Mission Delhi – Muhammed Anwar, Hazrat Nizamuddin Chilla
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He is sleeping. Flies are resting on his white beard and on the crisp white sleeve of his kurta. The Delhi Walla meets Muhammed Anwar in the chilla, or retreat, of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Here the city’s iconic 14th century sufi saint lived, meditated, and died. Parts of the stone monument are painted white.
Waking up after a few minutes, Mr Anwar, 70, stares at me without blinking his eyes. After a few minutes, he says, “I’m living here for 30 years.”
“What about your family?” I ask.
“I ran away from Calcutta many years ago.”
“You don’t think of them?”
“My parents must have died. My brothers must have their own families to look after. I always wanted to be alone.”
Mr Anwar’s bed is laid on the stone floor. He shares the space with five cats.
“Don’t you feel lonely at times?”
“I like solitude. I feel nice when I’m in a graveyard.”
Telling me that he often sits for hours among the tombs, Mr Anwar takes me to the adjacent graveyard.
“I used to live in the dargah of Saat Peer. It is not far from here. I was the only one residing there but a few years later some mullahs arrived and occupied the place. They started the business of selling amulets to distressed pilgrims promising hopes of a better life. I found that revolting. I came here.”
Mr Anwar is wearing a translucent beaded necklace. He has three finger rings. Pointing to one of them, he says, “I got it from a skeleton that was accidentally unearthed by construction labourers a few years ago.”
Looking at a dog sitting on one of the tombs, Mr Anwar says, “In the morning, I have roti with chai. Later, I sit in the graveyard and think of Allah.”
The chilla is next to one of Delhi’s most visited monuments (Humayun’s Tomb) and close to one of the city’s busiest rail stations, and yet it manages to remain serene.
As I get up to leave, Mr Anwar says, “I wash my own clothes. May Allah bless you.”
[This is the 64th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Muhammed Anwar of Hazrat Nizamuddin Chilla