Fashion conversations lit her up as she wanted to do something in fashion,” added the friend.
But Rai wasn’t interested in only fashion. She also looked at law as an option for a career. She later chose to do post-graduation in social work from Delhi’s Amity University.
“She never came with the air of being from a political family. So I never knew who she was. Later I read the news of her getting married to Lalu Prasad’s son. I was surprised,” said one of her professors from Daulat Ram College.
‘Degree doesn’t matter’
The Rai family from Saran has a lineage in Bihar. While Chandrika Rai was a former minister in Lalu Prasad’s RJD government, his father Daroga Prasad Rai had served as the Bihar chief minister for a brief period in 1970.
When Tej Pratap’s proposal came for Aishwarya Rai, she had doubts about marrying into a powerful family. But her love for her father pushed her.
“She is a daddy’s girl. She used to always talk about her father. Probably, that’s the only reason she could not say no to her father’s choice…” said the first friend quoted above.
She was also concerned about the fact that Tej Pratap is a Class 10 dropout.
“We convinced her that ‘degree doesn’t matter. What matters is a person’s heart. He likes paintings. He knows how to play the flute. He is into arts. Don’t get anxious. Things will fall in place,’” said the first friend.
According to Rai’s friends, her family too wasn’t sure about the match but was relieved after meeting Tej Pratap in person.
The couple got married in May last year in a high-profile wedding attended by the who’s who of Bihar.
“The marriage was arranged by both the families. Aishwarya told us that Tej Pratap is caring. He looks after her family as well. That’s when she became confident of her decision,” added the first friend.
The marriage fell through quickly
Marital bliss for the young couple didn’t last long. Barely six months after the wedding, Tej Pratap filed for divorce. When he was asked about his decision, he simply said, “I’m Krishna but she is not my Radha. She is a modern Delhi girl.”
Aishwarya Rai’s apparent modernity didn’t sit well with Tej Pratap’s family. Reports said both Rabri Devi and her daughter Misa Bharati had had issues with Aishwarya, with the latter alleging in media in September that her sister-in-law created trouble in her marriage.
Tej Pratap even moved out of the family home after filing for divorce.
According to Rai’s friends, it all started within the first three-four months of the marriage. However, Rai would never talk about the problems.
“She would just call up, sounding upset and often crying,” said a third friend who didn’t wish to be identified.
Once the divorce petition was filed, Rai didn’t know how to handle the media. She deactivated her account on Facebook and changed the privacy setting on photo-sharing app Instagram to ‘private’.
While Tej Pratap made statements in the media about being unhappy and unwilling to be in the marriage, Rai was hopeful.
“She always wanted a perfect happy married life. She is also a strong believer in the institution of marriage, that’s why she has been holding up until now,” said the second friend quoted above.
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