City Obituary – Zubeida Bano, Shahjahanabad
Death of a Delhiwalla.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The arc of Ms Bano’s life began at a high point of wealth and influence and went downward, like that of her Walled City, the capital of the Mughal empire.
Born in a big Muslim household in Chawri Bazaar, Ms Bano’s family fortunes nosedived in the years that followed the independence. A life in the ancestral mansion ended soon. Her mother died early; her father died while they were living in one of a series of hovels that was their home.
Belonging to a time when it was rare for a Muslim girl to leave the house without purdah, Ms Bano was never educated formally. Yet, her spoken Urdu was literary, not colloquial. Despite being forced to live on the street in her last days, she was always seen in clean and ironed clothes; of course, her head was always covered with a dupatta for modesty’s sake.
Ms Bano was so attached to Shahjahanabad that she opted to be homeless within its walls than to take an apartment that was being offered to her by Delhi government in a far-flung corner of the capital.
Living in poverty was one of Ms Bano’s regrets; another was of not finding a husband. She is survived by a handicapped sister who lived with her, and a brother who had years ago migrated across the Yamuna. Ms Bano was buried at the graveyard in Dilli Gate.