City Life – Haji Fayazuddin’s Hand-Knitted Cap, Old Delhi
A souvenir of love and care.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He takes off the topi from his head, holds it carefully, the fingers moving slowly over the woolly texture as if they want to take in the entire details of the knitting.
“It’s an 8-year-old topi,” mutters 81-year-old Haji Fayazuddin.
The impeccably mannered Walled City hotelier feels particularly close to this cap. He always uses it during Delhi’s brief but intense winter.
“It was knitted by my wife.”
Nishat Begum died in June 2013. “It was rare for a woman of her time to complete school education,” says Mr Fayazuddin with quiet pride. “My wife was an alumnus of St Francis School (in Daryaganj) and was taught by British teachers.” In a voice filled with respect, he tells that she later earned a diploma in Persian from Iran Culture House (on Tilak Marg). “She would recite the verses of various Persian poets by heart.”
While every winter “she would routinely make huge quantities of gaajar (carrot) halwa and send it as gifts to relatives and friends.” One day, during the start of yet another cold season, Ms Begum asked her husband to get oon (wool) from Sadar Bazar. “I got the wool in three colours”.
Nishat Begum knitted the cap for her husband within two days.
“She loved to travel and experience new places,” Mr Fayazuddin recalls. When she was lying ill in the hospital towards the end of her life, a doctor who was a Lucknow native asked her if she had been to his home town. “My wife was outraged and said, “Doctor sahib, who do you think I am? I’ve travelled with my husband from Kanyakumari to Kashmir!”
Nishat Begum’s mother died very early. Her father moved to Pakistan after the partition, carrying the son but leaving her behind with her elder sister at their maternal grandmother’s home in Kucha Chelan.
Putting the topi back on his head, Mr Fayazuddin mutters “it was Nishat Begum who raised my brother’s two children… today they both are successful doctors.”
She lies buried in Dilli Gate cemetery in ITO; her grave is tucked between that of her mother and her elder sister.
By late February, Mr Fayazuddin will bury the topi deep under a stack of winter clothing.
A capful of memories