By Syeda Qudsiya Mashhadi

It is Ramadan of 2017 and a day ago I read the news about the death of the talented Pakistani musician Aamir Zaki who had passed away at just 49. Though I had not followed his musical career closely, I was saddened to learn that he was suffering from depression and also had bipolar disorder. Even more painful was the fact that just two days before he died, he had called one of his friends and told him that he did not even have the money to take his sick mother to the doctor. This is sad but this is how we Pakistanis treat our geniuses.

Aamir Aaki performing in Coke Studio, 2016

Now I am reading glowing tributes on social media about how Aamir Zaki was an iconic musician and the best guitarist Pakistan had ever produced. I am sorry, but all this praise is utterly useless and unnecessary now. Where were all his fans and our government when he was alive? Why we always remember the exceptional talent of people when they are gone? Will we ever learn to value, respect and reward our talented artists, poets, writers and maestros in all other fields when they are alive?

We keep on reading about how the former actors, musicians, writers and other famous people are living the last days of lives in extremely miserable conditions, yet no effort is ever made by the government to do something about those who served the nation in their prime. Also we see no voice being raised for them by any artists’ guild or actors’ union. When you will not raise your voice for the people from your own field, what do you expect from the outsiders?

I may or may not endorse the life style of every one of these artists, but still as humans, as Pakistanis, as great artists, as talented people who entertained and served our nation, they deserve good treatment from all of us, the government and the society.

Recently I also saw pictures of legendary Pakistani TV actress, Roohi Bano who is living the last days of her life in terrible conditions in some asylum. Her appearance had deteriorated a great deal and she was not in sound mental health either. I also remember reading the news last year about ‘Karnani Churail’ and ‘Zakoota Jin’ from the children’s classic drama of PTV, ‘Ainak Wala Jin’. They too were living in dire conditions, literally begging people for food; they complained that the government and artist community had completely abandoned them.

Legendary Pakistani actresses in a PTV drama – Left: Late Khalida Riyasat. Right: Roohi Bano
Roohi Bano, pictured here in 2016 – Deserted and forgotten

There should be a government organization that recognizes talent in every field, whether from arts or sciences, and reward and assist these gifted people before they wilt away just trying to fulfil their basic needs. Otherwise we should not complain when great scientists and artists start leaving the country, and we end up having a dearth of talent. The only other option, at the moment, for these talented people is to live a despondent life and then die of a broken heart.

It is time we changed this.

 

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