City News – Mona Ahmed, Delhi’s Most Iconic Transgender, is No More, Mehnediya Qabristan Graveyard
Passing of a legend.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Mona Ahmed, India’s most iconic transgender person, died on the night of 9 September 2017. She would have turned 82 in November.
Ms Ahmed was the principal subject of artist Dayanita Singh’s celebrated book Myself Mona Ahmed (2001).
The Delhi Walla is at Ms Ahmed’s grave a few hours after her burial, which was held at 2 am in Mehnediya Qabristan, a graveyard behind Maulana Azad Medical College in Central Delhi. Ms Ahmed lived in this graveyard itself.
Ms Ahmed’s fresh grave looks like a simple mound of damp earth. It is protected from the elements by a tin shed.
A candle is burning.
The shed has a sofa and an orange mattress. This was Ms Ahmed’s mattress. She breathed her last while lying on this mattress–Jahanara, her caretaker, tells me.
Ms Ahmed’s house is just beside the shed.
There are chandeliers on the roof.
Ms Ahmed’s bare bed is beside a wall-sized mural of her photograph that adorns the cover of Myself Mona Ahmed. The room has many framed photographs—all taken by Dayanita Singh. “We removed many other photos after burying her out of respect for her memory,” says Jahanara. She also said that the burial was attended by more than a hundred transgender people (hijras), most of whom had come from Lakshmi Nagar, the neighborhood across the Yamuna river.
Ms Ahmed was in grief since the passing away of her friend Chaman Guru on 26 May. She had stopped eating rotis and rice. She ate nothing on her last day. The previous day she had just one boiled egg and a cup of tea.
Artist Dayanita Singh, who lives in South Delhi, would regularly meet Ms Ahmed and often posted her pictures on social media. Their bond lasted until Ms Ahmed’s final moment. “I was on video call with her when she passed away”–Ms Singh, who is in Italy at the moment, told me on phone. “I think Mona heard me on the video call… they say hearing is the last sense to go. I kept saying, “Mona kucch to kaho (Mona, say something at least)”. But she did not speak. They said her breath was gone. She is at peace finally. I’m crying for myself really… hard to imagine life without my beloved friend/mother/daughter Mona.”
(Perhaps I should have mentioned it earlier. I noticed a well-built grave beside Ms Ahmed’s grave. It was Chaman Guru’s grave.)
The remains of a life
12. (Chaman Guru, left, and Mona Ahmed)