Photo Essay – Carrying a Coffin in Old Delhi
The Sunday calm, in the streets of the walled town, gets shattered by the grief of a funeral procession
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
“The eyes shed tears and the heart is grieved, but we will not say anything except which pleases our Lord.”
Prophet Mohammad on the passing away of his son Ibrahim
Sunday morning in Old Delhi. Someone has died. A handsome young man with a day-old stubble is leading the funeral procession. His eyes are vacant. It could not have been a child’s death. The body, covered in a green cloth, is more substantial. Half a dozen sad shoulders are perspiring under the weight of the coffin as it bobs up and down on its last journey.
The procession halts at a traffic light as it turns red. Life swirls into action in the adjacent street that was empty a moment ago. There the signal has turned green. A tonga trots away. Fast-moving cars zoom past. A beggar, dozing on the cemented pavement, wraps the torn chaadar more tightly around him. A lady perched on the back of a motorbike glances at the coffin and instinctively touches her forehead in reverence.
When the light turns green the young man rushes ahead, reaches the center of the busy square, and waves in both directions – as if requesting the traffic to halt. The traffic stops. Then he turns back, gently gesturing the procession to follow.
As they walk past a bus stop, three mourners spill out of the convoy to catch their breath, while commuters waiting for their buses get fascinated by somebody else’s grief. A veiled woman in a bright orange sari prays silently. Somebody snaps pictures with a digital camera. But the procession is not distracted. It moves along with a heavy tread onto Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, towards a graveyard not in sight.
Two old men lag behind. “Everyone who has come to this world will depart some day,” says one. The other shakes his head. “That is true.”
Following the Procession – Somebody Has Died
Following the Procession – But The World Goes On
Following the Procession – Sad Morning Today
Following the Procession – On to the Burial Ground
Following the Procession – Feeling the Coffin’s Weight
Following the Procession – Not Our Grief, But Theirs
Following the Procession – This Grief Shall Come to Us, Too