Mission Delhi – Damil Ahmad Beg, Zeenat-ul Masjid
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Old Delhi’s Zeenat-ul Masjid is like a miniature version of the Jama Masjid. There is another monument inside, equally photogenic and more unique. This monument happens to be an edifice in flesh and blood.
For 64 years, tailor Damil Ahmad Beg has been a daily sight here, along with his pedal sewing machine—underneath the mosque’s gateway.
He looks young.
“I’m 86,” says the slim and fit Mr Beg, raising his eyes as if daring to challenge his interlocutor’s disbelief. This afternoon, the venerable gent is preparing a seat cover for a scooter, his hands are moving swiftly about the sewing machine.
“Earlier I used to make covers for car seats… now I do only for bikes.” The tailor’s clients comprise the area’s motor workshops.
For as long as he remembers, Mr Beg would walk everyday to his establishment, making his way through the congested alleys of the Walled City to this mosque, which lies on the outer edge of the old quarter, very close to the Ring Road.
“My home is near the Jama Masjid…the distance is not much, but it is also not less.” He discontinued the commute two years ago, and moved here permanently.
“The body is no longer as strong it used to be, the daily walk would tire me.” His wife and seven children often come over to meet him. “I also visit them… but I get bored at home.”
At this point, a tea stall owner steps into the gateway to give Mr Beg his chai. Looking reverently towards him, he describes the elderly tailor as “the most respected person in and around the mosque.”
Mr Beg’s face shows no emotion.
Lifting the glass of chai for a sip, he rues that all his friends have passed away. “Every yaar is gone… I have nobody to have a heart-to-heart chat with.” His face suddenly dissolves into a grin. “I’m waiting for Allah Mian to give me permanent retirement.”
Allowing himself to be snapped, he suddenly admonishes — “Click the monument, not me!”
[This is the 476th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A living landmark