City Life – Sania and Her Family, Rahim Road
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is early morning. The couple and their four children got off minutes ago from the overnight train. Unlike many other passengers who were busy hailing the auto or booking the cab for their respective destinations in the city, they simply walked out of Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station on foot. Now they are passing through a tree-lined avenue named after the legendary poet Rahim. The pathway skirts along the bungalows and apartments of upscale Nizamuddin East. The couple’s eldest child, a girl, excitedly exclaims to the mother, “These houses are huge.”
Moments later, she becomes the family spokesperson, introducing her family to this reporter. “My mother, Rehana Sheikh, my father Aslam Sheikh — he cannot see, my sisters Sahiba and Heena, my brother Niaz — he is the youngest, and I am Sania.”
As soon as she utters her name, Sania’s face sparkles into a smile. Hailing from a town in UP, the family is in Delhi to make a pilgrimage to its many Sufi shrines. Their journey began with some bad luck.
“We lost most of our money in the train,” informs Sania. “Must be a thief,” says the father. Responding to a query, the mother says “because of his (husband’s) condition, I sometimes work as a labourer to manage the household.”
They have two bags. The father has the smaller one slung around his shoulder. The mother is carrying the big one on her head. “It has bedsheets,” she says. And then there is Sania’s little brother. “Niaz doesn’t have chappal, he remains in my godi (lap),” Sania explains.
The family hasn’t planned any itinerary. They are not even sure of the duration of their stay. “May be four or five days,” mutters the father. Nights will be spent on the footpath.
Soon, the travellers reach the busy Mathura Road. Not caring for the traffic light, they cautiously cross to the other side and continue to walk towards Nizamuddin Basti. A few minutes later, they are spotted sitting on the pavement, close to a tea stall, holding paper cups of chai.
Travellers in town