Remembering Dilip Kumar...The Trip To Haidergarh, Barabanki We Took Together...
Woke up the news of the passing away of the legendary Dilip Kumar aka Yusuf Saab. Memories of a long day spent with him, many many years back floated in front of the eyes like it was yesterday. He was 98 when he died and was well into late seventies when I had the great fortune of being with him for whole day in Lucknow.
He along with the all-time great comic Johny Walker, with whom he shared a very special bond both on and off-screen, were in Lucknow to campaign for Congress candidate from Haidergarh (Barabanki) Puttu Awasthi.
I was working with The Times of India and was assigned this VIP coverage. Was unnerved as it was a big man I was to cover and drove at high speed to the Amausi airport lest I did not reach on time.
My loyal scooter ensured that I did meet the deadline for the tryst with the legend at the Amausi airport's VVIP lounge. After a brief stopover with the staff of Sahara Group that was hosting him, I was guided to the place he was seated. To see both these Bollywood icons in front of my eyes was such a surreal feeling that it still excites me.
I was just 27 and Dilip Saab was the God of the silver screen who was idolised by my hero of all times - Dharmendra. He was busy munching on some dry fruits and as I introduced myself, he just gave me a cursory look as he continued with his animated chat with Johny Walker. They both seemed engrossed in some old time chit-chat.
A little later I guess Johny saheb noted that I am feeling ignored and he got up and held my hand and took me to the sofa where Yusuf Saheb was seated. Gestured me to sit just next to him. Was kind of fan moment but Dilip ji smiled and made me a bit comfortable with a smile and an extended hand for a handshake.
I bowed down in respect and clasped his hand! It was the Tragedy King holding the hand of. Young journalist...memorable.
He briefly asked me about myself and then started narrating what all....his careers beginning, his co-actors and suddenly he started talking about "some" Noorjahan. I say some because till then I did not know who she was. Dilip saheb narrated how beautiful an actress she was and even hummed some of her songs. I had a micro-recorder with me and I recorded some of what he sung. Bliss! Johny saheb also spoke about many of his roles etc.
Meanwhile Dilip Saab got restless as the chopper which we had to fly on to Haidergarh was not yet ready. He asked me to enquire and the Sahara people outside the room informed that it was not being allowed to take off by the state government. The clearances from the ATC were not coming, I told him. He looked at the ceiling in dismay and slight anger. "Ye log humko udne nahin denge lagta hai", he muttered, apparently hinting at the BJP government in the state.
He then asked the Sahara guys to dial Subrata Roy, the Sahara owner. He promptly punched some numbers and connected him to Roy. They spoke for about a minute and worry lines creased the forehead of the actor. He then told Roy : "Jayenge to hum zaroor, chahein sadak se" (I will go for sure, even if it is by road). Such was his commitment. A certain Imran Saheb, a senior Congress functionary had stocked some food and water bottles meanwhile in his car.
A Tata Safari was immediately ushered in and we began the drive in a fleet of swanky vehicles. Our vehicle had a gunner, him, Johny Saheb and me tucked into the rear seat. The drive was a good one and as we weaved through hamlets dotting the way, at one point there was closed railway crossing. Some passenger train was to pass and the gateman had closed the crossing for traffic.
There was not much traffic, ours was the only four-wheeler and a few cycles and two-three bikes were waiting for the crossing to open. A vendor as squatting nearby selling Jamun. Dilip saheb craned his neck and spotted him and asked the gunner to get some for us. As he readily hopped out and did the needful, Dilip Saheb tapped on my back and asked me if I would like to join him "go for a leak". Janab, chalenge halka hone!, he said wittingly. I fumbled to respond and just nodded in affirmation.
Got down, helped him come out and we walked towards a roadside tree. Nobody recognised him...small village and he was much past retirement from films. We peed and walked back to the car as the train had passed. He was in a cheerful mood and had a small chat with the vendor...how much he earns...who all in his family? We convinced him to get back in the car as it was getting late and were were to cover some more distance.
We were mobbed when we reached the rally venue. Before alighting from the vehicle he told me not to get lost in the crowd, keep safe and be back at the car when they move back. Was touched by his concern..someone I had just known for a few hours...but it was not just that that he was a legend.
Dutifully I was back in the car before he returned, trying hard to find his way from the crowd that was all over him and the narrow road that led to the vehicle. On way back he said he was hungry and thirsty. Johny saheb told him that he needs to take only measured amount of food as Saira Bano had given "hidayat" off. He paid little head and Imran saheb got some galawat kebab's out from the hot case. But just before he bit into the them, he passed on the plate to me...Nosh farmayein (have them) he muttered.
I excused myself as it was a Monday, a day prohibited by Hindu religion for consumption of non-vegetarian. He then signalled to the host to get me something else-cucumber sandwiches, which were also there. And even as Johny saheb was busy relishing the food, Dilip saab only started when he saw that I was having my veggie fare.
We drove back and the night had set in and he was booked at Taj Vivanta. He was exhausted as he got down of the car in the portico of the hotel...he was then also plagued with diseases and the drive seemed to have taken a toll on him. His white pant-shirt was soiled with the touch of a thousand hands and as he walked with support towards the hotel lobby he seemed to have realised that he had not bid me goodbye.
He turned back: janab, he called me out. I rushed back and thanked him for the kindness and told him how lucky I felt having spent this time with him. He smiled back, kissed my forehead with an "Allah Hafiz, khush rahiye". Today as he has left his mortal coil, I say this back to you Sir, "Allah Hafiz, Rest In Peace!"
(The writer is the founder and editor-in-chief of www.thenewsagency.in)