Mission Delhi – Muhammed Afzal, Pahari Bhojla
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Old Delhi alleys are full of uncommon sights. People are often spotted with things not usually seen in other localities—a parrot in the hand, a deg on the head, a goat around the neck.
But this sight is the most unusual.
This evening a man is carrying a pendulum wall clock in his arms, here in Pahari Bhojla. It looks hefty; he appears to be panting with effort. “I’m taking it to a clock shop in Galli Chooriwallan,” reveals Muhammed Afzal. He decides to take a brief break to catch his breath, and carefully keeps the clock on the back seat of a parked scooter. “It needs its regular servicing,” he explains.
In his 60s, Mr Afzal, an embroider, divides his time between two places that seem as far apart as two severally disparate time zones. He lives in Bulbuli Khana, a Walled City ‘hood famous for the grave of Razia Sultan, the 13th century empress of the Delhi Sultanate. And he commutes daily on the Yellow Line Metro to his day-job in an “export house,” far away from home, ar Sector 1 in Gurgaon, the so-called Millennium City.
“Yes, my life is like my two ghari… this wall clock is Purani Dilli, and this”—he points to his wrist watch—“this is Gurgaon.” His face breaks into a grin.
The wall clock is huge. From across the street, the dial looks like a full moon; it is encased within an coffee-coloured wooden frame. The make is Rivex. “This clock is my mohabbat,” says Mr Afzal fondly. It has been a part of his drawing room for 43 years and was a wedding gift from a friend, also an embroider, who is no longer alive. “I have to wound it once every week, “ he says reverently.
The wall clock was due to be serviced for some months, but Mr Afzal was reluctant to take it off his wall. “I don’t like being away from this clock,” he mutters apologetically. “This thing is like magic,” he gushes, explaining that the clock’s ghanta (bell) rings “very loudly” to announce every new hour. “When it is 2pm, the clock rings 4 times, when it is 5pm, it rings 10 times, when it is 12, it rings 24 times..” He insists that nobody in the house gets rattled by these ringing of bells, even at night. “Its sound is a part of our duniya.” With the clock set to be away from his home for some days, “our time shall pass with difficulty… each new hour will arrive without notice.”
He now picks up the clock and walks on.
[This is the 481st portrait of Mission Delhi project]