Restoring homes of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor

Restoring homes of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor may be a peace overture

An Indian's journey through Dilip Kumar’s and Raj Kapoor’s havelis in Peshawar

When Urdu poet Qateel Shifai of Pakistan visited India in 1982, he wrote a couplet right at the Palam airport in New Delhi: “A few associations aren’t broken for a lark/Even if there’s a temporary bitterness, they remain unshattered”.

Even amid the warpath that the Coronavirus is on, the news that the provincial government in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has decided to purchase and restore the dilapidated ancestral homes of Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor on Qissa Khwani in Peshawar is a breath of fresh air.

I have visited Pakistan a number of times as a research scholar of Semitic languages and an exegete of Islamic Theology at Pakistan’s premier universities. Pakistan is almost my second home. It was at Lahore University that I obtained my doctorate on Mohammad Rafi’s musicality.

I’ve been to the University of Peshawar a few times. This heritage city is famous for its old forts, street food, wild honey, anda chholey and wide roads. It’s also famous for housing the ancestral homes of Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor.

In 2005, I was at Peshawar University for four days, when I decided to have a look at their traditional homes. The head of the department of Urdu and Pashto at the university, Dr Imtiyaaz Rashid Khan, told me, “Since you’ve come from India, it is expected that you do not take pictures of the heritage homes. You’d better cherish those pictures in your heart and mind instead.” There was the added reason that both homes were sub judice at the time.

He took me to the places in his car. Both havelis (mansions) were in a ramshackle state.

The locals, realising that I came from India, gathered around me to ask whether I had met Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor or Shah Rukh Khan. (Shah Rukh’s father Meer Taj Muhammad Khan is from Peshawar as well).

The havelis were an example of how the connection between India and Pakistan continues to exist in certain spheres. This gave a student of culture, like me, goosebumps.

I thanked the good people of that locality for their help and left.

The old Bombay film industry used to have an umbilical connection to Pakistan.

Rajendra Kumar was born in Sialkot; Sunil Dutt in Jhelum; Sadhana in Karachi; Vinod Khanna in Peshawar; Dev Anand in Shakargarh; Sampooran Singh Kalra, better known as ‘Gulzar’, in Dina; and Suresh Oberoi in Quetta.

Raj Kumar’s family was from Luralai; Rajesh Khanna’s from Burewala; and Amitabh Bachchan’s mother Teji Bachchan was born in Faislabad.

I hope the Pakistan government’s generous and timely decision to restore the havelis will further strengthen the bond and dilute the persistent rancour to a great extent.

Because, to quote Jigar Muradabadi, “Let political people do what they’re best at/ My message is love and I’m out to disseminate it as far as it can go”.

So very true.