Mission Delhi – Tasleem Bibi, Matia Mahal
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She is sitting at the entrance of Syed Rifani mosque, next to Shreen Bhawan sweet shop. It is 6 am. She has just woken up. A dog is lying at her feet. The Delhi Walla meets Tasleem Bibi in Matia Mahal, a bazaar in Shahjahanabad, or Old Delhi.
The area with its groceries, bakeries, butcheries, street vendors, doped beggars and cats is Ms Bibi’s home. She is a familiar personality in the market. In the day, she is seen walking the alleys, talking to herself. When she stops to regain her breath – her back is always erect, her face is always expressionless – she looks like a statue of Queen Victoria.
Today, Ms Bibi is in a red gown, or is it a petticoat? She is draped in various layers of clothes, which were perhaps shawls, bed sheets or curtains in another time. Her head, too, is tightly covered with what looks like a pillow-cover.
“This is because I have short hair,” Ms Bibi says, searching for something in the side-pocket of her blouse. (Was it a jacket?)
Ms Bibi doesn’t know her age.
“I’m from Bengal. My country is in Aram Bagh, which is in the Hooghly district. I walked to Delhi 23 years ago. My father sold mattresses. One day his shop was taken over by the landlord. Now, I have no one. Actually, I gave birth to a son but I don’t know where he is.”
Ms Bibi’s hand is still inside her side-pocket, searching for a thing she can’t find.
“I don’t wear sandals. I tie polythene. My legs…”
Taking out her hand from the pocket, she suddenly gets up and starts crossing the street, which is teeming with children dressed in school uniforms.
Singing in Bengali, Ms Bibi turns right into Galli Mem Wali and is seen no more.
[This is the 56th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The lady and the dog
What is she thinking?