Mission Delhi – Farida Begum, Central Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Farida Begum is the first to agree with the famous poet who suggested that loneliness is a horror not to be surveyed.
“I do feel lonely sometimes but don’t think much about it,” says Ms Begum. As a beggar, she spends her days patrolling around central Delhi markets—her sturdy walking stick tip-tapping on the ground.
The face of this 68-year-old nevertheless suggests a sort of contentment. Ms Begum never asks for money. People “just give it to me…sometimes even gifting me salwar suits,” she says, flashing an infectious smile.
A native of West Bengal, Ms Begum has lived in New Delhi for some three decades. Her mother and father are deceased, but she does have a daughter “who lives in Aligarh with her husband. We sometimes talk on the phone… And she comes to look after me whenever I fall ill.”
Otherwise, Ms Begum lives alone in a rented room costing 3,000 rupees monthly.
Now she’s joined by fellow beggar Amna Khatoon—and chat awhile about cotton saris. Ms Khatoon would urgently like to obtain a new one.
The friend soon walks off, and Ms Begum stands still amid the moving crowd. She sounds cheerful as she says: “I’ve got many female friends, not much time to feel alone.”
“My walking stick is also a friend,” she says, nodding her head. Now she goes ahead, quietly standing by a group of shoppers, patiently waiting for them to notice her presence, and perhaps give her a coin or two.
[This is the 251st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Outlines of a solo existence