Kashmiris cherish time spent with Bollywood’s first Khan

Kashmiris cherish time spent with Bollywood’s first Khan
File Photo of Dilip Kumar

Srinagar: In the late 1960s when G M Dug, a Kashmiri hotelier visited Mumbai for the first time, little did he expect that he could meet Yusuf Khan known more by his screen name, Dilip Kumar.

Years later, he played host to him in Kashmir.

A common friend of Dug had informed him that he would invite the legendary actor at his Bandra house for dinner. Recalling the episode half a century later, he said that he thought his friend was just joking around.

“I didn’t expect that such a huge star will join us for dinner and meet his Kashmiri fan. Such was his humility that he not only came but sat with us for hours and talked at length about Kashmir. He said that he will meet me on his next Kashmir visit. I of course thought it wasn’t going to happen,” Dug said.

He said that the actor, dubbed as the 'First Khan of Bollywood', fulfilled his promise of meeting him when he visited Kashmir in 1971.

“It was the time when I got to know him closely as I spent more time with him. I learned how humble he was and how much he loved the indigenous culture of Kashmir. An interesting thing that I noticed during his stay was his attachment to environmental conservation. I remember him talking about preserving the Kashmiri environment. It was a time when people didn’t know much about it and Dal was so clean that most people would use the water for daily chores,” Dug said.

He said in following years, Khan visited Kashmir twice, once with his wife Saira Bano.

Dug recalls booking a houseboat for the actor and going on location visits as the actor wanted to do a movie on Kashmir which didn’t materialise.

During all the time Khan spent with his Kashmir host, Dug recalls how closely he got to know about the humility, love for Kashmiri fans, Kashmiri culture, and language.

“I remember during the late actor’s visit to DargahHazratbal and Char-e-Sharief, fans would surround him and the planned one-hour visit would take hours. When I talked to him about it, he said how could he turn down the love of his Kashmiri fans,” he said.

Recalling an interesting incident about Khan's humility Dug said, “Once I went to see the actor in the houseboat and didn't find him in his room. I asked a houseboat employee about him but he didn’t know about him either. To my surprise, I saw the actor sleeping outside the houseboat on 'Rah-Rawani' (a path made of wooden planks for boatmen to walk along with shoes). He was just laying there for hours without any bedding underneath. When I asked him, he said it is such a peaceful place to sleep and that, if allowed, he would sleep there at night. He would often ask us to preserve Kashmiri culture and language."

ImdadSaqi, who interviewed Khan in the 1970s recalled some of the memories that he had with the actor.

Saqi said that Khan had a profound love for Urdu and a deep connection with Kashmir.

“I got to know that every year Khan, along with actor Raj Kumar and Ranjit would visit Kashmir for a month. They would rent a house in Nishat. I remember him telling me that the kind of solace and peace he experiences in Kashmir is unmatched and that is the reason every year he cannot think of any other place to go,” he said.

Saqi got that interview after trying to meet the actor through a friend which later got published in an Urdu daily. He said that in 2014 floods he lost all copies of the interview and many other things.

“All that is left are a few photographs and memories that I carry in my heart,” Saqi said.

The impact of the late actor on people who knew him closely and those who just had a few glimpses of him is the same in many ways.

Some Kashmiris while recalling their few-minutes conversations with the late actor termed him a down-to-earth person.

Hawa Bashir is one such person who met the actor briefly.

Bashir, who taught at Government Women’s College Srinagar said that in the 1970s the actor had come to Kashmir during a film premiere.

“I met the actor briefly. While introducing myself I told him how my brother knew him personally. He reacted in a way as if he not only knew my brother but me also. A photograph with him from the event still rests in our album which is one of the cherished memories,” she said.

As the news of the Bollywood King’s death was out on Wednesday, the condolences poured across India and Pakistan where the actor was dearly loved.

In Kashmir, social media helped in giving a peek into Khan’s Kashmir connection. Many in Kashmir took to social media sharing pictures with the late actor.

In many such social media posts, people shared their memories about the actor and how they knew him.

“In early 1970s, Dilip Kumar was on a short Kashmir visit. He and Shamim Ahmed Shamim were known to each other, before Shamim’s election to the LokSabha from Srinagar in 1971. They met in Srinagar. By chance, probably at the insistence of his children, Shamim took about half a dozen younger members of his family with him to meet the heartthrob of the time. They included his three daughters, Saba, Sehar, and Shabnam, and two nieces, Busha and Hina (our daughter). This exciting event became an unforgettable moment for them. Today, after the sad demise of the legend, the emotional worth of this cherished memento is immeasurable. God bless the souls of the legend and Shamim Ahmed Shamim who was a legend in his own right,” senior journalist Muhammad Sayeed Malik shared the photo of the event on Facebook.

Through the movies of tragedy king and his personal life, Khan had a very deep Kashmir connection.

As per the local media reports, it was revealed how before becoming a famous actor, Khan, along with his brother, visited Kashmir as kids.

The duo was diagnosed of tuberculosis and doctors suggested his father to take them to a hill station.

Local media reported this was how Khan had his first long stay in Kashmir. As the first Khan of Bollywood left the material world, Kashmiris are getting nostalgic and going down the memory lane.

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