Home Sweet Home – Abdul Rahim’s Bedroom Window, Kulcha Tara Chand, Old Delhi
The world of a window.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Outside. What is that? What is it like?
Until recently the world beyond our homes—the streets, the parks, the metro, the malls—was seamlessly integrated in our daily living. Bu the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has rudely severed this relationship. And the universe for Abdul Rahim’s family has shrunk to the measure of a bedroom window.
“But one can see a lot even through this khidki (window),” he says from the isolation of his home in Old Delhi’s Kucha Tara Chand neighbourhood. In his 40s, Mr Rahim is chatting on WhatsApp video. The pictures are taken through the phone screen that connects him to The Delhi Walla.
In a way, the narrow window, the top of which is blocked by an air conditioning unit, has now expanded to encompass the scope of the larger world outside—for Mr Rahim and his family comprising of wife and two children.
A man of cheery disposition, Mr Rahim hasn’t let the pandemic ruin his state of mind even though the crisis doesn’t portend well for the travel agency he runs with a friend, in Lakshmi Nagar. “I’m accepting this mahamari (pandemic) as a way to be with my daughter and son… and this being the holy month of Ramzan, I stay hopeful.”
The soft-spoken gentleman is observing the mandatory fast and so is his daughter, Tahrima. Wife, Roohina, has excused herself because of health reasons. While son, Raahim, too young at four to keep away from tasty snacks for long, “is not keeping the roza but is nevertheless the most hungry of all when it is time for us to eat in the evening, at iftari,” says the father affectionately.
Standing by the window, Mr Rahim points out the most distinctive feature of his locality. “It is one of the few lanes in Purani Dilli that has both mandir and masjid.” There are in fact two mosques—Masjid Saad Ullah Khan and Dai Wali Masjid, the latter often being used for funeral prayers in this part of the historic district “since it is spacious and falls on the way to the Dili Gate Qabristan”—the cemetery that tends to be the final destination for most Old Delhi Muslims.
The window itself is representative of much of contemporary Walled City. Peer through it and—Mr Rahim says—you’ll see scores of houses on both sides, crammed with what he calls a “mixed population”, implying that residents are Muslim as well as Hindu—which isn’t true of many neighbourhoods in the area. Some of the people living along the street have “old ways of livelihoods,” he discloses, explaining that they run small businesses, like grocery stores and artisan workshops. “The new generation is different.. they work in call centers or as teachers in primary schools.”
For the moment, there is no one to be seen on the lane. “The mosques and the temple are closed due to the lockdown … people are praying inside their homes.”
As recently as a decade ago, Kucha Tara Chand had a series of picaresque mansions dating from the pre-Partition era. “They looked like the traditional houses with old-fashioned doors and dalans you might have seen in movies like Unrao Jaan.” All those buildings were razed down to make way for modern flats. Mr Rahim’s dwelling is one such edifice, into which he moved a decade ago. But his roots are firmly entrenched to Old Delhi, he insists. Both him and his wife hail from its gallis and kuchas—he was brought up in Kala Mahal and she grew up a few lanes away, in Galli Chooriwallan.
The Old Delhi of his childhood was superior, notes Mr Rahim. “There was no dirt, no ugly buildings, no tiny flats… now there is no sun, no air, no trees, just crowds everywhere.”
After posing for a family portrait, Mr Rahim’s daughter and his son stay by the window peering onto the empty street.
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