Mission Delhi – Bhure Khan, Sheetla Colony
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The plastic banner clings to the roadside fence. Bhure Khan Baraf Depot supplies ice in great quantity for wedding banquets — though any customer could also buy individual ice slabs directly from the stall, here on a pavement near Gurgaon’s Sector 14 Market in the Greater Delhi Region. One wonders how many people, while driving down the road, notice the banner. It has no photo, and displays Bhure Khan’s name (and that of one of his sons), his trade, his mobile numbers (blurred here for privacy), and the number 786, considered sacred in Islam.
Bhure Khan himself no longer exists.
“He died in February last year,” says Allah Pyari, his wife, on the phone. A conversation with her makes it possible to draw a sketch of his life.
A native of Etah, in UP, Bhure Khan left his village for Gurugram about 20 years ago. He started modestly and ended modestly as an ice seller, his wife says, but through sheer doggedness he firmly entrenched his new roots in the Delhi region by building a house in Sheetla Colony. A father to seven, Bhure Khan hoped to make a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia after “completing the responsibilities of marrying off all his children.” Last year, however, while visiting a relative in Kasganj, UP, he succumbed to a heart attack. “I got to know of the attack only after he was no more,” his wife says.
Two of Bhure Khan’s five sons have strayed into other professions—one is an auto driver, another is into “boring”, while the rest are carrying on with their father’s legacy of trading in ice. “Their work situation is growing very bad because of Corona,” says Allah Pyari, referring to the pandemic.
Despite breathing his last close to his native district, Bhure Khan was buried in Gurgaon, in a graveyard near the bus stand. “My husband considered Gurgawa (sic) as our home, not Etah.”
Bhure Khan lived to 55. He isn’t famous but the continuous existence of the roadside banner bearing his name is like a monument, discreetly commemorating the lives of all those like him who move to big cities, believing in the possibility of a better world.
[This is the 380th portrait of Mission Delhi project]