Yousaf Khan was born on December 11, 1922, in Mohallah Khudadad in the most congested area of the famous Qissa Khwani Bazaar
With his death, the story of the legendary Dilip Kumar (Yousaf Khan), who belonged to Peshawar and migrated with his family to Bombay in the 1930s, is once again in the limelight. He was born on December 11, 1922, in Mohallah Khudadad in a congested area of the famous Qissa Khwani Bazaar in Peshawar City. Yousaf Khan’s father, known as Lala Ghulam Sarwar, was a dry fruit merchant. They belonged to an Awan family. Speaking to TNS, a local elder said that Yousaf Khan had five brothers and four sisters. (Some media reports have claimed that he was one of the twelve children Ghulam Sarwar Khan, remembered by locals as Ghulam Lala.)
Agha Jan, a neighbor from Mohallah Khudadad, says Yousaf Khan went to a local school for some time. Shakeel Wahidullah Khan, says that he used to go to the Nanakpura Primary School. His formal education, however, was started in Mumbai. The street the family lived is now a commercial area and most of the current residents are late settlers. Agha Jan says that the renowned industrialist Senator Mohsin Aziz is one of Dilip Kumar’s close relatives. Rasm-i-Qul for the deceased was held at the latter’s residence in Gulshan-i-Aziz, Peshawar.
Yousaf Khan’s family moved to Mumbai in the 1930s after the famous Qissa Khwani massacre. It is related that after the Qissa Khwani massacre his father’s dry fruits business collapsed. That was when he decided to move. Shakeel Wahidullah Khan, a social and political worker and a Dilip Kumar fan, says that his father initially mortgaged the house and received Rs 2,500 for it to move first to Calcutta and then to Mumbai to start a business there. His did well in Mumbai and after a few years he came back to Peshawar and sold the house for Rs 5,000, collected the balance and moved his entire family to Mumbai. According to Khan – when Yousaf Khan moved to Mumbai, he was 12 or 13 years old.
According to another local when the family left Peshawar, the house was sold to a paternal aunt (who was childless). She later sold it to someone else. In 2014, it was declared national heritage and the government eventually acquired the property. The house is now locked and in poor condition.
Dilip Kumar visited the place in Peshawar in 1988 and was overwhelmed with emotions. Recalling the visit, Shakeel Wahidullah Khan says that at the doorstep of his house, the veteran actor requested the public, media and his security detail to wait outside as he didn’t want to enter the house as Dilip Kumar but as Yousaf Khan. This was to allow him to be alone and ‘speak’ to his grandmother and parents. The request was respected and he spent about an hour alone with his childhood memories. He later shared his childhood memories in Urdu, Pashto and Hindko with the media at a five star hotel in Peshawar. Later when Shakeel Wahidullah Khan met the aging super star – he narrated how he had enjoyed his childhood memories in that one hour.
Dilip Kumar again visited Peshawar in 1998. However, due to security concerns he couldn’t visit his home this time. Khan says Dilip Kumar also visited Pakistan on a secret peace mission at a time when relations between Pakistan and India were strained.
On his Facebook page, Senator Mohsin Aziz has shared a video message saying that Yousaf Khan was an uncle to him. He says he had met the legendary actor in 1988 when he visited Peshawar. He also says that Yousaf Khan had visited them to offer his condolences following the death of his (Senator Mohsin Aziz’s) father. Senator Aziz says when he visited India with an All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) delegation a few years back Dilip Kumar hosted an iftar-dinner at the Taj Mahal Hotel to honour the delegation. Senator Aziz last met Kumar five years ago when he visited him at his home in Mumbai.
Raheel Tahir, a Peshawar resident, tells TNS that it was a surprise to him that the deceased super star had one lived in Qissa Khwani. He said funeral prayers were offerd for Kumar in Peshawar. Shakeel Wahidullah Khan led the prayers at his ancestral house. Khan told TNS that the prayers were organized the Cultural and Heritage Council that had been in touch with the super star since 2009 and had been regularly celebrating his birthday.
Khan says Dilip Kumar had wanted that the property be preserved and a museum established there. The Archaeology Department has now acquired the house but litigation over what is owed to the last owner of the house continues. It is hoped that the court case will be resolved soon and a museum will be established in the renovated building.
Special thanks to Mr Imran Takkar for pictures and quotes of the locals. Photos are from the Facebook page of Mr Shakeel Wahidullah Khan.
The writer is a human rights activist and development practitioner with a Masters in Human Rights from the London School of Economics (LSE) and tweets at @amahmood72