Mission Delhi – Meera Devi, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s not every day you bump into an 88-year-old lady. The beautiful Meera Devi is even rarer. She’s beaming in a halo of infectious happiness. Is it her shining white hair or her dazzling smile?
Or her fabulous earrings?
These gold danglers date from a long-ago time when she was a young woman living in a part of India that now falls in Pakistan.
“My man gifted these baalis to me,” the gracious lady says, laughing and blushing. The husband himself helped her wear these earrings “with his own hands!”
This is a sunny December afternoon and Ms Devi is standing outside the gates of her Gurgaon bungalow. Buying spinach from a street vendor, she dives into her past as casually as if remembering a bedtime story from childhood. “India was partitioned soon after my marriage” forcing the family to leave their ancestral home in west Punjab. Ms Devi was 19, and already mother to a month-old son. “We first boarded a train from Lahore to Haridwar, and from there we took another train to Delhi where my jeth (brother-in-law) had a house behind the Golcha cinema in Daryaganj,” the lady says, her fingers absentmindedly playing with her earrings.
These baalis too travelled with her in that long journey that culminated in the present-day Millennium City.
“Many people had to flee overnight leaving behind everything they owned but we left our village around the season of Baisakhi, which was four months before the batwara (partition)… just when the first troubles were starting.” There was enough time for the family to carefully pack and transport the valuable possessions, she explains.
Much has happened in the elderly woman’s life since that tectonic shift in history, but she still feels intimately connected to the homeland of her girlhood. “Through my baalis!”
After posing to give a clearer glimpse of her pre-Partition souvenirs, the lady disappears into her house.
[This is the 176th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A lady’s pre-partition souvenirs