Mission Delhi – Meera Sachdeva, Tagore Garden
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She has lived through the Second World War, and through many other profound historical shifts. Including the Partition. Actually, she came of age in what is now Pakistan.
She is 93.
“No (public) event ever affected me as personally as the coronavirus pandemic,” declares the stately Meera Sachdeva.
This evening, the woman who has seen so much is calmly chatting on WhatsApp video from her daughter’s home in west Delhi. She is a Gurgaon dweller, however, and lives with her son in that city’s Mianwalli Colony. She arrived to visit her daughter’s family here in Tagore Garden a week ago, in the carefully sanitised family car.
Because the coronavirus can be lethal, in particular to the elderly, Ms Sachdeva hadn’t stepped out of her house in all these months.
“But I keep myself active.” She takes regular daily walks within her bungalow, conscientiously strolling from one room to another.
Ms Sachdeva’s five children are scattered at various hoods across the Delhi region. Her (Tagore Garden) daughter Renu Kathuria, a retired English teacher, hugs Ms Sachdeva and says: “I hadn’t seen Bhabhi (all her children call her by this address) for such a long time.”
“I’ve seen nothing like this,” Ms Sachdeva insists, referring to the pandemic. “Na kabhi pehele aisa dekha, na kabhi pehele aisa suna (never seen or heard something like this).” Showing the gold chain round her neck, she says—“it’s from before the batwara (Partition).”
Looking back on various transformative events of her long lifetime, Ms Sachdeva recalls when she was a young mother and had to leave her home in west Punjab’s Mianwali for a new life across what would become the India-Pakistan border. “It was around Baisakhi, just when the first troubles were starting.” There was enough time for the family to transport all their valuable possessions, she explains, and that includes the chain she is wearing.
Now surrounded by her daughter, her son-in-law, her grandson, and her great-grandchildren, Ms Sachdeva poses for a corona-era portrait through the phone screen that connects her to this reporter (the grandson’s wife is holding the phone before she replaces her husband for another picture). Her erect figure quietly stands out among her loved ones, as a living witness to all the histories that have unfolded since the 1930s, including the great pandemic that is still to become history.
[This is the 363rd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Meera’s living history