83 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.
“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 stabilized.”
“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.
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.