The party secrets.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One evening The Delhi Walla gatecrashed into the women-only zenana section of a wedding dinner held in Old Delhi’s Daryaganj. Moin Ahmad Alvi had married Syeda Seemver Fatima the night before. All guests to the walima (dinner) had to take off their shoes and sandals at the entrance because the venue was the Sufi shrine of Shah Sabir Baksh Chishti.
“The real glamour is only inside the zenana”–Sabiha Alvi, an Old Delhi resident, was overheard whispering these words into the ears of Begam Ishrat, the grave-looking wife of late Justice Sardar Ali. Ms Alvi was the groom’s eldest sister and had come straight from the Look’s Makeover Ladies Beauty Saloon on Kucha Challan, where she had done up her hair an hour ago.
The bride, too, with her large gold nose-ring, had dolled up in the same salon—she looked stunning in her blue Lucknow-style gharara. Madam Sheema, the non-stop chatterer, revealed that a woman in East Delhi’s Lakshmi Nagar had designed the bride’s exquisite dress.
The zenana filled up in a matter of minutes. A few women rivaled with the bashful Syeda Seemver Fatima in the elaborateness of their costumes. Many of them arrived wearing the inevitable black burqa, which they immediately took off and stuffed into their glittering handbags that they held like the Queen of England.
One woman in an orange kurta, whose arms were decorated with intricate henna designs, stood alone, seemingly lost in thoughts.
The most famous person in the gathering was Urdu poet Iffat Zarin. She was last seen in public a few months ago during a poetry recital at the Oxford Bookstore in Connaught Place.
The evening’s only scandal was the inordinate delay in the announcement of the dinner—the man in charge of the delivery of specially-made tandoori rotis was stuck in a traffic jam outside the Jama Masjid. He was bringing the milk-flavoured rotis on a rickshaw from the bakery of Choudhary Mukhtar Ahmad in Galli Chooriwallan.
The waiters had already laid out the shorbas and the chicken biryani; the food was prepared in the kitchen of Muhammad Sikander, the famous cook of Mohalla Qabristan. The dessert (moong dal halwa) was from Nandu Halwai in Seeta Ram Bazaar. But politeness compelled the guests to wait for the rotis.
While almost all the women decorously reined in their hunger pangs, the salty-tongued Ghazala Khala mocked the “mismanagement” more than once. Her barbs were graciously indulged by Ms Alvi, the groom’s soft-spoken sister known for her great tact with difficult relatives.
Party with a difference
1. (Syeda Seemver Fatima)