Mission Delhi – Munawar Begum, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She is grinning. Her smile is sparkling brighter than her tiny nose ring. Munawar Begum’s only son has successfully completed his 10th standard. “See, this is Azimuddin’s certificate,” she says, flashing her mobile phone screen. Her hands are trembling with nervous excitement, making it impossible to read the online document.
Somebody else in Ms Begum’s place might have grown used to the thrill by now; after all this happy development took place last month. But this is an extremely special occasion for her. “Nobody else in my family has achieved this feat.” The day the result came out, she cooked her son’s favroite meal—chicken korma and egg bhujji. In her 40s, Ms Begum runs a small street-side kiosk selling mouthfreshners in central Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. Sobering down a bit, she admiringly talks of her son. “His father died when he was just four months.” Ms Begum’s husband worked as a driver who succumbed to an accident. Having arrived two decades ago from her village in Assam, she singlehandedly raised her three children. “One of my daughters lives with her husband in Guwahati, the other lives with me… she is blind from both eyes.”
The son has already started attending the 11th standard; his government-run school in nearby Jangpura has finally opened its doors following the easing of Covid restrictions. “The education is free but I have to pay for his course books and uniforms,” she observes. Now tapping her fingers with her thumb, as if making calculations, she talks of having spent 2,000 rupees in buying books “but I have to get 3,000 rupees worth of more books for Azimuddin.”
That is an anxiety, but she believes she will manage it with the earnings from her kiosk. “My dream is that my son completes his 12th standard.” Ms Begum is aware of her son’s dream, too. “He wants to be in the police.” Even so, the lady won’t be completely at peace even if he realises his ambition. “My daughter’s daughter lives with me. She is in fifth standard and wants to be a school ma’am… I’ll be completely happy only if she attains her dream too,” she says, again flashing her infectious grin.
[This is the 429th portrait of Mission Delhi project]