Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream,
The transient pleasures as a vision seem,
And yet we think the greatest pain's to die.
As the year, predicted by some to be the last one, winds up, we are thinking of all those, for whom it actually turned out to be the final transition. This piece we reflect on some of the greatest personalities which lived to see the dawn of 2012, but never lived to wave adios. For their fans, they are lost forever, but will never be forgotten.
Mehdi Hassan (July 18, 1927 – June 13, 2012)
The death of legendary singer Mehdi Hassan left deep scar in the hearts of classical music lovers across the world. Very few singers have been able to garner the love and respect as Shehanshah-e-Ghazal Ustad Mehdi Hasan. His was a voice that brought music lovers from one end of the Sub-Continent to the other, under one fold. Indian singing legend Lata Mangeshkar once said that “Mehdi Hasan ke galey ma Bagwan bolta he”, meaning his voice resonates of the divine.
The kind of musical dexterity and command he possessed was exclusive to a generation of singers that has become extinct with his departure. When on June 13th, the news of his demise came music lovers across the world mourned the loss of this great singing legend. Mehdi Hasan passed away in Karachi, after a long battle with paralysis, lung, chest and urinary tract disorder for more than a decade.
Mehdi Hassan got a break at the Radio Pakistan in 1952 and soon earned fame as a Ghazal singer within the musical fraternity for his melodious voice and soulful style of singing. His extraordinary ability to bring the pains and triumphs of love, and the beauty of the words written by poets from Mir and Ghalib to Faiz, Parveen Shakir and Ahmed Faraz made him the undisputed Emperor of Ghazal. During the 60s and 70s Mehdi Hasan’s voice was considered an essential part for playback music in movies. The musical genius left his unique signature on the Pakistani cinema.
He cut back on his performances in the late 1980s due to illness, including a serious lung condition and rarely performed in the later years. However, his music kept on earning him new fans even after his ailment prevented him from composing new numbers.
He was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions. He was granted the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz by Gen Ayub Khan; General Zia ul Haq bestowed him with the Pride of Performance; and General Pervez Musharraf conferred him the Hilal-i-Imtiaz. He also received the Nigar Film and Graduate Awards and was presented the Saigal Award in Jalandhar, India, in 1979, and the Gorkha Dakshina Bahu Award from Nepal in 1983.
The vacuum he left behind could never be filled with a voice more trained. He is no more but his mellifluous voice has made the maestro immortal. His music would keep on echoing the messages of love and peace which famed him across divides of region, religion and ethnicities.
Safeerullah Lehri (2 January 1929 – 13 September 2012)
He brought the gift of smiles to millions of Pakistanis and was known as the King of comedy to his fans. Safeerullah Lehri passed away in Karachi on the 13th of September 2012 at 83 years of age.
The legendary film actor was born in 1929, Kanpur British India as Safeerullah Siddiqui, he later adopted the name Lehri, when he began his acting career with the film Anokhi. With a career spanning nearly four decades, Lehri was undoubtedly Pakistan’s most celebrated comedian. What is not known to many is that other than humorous roles, Lehri also played a few villainous and serious roles.
His witty dialogue delivery is famed for keeping audience at edge, always contemplating when the most hilarious comments may be passed in the ever so serious manner.
In his career spanning 38 years he acted in more than 225 memorable projects, never taking a lead role, but he was one of the most coveted comedian for the then flourishing Pakistani film industry. He is best remembered for his comic roles in Mera Ghar Meri Jannat, Tasvir, Tum Salamat Raho, Ishara, Nai Laila Naya Majnon, Tum Milay Pyaar Mila, Bahadur, Saiqa, Naukar and Zameer. He was the recipient 12 Nigar award between 1964 and 1986, which are considered to be the most prestigious accolade of Pakistani film industry.
His last movie titled ‘Dhanak’ was released in 1986, but he was once again honoured by the industry with an award for contributions to Pakistani cinema in 1993. Lehri was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of Liaquat National Hospital in August 2012, for acute chest congestion and low blood pressure and remained on ventilator for several weeks, until he passed away on September 13th.
Shehzad Ahmed (April 16, 1932 – August 1, 2012)
Famed Urdu poet Shehzad Ahmed, also made his final transition during the last year at the age of 80. The Director of Majlis-i-Taraqqi-i-Adab, Shehzad Ahmed had authored some 30 books of poetry and psychology. He is also known for translating other books and poetic collections. He was awarded the country’s highest civil award, the Pride of Performance, during 1990s.
Shehzad Ahmed was born on April 16, 1932, in Amritsar, India and moved to Pakistan after partition. He did MSc in psychology from Government College, Lahore, in 1956 and MA philosophy in 1958. Shehzad Ahmed started writing poetry during his college days and used to recite poems in different mushairas.
His most prominent poetic collections include Sadaf, Jalti Bhujti Ankhain, Tuta Huwa Pal, Utray Meri Khak per Sitar and Bichra Janay Ki Rut.
Sikander Sanam (21 September 1960 - 5 November 2012)
He was known as the artist who redefined mimicry to shame some the of the most legendary Bollywood stars, with his performance in mock versions of Khal Nayak, Sholay, Munna Bhai MBBS and Tere Naam.
Sikandar Sanam emerged from Karachi’s theatre scene, to gain fame with his colloquial jokes and street smart improvisational skills which came out during his movie projects. Some of his mimicked version gained so much fame that they were played on mainstream entertainment channels. His portrayal of Salman Khan in different movie characters became wildly popular among the crowds, with his dark-complexion and frail-body in pace of the well built Indian hero.
Coming from a family of artistically inclined people, Sikander Sanam, started his career as a stage and television actor, singer and stand up comedian, inspired by his late father Syed Abdul Sattar Shoqeen Jetpuri — a well-known Gujrati poet.
Sanam was diagnosed with liver cancer only nine weeks before his death, after he fell ill during a performance on Eid day. He was taken to Agha Khan Hospital and later decided to see local healers in his hometown Nawabshah, where he succumbed to the ailment.
Arfa Karim (February 2, 1995 – January 14, 2012)
The girl genius, Arfa Karim Randhawa was one of Pakistan’s brightest young individuals who brought fame and pride for the country. She became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) in 2004 at 9 years of age. After she won the honour, Arfa was invited by Bill Gates to visit the Microsoft Headquarters in the United States.
On returning to Pakistan, She was invited for numerous interviews with television channels and newspapers. In August 2005, Arfa Karim received the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal in the field of Science and Technology, presented by the Prime Minister of Pakistan at that time. She also received the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award again in August 2005 by the President of Pakistan. Arfa Karim is also the recipient of the President’s Award for Pride of Performance, becoming the youngest recipient of the highest civilian accolade.
At the age of 16, Arfa Karim was studying in her second year of A Levels when she suffered from cardiac arrest after an epileptic seizure on December 22, 2011 and was admitted to Lahore’s Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in critical condition. On January 9, 2012, Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, made contact with Arfa’s parents, and directed his doctors to adopt “every kind of measure” for her treatment. On January 14, 2012, Arfa Karim died at Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Lahore.
Fauzia Wahab (November 14, 1956 - June 17, 2012)
Vociferous and fiercely loyal to her party, Fauzia Wahab was the most vocal supporter of Pakistan Peoples Party even during the worst times in Pakistani politics. She held many key positions in the PPP and was considered a close aide of Benazir Bhutto.
She was notably appointed as the Secretary Information of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) after the resignation of Sherry Rehman. She also secured chairmanship of the standing committee on finance and revenue in 2008. She was personally endorsed by President Asif Ali Zardari and became senior, high-ranking member of the central executive committee.
Fauzia Wahab was very famous for her support of the PPP in any television or media appearance and gained notoriety on passing controversial comments about the Raymond Davis incident in 2011.
Wahab was admitted to a private hospital in Karachi for an elective gall bladder surgery in May, where her condition worsened due to post operative complications. She was moved to the ICU and had two subsequent surgeries but died on June 17, 2012. The Pakistan Peoples Party announced ten days of mourning for her death and most Pakistani politicians expressed grief, including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.
Ardeshir Cowasjee (13 April 1926 – 24 November 2012)
He was a man who brought all the inside information to the masses, expressing his opinions in the most intrepid manner ever possessed by a writer in Pakistan. For over two decades Ardeshir Cowasjee vented out all his anger with the manner the country was being run, in the most scathing column that graced the pages of Pakistan’s leading newspaper DAWN. Though a member of Pakistan’s minority community, a practitioner of Zoroastrianism, Cowasjee enjoyed voicing his views about a pluralistic Pakistan, without any semblance of fear.
He was a bold journalist who spoke the truth and exposed corruption, nepotism and incompetence bluntly throughout his life. His views about the country’s founder were just as patriotically inclined as his love for the city he lived and owned for 86 years. Cowasjee considered the country’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as the only true leader Pakistan has ever seen.
His columns which opinion came from a love for the country he carried deep inside him, and never once failed or fear to express. With his writings he mourned the loss of a country he has seem coming to glory, and encouraged citizens to take on issues themselves. The son of a shipping magnate, the wealthy Cowasjee had the unique freedom to say what he wanted and get away with it.
Never an opinionated bystander, he said what he thought was right, expressing amusement and indignation with the ways of the wealthy elites and the hapless masses. His columns encompassed everything from corruption, environment and business.
Through the Cowasjee Foundation, he also educated young students and funded hospitals and charities.
With the final transition of this warrior columnist, Pakistan has lost one of its most patriotic and vocal citizens that ever lived.