Old relatives from Mumbai pay tribute to Freddie Mercury's late mother

Jehangir Bulsara and Freddie’s mother Jer Bulsara (second left) with close family members
Jehangir Bulsara and Freddie’s mother Jer Bulsara (second left) with close family members

Days after the late British rocker Freddie Mercury’s greatest champion, his mother Jer Bulsara, passed away quietly in her sleep in the UK, a wave of grief has hit Dadar’s Parsi Colony, where the extended Bulsara family continues to live. “I cannot believe Jer kaki is no more,” Jehangir, Freddie’s second cousin, told mid-day at his Parsi Colony home on Sunday.

As Freddie Mercury transformed from boy to British rock star to international icon, hundreds of miles away — the family home in Dadar’s Parsi Colony remained the one link he had to his beginnings as Farrokh Bulsara. His mother Jer Bulsara was fiercely proud of him, but always ensured that the family kept in touch with their roots.

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Freddie’s second cousin Jehangir Bulsara recalls, “His parents were very close to mine. I remember when Freddie had become a star, he used to tell his parents that when they visited Mumbai, they should stay at the Taj hotel. Freddie’s parents would always say no and stay at our place in Dadar instead. That is how simple and down to earth they were.”

Still unable to come to grips with Jer’s demise on November 13, Jehangir says, “She was always kind and her advice was invaluable. Once, I was so depressed because I had lost a job, but she encouraged me to take a part-time job, saying it would keep me occupied. She was a very noble person. They do not make her kind any longer.”

Proud parents
Jehangir reminisced about a conversation he had with Freddie’s parents who recounted how their son was born with a latent musical talent. “He was in Mumbai once, on holiday from his school in Panchgani. He heard a song being played at Dadar. He heard it just once, and immediately went home and played it on the piano — he was so gifted,” says Jehangir, a trifle proudly.

Jehangir’s prized possession is an autographed picture of Freddie, given to him by the singer. He adds that Freddie was also a talented painter and fashion designer.

Jehangir said that initially, Freddie’s father especially was a trifle disapproving of his chosen vocation in music, but they were immensely proud of Freddie once he made it.

“They used to say, ‘Freddie has become a very big person in records, what a hit he has become.’ Yet there was not an ounce of ego in Jer kaki. If you met her, you would not even know she was the mother of such a star like Freddie Mercury,” adds Jehangir.

“She was a wonderful cook too. Her dhansaak was memorable. She used to add just a little sugar to everything she cooked; Freddie used to love her cooking,” says Jehangir, who often spoke to Jer on the phone.

'Pray for Freddie'
With stardom came the trappings, and Jehangir recounted how concerned Freddie’s parents were about him. “Freddie’s father did not like seeing his son smoke. He was an orthodox person, but everyone smoked on the music circuit and there was little they could say to their son by then,” he says.

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“Jer Kaki used to tell us on the phone, ‘Pray for Freddie. He has contracted a disease called AIDS. There is no cure; I am so afraid’” recalls Jehangir on a somber note.

Freddie died in 1991, at the age of 45. The lead singer of the rock band Queen had acknowledged that he had AIDS a day earlier.

Jehangir then perks up as he remembers, “You know, I resembled Freddie quite closely when I was younger. I was once at the Wodehouse Gymkhana in SoBo when a stranger came up to me and asked, ‘Are you related to Freddie Mercury?’ Turns out he was a classmate of Freddie’s in Panchgani.”

In the end, says Jehangir, he will live with the regret that he did not visit Jer in Nottingham. “Jer kaki always used to call me, but I never went. I wish I had visited her, especially towards the end, when she used to say she is not feeling well and she had breathing difficulties,” says Jehangir wistfully.

If there is some small solace in her passing, it will be that Jer kaki will finally be reunited with her son, Freddie and her husband, Bomi. They will meet in heaven, like they say, or maybe in this case, on Mercury.

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