“Home is where the heart is,” is a famous adage and also an equally famous song, sung by the great Elvis Presley. We often say in Hindi: Apne ghar aur vatan ki mitti ki sondhi gandh nahin jaati (That familiar fragrance of the soil of one’s home and motherland can never peter out). I’m extremely happy for the legendary thespian Dilip Kumar and his coeval Raj Kapoor as the Provincial Government in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has decided to purchase and restore the ramshackle ancestral homes of both the stalwarts on Qissa Khwani in Peshawar.
I’ve interviewed Yusuf sahab a number of times for Pakistani and Indian Urdu dailies as well as for the BBC, London, Urdu service. Since I’m extremely well-acquainted with Pakistan and have got my Doctorate degree on Mohammad Rafi’s musicality from Lahore University, I’d often get easy access to Dilip sahab, though he has always been a man sans airs and arrogance.
Despite my frequent visits to Pakistan as an exegete of Quran and Islamic Theology, I somehow missed visiting the homes of both the legends. But when I got an acceptance call from the legendary Urdu poet Ahmad Faraz to interview him at his hometown Kohat in NWFP in 2005, I decided to drop at Peshawar and visit the homes of Raj sahab and Dilip sahab.
I visited Peshawar University and met the HoD of Urdu and Pashto, Dr Imtiyaaz Rashid Khan, who very politely made it clear that I’d not take pics of any place as I came from India and the dilapidated homes were also sub-judice. I readily agreed and along with professor Khan, visited both the places which are situated in the vicinity. It was a nostalgic experience. I took the samples of the soil of both the havelis (mansions) and returned to Karachi and from there to India.
As I was planning to go to Bombay to gift the soil to Dilip sahab and Raj Kapoor’s family, I got a call from Mr Robin Anthony of Turf Club, Poona. He told me that Dilip Kumar had come. He used to visit Poona’s Turf Club. I went to meet him to gift the soil. With tearful eyes, he told me that though he visited his ancestral home in Peshawar a couple of times even after partition, someone gifted him the soil of his haveli for the first time. It was a very emotional moment for both of us. At this juncture, he’s again very happy that his haveli will now be looked after by the government of Pakistan.