Eighty-three-year-old Safeerullah Siddiqui, popularly known as Lollywood’s golden-age comedian Lehri, is fighting for his life in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Liaquat National Hospital, where he has been admitted in critical condition for the last 12 days. His health “doesn’t seem to be improving”, said his son-in-law Asad Mehboob, sitting by Lehri’s hospital bed.
“The doctors say that he is suffering from acute chest congestion and had water in his lungs which had to be immediately pumped out,” Mehboob said about his father-in-law’s condition. “His health was just not improving so three days ago we had to take the decision of putting him on the ventilator. Sadly, his blood pressure has still not stabilised.”
While talking about his father-in-law’s deteriorating health condition, Mehboob said, “He has been ill for some time now.” He said that Lehri’s first phase of ill health hit during Ramazan, and that he was subsequently admitted to the Patel Hospital for four days. After being discharged, he fell ill and was hospitalised again. “The second phase was worse,” Mehboob told The Express Tribune, explaining that the actor stayed at the hospital for an additional 10 days. While he returned home at Chaand Raat to spend Eid with his family, after Maghrib prayers on the first day, his health began to deteriorate once again. He has been at the Liaquat National Hospital since.
“Last year, his youngest daughter who lived in England, passed away from cancer. This grave shock took a toll on Lehri’s health and shook him badly,” Mehboob said.
As he lies in the ICU ward of the hospital, the ailing artist’s condition is indeed worsening. He was last seen in a jubilant mood when 70s golden girl Shabnam and her husband Robin Ghosh visited his residence in Gulistan-i-Jauhar during their visit to Pakistan a few months ago. He was not well at the time, but even then managed to put on a smile for his old friends.
The frail Lehri of today is a startling contrast of what he used to be in his heyday. The bubbly comedian — who was the very embodiment of vivacity back in the 70s — now has a lifeless web of tubes pressed into his body. The hands that once helped deliever energetic performances are now swollen and bruised from numerous vaccinations.
Mehboob, however, is not ready to lose hope yet. “Doctors believe that when a patient is put on the ventilator, he usually easily gives up hope. But Lehri is fighting for survival.” He further added that the artist had not lost all his senses. When he is awake, he communicates instructions with his hands, telling his relatives to remove the tubes from his body.
No visitors from the industry
Apart from late actor Moin Akhtar’s daughters who visited him in the hospital, late ghazal singer Mehdi Hasan’s family is also in touch with Lehri’s family. Mehboob, however, is not happy with the kind of nonchalance people of the industry are showing towards this issue. “It’s a sad state of affairs that we are living in,” he lamented. “Papa acted with veterans like Bushra Ansari, Behroz Sabzwari and Omar Sharif but none of them has made one call or visit. The other day, Papa was missing Anwar Maqsood but even he never dropped by to check on him. It’s sad how the artist community treats its own people — in bad taste.”
Though the artist community’s response is heartbreaking, Lehri’s family still doesn’t feel that they have been abandoned; his fans have not forgotten him. “He has been getting visitors from far flung areas of interior Sindh who come with flowers to inquire about his health condition,” Mehboob added.
Mehboob is particularly pleased by the response of the Sindh government. “Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad personally calls us almost every day to inquire about Lehri’s health.” He appealed to the public to pray for his father-in-law. “We certainly hope he makes a comeback. You never know whose prayers are answered and we earnestly hope it is one of his fans,” Mehboob added.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2012.
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