Mission Delhi – Miss Suhana, Lodhi Road
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She is glittering under the black sky. On a closer look, she turns out to be a white-haired woman on the roadside.
One late night The Delhi Walla meets Ms Suhana on Lodhi Road. She is sitting on a mattress–her mattress–and quietly watching the buses, cars and auto rickshaws going down the smoggy avenue. She is wearing a golden yellow sari. Her arms are covered with golden, silver and green bangles. Her fingers, nose, ears and her neck, too, are ornamented with a similar kind of jewelry.
Behind her: the rusting skeleton of an old car.
Ms Suhana waves her arm and her bangles immediately make a jingle. “I got them from a shop… Bought them for almost nothing,” she says dismissively.
Ms Suhana, certainly, sleeps on this stretch of the pavement but home to her means the entire Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, the adjacent village most famous for the shrine of a Sufi saint.
“I’m lawaris (alone and abandoned)… I have no one… I’m under the protection of Nizamuddin Baba… I have spent the last 20 years in his shrine.”
Ms Suhana has nothing to say on her family and her past. “My father… My mother… their stories are over… they are no more… they are dead… my childhood days were spent with my saheliyan (women friends).”
Revealing only a glimpse of her early life, the woman says that before arriving in Delhi, she used to live in a Sufi shrine in central India.
“I was at Dada Mian’s Dargah in Kasai Mandi… It’s in Jabalpur.”
Despite being without a house of her own, Ms Suhana manages to navigate in a world where she does not have to worry about her next meal. “The owners of the shops here are like my brothers. They give me food. I’m never allowed to stay hungry.”
Running her fingers along the golden necklace, the jeweled woman mutters a string of sentences in such a low voice as if she were having an intimate chat with the air: “These days everybody seems to want a husband or a lover or a friend. That’s rubbish. Even I have friends but they are all superficial friends. You get a friend only if you have money… when your heart aches, then you have to comfort it yourself.”
[This is the 124th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Life of a woman