Mission Delhi – Muhammed Shahid Hussain, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Sufi Shrine
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is a new kind of job, that came up with the pandemic: Checking the body temperature of people entering the shrine.
But it must be so boring.
Muhammed Shahid Hussain shakes his head. “No work is dull if it is performed honestly, and helps one to take care of one’s family,” he says, emphasizing each word, as if he had italicized them while writing.
In his mid-20s, Mr Hussain is stationed at the entrance of the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in central Delhi. Each time a devotee enters, he raises his thermometer gun, carefully points it at the visitor, and observes the temperature before permitting admission into the dargah.
But what kind of living supported him and his family before the pandemic? “Very often, I was in the shrine, serving its khadims,” he answers, referring to the shrine’s traditional caretakers. But he did try other professions, too. “I used to drive a battery-run rickshaw around the station.” He means the Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station.
Like all other places of worship, the shrine remained closed for many months following the coronavirus triggered lockdown. It reopened on 6 September — with great caution. Nobody is allowed to enter without a mask. Everyone has to undergo the thermometer scanning, followed by another barrier that automatically showers one with a spray of sanitiser. Pilgrims aren’t allowed to stay for more than a few minutes.
Returning to the nature of his work, Mr Hussain explains that he is in charge of the day’s second shift extending from 3 in the afternoon to 10 at night, when the shrine closes for the night.
He now talks fondly of his family, including his young daughter, Shagufta.
Doesn’t he fear that being exposed to such a great variety of people daily puts him and his loved ones at the risk of catching the virus?
He shakes his head. “This is like a duty.”
During the entire course of conversation, it is impossible to figure out the masked man’s looks. He dramatically points out to a laminated I-card hanging about his neck. There lies his face, unmasked. The card describes him as a “volunteer.”
A group of visitors are queuing up. Mr Hussain gets busy with his gun.
[This is the 373rd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
His job with the gun