Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Dawood, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Dargah
The parlour confession.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Proust Questionnaire represents a confessional game that owes its structure to answers given by celebrated French writer Marcel Proust in two parties that he attended at ages 13 and 20 in the late 19th century.
The Delhi Walla have brought these Parisian parlour confessions into the Indian capital to explore people’s lives, thoughts, values and experiences. The series interview folks from diverse backgrounds.
So today, say hello to Dawood. In his 30s, he hangs around in the central Delhi sufi shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya where he seeks alms from pilgrims.
Your favorite virtue or the principal aspect of your personality
I look after my family very well. I take care of my mother, sister and my grandmother. And also my wife, Salma, and our children—Mariam, Shamad, Ashmira. Shamad is a boy
Your favorite qualities in a man
He should have a regular job and must respect the elderly
Your favorite qualities in a woman
She must obey her husband
Your chief characteristic
I always pray for people’s happiness. Everyday I see pilgrims coming to the dargah, each of them filled with their own grief. I ask Nizamuddin baba to fulfill all their wishes
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
When they accompany me to Jama Masjid or the zoo
Your main fault
I get angry very quickly
Your favorite occupation
Doing errands for friends
Your idea of happiness
Being with my family
Your idea of misery or what would be your greatest misfortune?
Something terrible happening to me because of which my family is left stranded
If not yourself, who would you be?
A police constable
Where would you like to live?
Amroha, it’s a town in UP. I was born there. All our people are still living there
Your favourite colour and flower
Black—it never gets dirty unlike white or other colors. The most beautiful flower has to be the red rose. Thousands of these flowers are offered in the Dargah everyday
Your favorite bird
Mynah. Her call is like a song but these days I rarely get to hear her. When I do, my heart starts to dance
Your favorite prose authors
Your favorite poets
I like songs about dosti (friendship), though I especially love the lyrics of “Mujhko mere baad zamana dhundhega”. It was sung by Muhammed Rafi in the movie Ek Naari Do Roop. I’m a fan of Muhammed Rafi’s voice
Your favorite heroes in fiction
Anil Kapoor’s character in the film Mr India. He defeated the evil forces but was always modest. And he always cared about orphaned children and other people who aren’t treated well in society
Your favorite heroines in fiction
I have a heroine in real life. Her name is Shahida Begum. She is my ammi. She has seen so much dard (pain) in life but she always smiles. Sometimes she sits in the Dargah with me. Otherwise she stays at home (in Nizamuddin Basti) and looks after my children
Your heroes/heroines in real life
All the people who help others
What characters in history do you most dislike?
My father. He was very selfish and never bothered about us. He would drink a lot. He died in 2010
Your favorite food and drink
Chicken biryani and anaar juice
Your favorite names
Muskan, Saba, Rihana, Salma
What do you hate the most?
The reform you admire the most
The layering of new marble tiles on the dargah’s floor some years ago. It then became more comfortable for pilgrims to walk in the courtyard
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with
The ability to walk
How do you wish to die?
I don’t want a long drawn-out illness and put my family in discomfort. I want a quick death… chalet chalte mar jaaon (die while walking)
What is your present state of mind?
I’m thinking of going home
Faults for which you have the most tolerance
People’s tendency to make fun of my legs
Your motto in life
To live honestly
Into the citizen’s heart