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'I am not even the dust on his feet'

July 07, 2021 16:26 IST

'I don't miss having a child because Saab is like a child.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Dilip Kumar/Twitter

When I heard of Dilip Kumar passing away, my first thought was, what was his wife Saira Banu going to do now?

For 55 years until his death on July 7, Sairaji did nothing but look after her husband.

Ever since he started keeping ill health, she had no life of her own.

Sairaji once told me, "I don't miss having a child because Saab is like a child."

They are the ideal couple.

As Lata Mangeshkar says, 'Every breath that Sairaji takes is for Yusufsaab. I have't seen a more devoted wife in my entire life."

When Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu celebrated 50 years of marriage, Sairaji had said, "Waqt kaise guzra pataa hi nahin chala (we never knew how time flew).

"Looking after Saab, his life and his home comes naturally to me. He never asked me to give up my career. In fact, he encouraged me to continue acting after marriage. But after a while, my heart was not in my career. I just wanted to take care of Saab."

IMAGE: Saira Banu with Dilip Kumar in Gopi.

"For me, it was always Saab, no one else," she says.

"I was his fan from the time I can remember. While still a teenager, I wanted to be his wife. I am very headstrong and once I made up my mind, there was no stopping me. I knew many beautiful women wanted to marry Saab, but he chose me. It was my dream come true and that's what my marriage has been -- a perfect dream."

Recalling her time spent in Chennai during the days when the couple had hectic shooting schedules, Saira says, "Because Yusufsaab was doing a lot of Chennai-produced Hindi films after Kohinoor, we shifted base to Chennai and moved into a home owned by a friend. I had decided not to work after marriage.

"But then, I got good offers like Padosan and Shagird and Yusufsaab encouraged me to take them up. We shot on two studio floors separated only by a small gate. So you see, Chennai holds wonderful memories for us. The people in Chennai and Mumbai are equally cultured and well-informed."

Photograph: Kind courtesy Dilip Kumar/Twitter

When I had commended on her looking after her husband for nearly 50 years, Saira Banu shoots back: "What are you saying? It has been my privilege and honour. Main toh unke paon ki dhool bhi nahi(). He could have married anyone, any woman he wanted. He chose me.

"I consider myself very fortunate. I call him the Kohinoor of the film industry. I am lucky to be so close to him for so many years. I couldn't have chosen a better life. I can't imagine any other life for me."

I point out that Dilipsaab was fortunate to have such a devoted wife and she jokes, "Haan, I guess if I was chosen to be his wife, I must be special. Unki biwi hone ke liye calibre honi chahiye (to be his wife one needed to be of some calibre).

"But seriously, all Indian wives look after their husbands. In my family, I've seen women being devoted to their husbands. I grew up watching that. To me, it is a very natural thing."