Mission Delhi – Mumtaz Begum, Panj Peeran Graveyard
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She appears to be sleeping. The Delhi Walla is with Mumtaz Begum. We are in a windowless room in Nizamuddin Basti, a village in central Delhi. Mumtaz Begum’s body is to be cleaned with multani mitti for ritual purification. Today is the burial. She died the day before yesterday. She was in her sixties.
Mumtaz Begum lived alone in Chawri Bazaar, a Walled City neighbourhood. Her husband died years ago. Her children settled in another city. A religious woman, she regularly visited the dargah of sufi saint Hazrat Nizmauddin Auliya.
Having a calm demeanour, Mumtaz Begum kept her feelings to herself. She rarely talked. Her expressive eyes conveyed her friendliness.
She grew quieter towards the end. She also stopped eating, subsisting only on sweet lime, and became very frail.
After being diagnosed with jaundice, she was admitted in Lady Irwin hospital.
Mumtaz Begum’s son, daughter, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren arrived in the morning to conduct the final rites. Their train took more than 24 hours to reach Delhi. They look tired, though the grandchildren are loitering in the street outside. The little boy is eating a pineapple pastry, the little girl is playing with her mother’s handbag.
Now, Mumtaz Begum is being carried inside the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin. A special prayer is held in the courtyard. Now, she is being carried to Panj Peeran graveyard on Lodhi Road. The procession consists of a dozen people. The evening’s rush hour traffic has started.
An hour later, Mumtaz Begum’s family leaves the graveyard.
[This is the 65th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Carrying Mumtaz Begum
The day after