City Faith – Yakuba Begum’s Iftar, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
For God’s sake.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is her iftar spread–plain channa dal, fresh-cut fruit and samosas. The elderly Yakuba Begum has a thick roti in her lap. She is patiently waiting for the call to prayer. It will signal the end of the daylong roza, or fast.
The Delhi Walla meets Ms Begum one evening during the month of Ramzan in the congested Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. Like many Muslims, Ms Begum is observing the roza along with her husband. The couple lives on the pavement.
The most sacred in the Islamic calendar, this is the month when the Quran is believed to have been sent down from heaven and revealed to Prophet Muhammad. The 30 days that culminate in Eid are devoted to purifying the soul through prayer and abstaining from negative thoughts. It is considered mandatory for every Muslim who has attained puberty to observe roza from sunrise to sunset.
“We are from Bihar,” says Ms Begum in a very low voice. Gesturing towards the person by her side, she adds, “He is my aadmi (man). He has problems in his eyes. He cannot see clearly… we will go to the doctor after the Eid.” The bearded man smiles apologetically. He is wearing black shoes. Ms Begum is barefoot.
It stopped raining just a few minutes ago. The ground is wet.
“I beg,” says Ms Begum. “We don’t have children… since my husband cannot walk around on his own, I arrange for our food. Everyday we have boiled rice for sehri (the pre-dawn meal in Ramzan). ”
Just then the siren for iftar begins to wail. Ms Begum shows no hurry to touch the food. After confirming that other beggars on the street have indeed started to eat, she picks up a bottle of water and washes her hands. She then passes the bottle to her husband. He too washes his hands. She picks up the dal. Her man picks up the fruit. They eat silently.