My wife and I were in a conversation on Facetime with our daughter in Saudi Arabia when she told us about the heart breaking and moving news of the sad demise of Sridevi, star of Hindi/Urdu Bollywood movies, in the next-door country of Dubai. The next day we were talking to our younger daughter in Torrance, Calif., who said that when she and her husband were talking to her mother-in-law in Sri Lanka, she told her that the news of Sridevi’s death was all over Sri Lanka channels. A Bollywood icon’s news was all over the world; Bollywood and Hollywood.
The news item on Feb. 24, 2018 described her very appropriately: “Chandni dey gayee Sadma.” The Urdu word Sadma describes jolt, shock, blow or stroke. It was really all of those. Sridevi earned the nickname Chandni because of her super performance in the movie “Chandni.” We all grew up on Bollywood movies in Hyderabad, and at that time, the South Indian superstars in Mumbai in the 1950s were Vijayantimala, Waheeda Rahman, Padmini, Raagini and others. Now, in Los Angeles, our children grew up with superstars like Hema Malini, Sridevi, Vidya Balan and others.
The death of Sridevi was a poignant moment for me, too. I remember our younger daughter, when she was very young, crying when the movie actress Divya Bharati died in 1993. She used to watch Divya Bharathi’s movies. It is very ironic that Sridevi, whom Divya Bharati called her idol and confessed she was in the movies because she was a Sridevi lookalike, also passed away in very unusual circumstances. My wife told our younger daughter not to cry like she did in 1993; she said that she feels sad about the death of Sridevi.
I started reflecting on how death can snatch away a human being from the clutches of life and away from those who love him or her. Millions and millions of people around the world loved Sridevi for her talent and beauty. It brought to my mind an unpleasant event that took place in the 1970s causing despair and anxiety to me, and now at the passing away of Sridevi, sadness. It reminds me of an Indian movie icon, actor Saboo Dastagir, not in Bollywood but in Hollywood. A son of an Indian mahout, Sabu, born and raised in Karapur, Mysore state, was discovered in 1937 and was cast in the movie “Elephant Boy” and later in many Hollywood movies. I always have goose pimples whenever I hear the name Sabu.
Most of us in our lifetime seldom see a dead body, only when a relative or a dear one has passed away. In the early 1970s, the only burial place available or known to Muslims from India in Los Angeles, Calif., was a specific area in the Forest Lawn Mortuary. The director of the mortuary told us that movie stars Sabu and Turhan Bey of Turkey were buried there, and it was the most suitable area for a Muslim burial. There was no separate burial site or a graveyard for Muslims in California.
Hearing about Sridevi being underwater in a bathtub felt was a very eerie feeling. I realized that some feelings come to the surface of your brain and haunt you for the rest of your life.
I found solace and peace in the poetic rendering of the Indian poet, Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal (famous for his poem: “Saray Jahan say achcha Hindustan Hamara”). One of his poems about death and an independent human being says: “O! God, this world or the heavens don’t belong to free and liberated human beings; here they have limitations on life and in the hereafter they have limitation on death.”
Here or there, Sridevi will live forever. May she rest in peace.