Mission Delhi – Rahman Ali, Haveli Azam Khan
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The door is coated with dust. Its brown has faded into a kind of translucence. Yet, it looks distinguished, here in Old Delhi’s Haveli Azam Khan street. Equally distinguished is Rahman Ali, the graceful gent in kurta pajama who sits by this door everyday from morning to evening (seen extreme right in the photo).
“This darwaza is of sheesham (wood),” he says; the white stubble on his face is shining like silver glitter this late afternoon. The door marks the entry to Mr Ali’s workshop; he is a “machine repairer.” The floor of the windowless room within is filled with cobwebbed ceiling fans, sewing machine motors, exhaust fans, and similar appliances. The knickknacks are currently illuminated into a numinous glow by the shifting daylight. Mr Ali always sits outside the shop, facing the street. Sometimes he idly watches the people go by along the cramped lane. Very often, he is at work. Moments back he finished repairing the hair curler a neighbourhood woman had left.
In his late 60s, Mr Ali remarks that the door was already here when his father, the late Niyamat Ali, acquired the room for his work in 1953. “My walid saheb was trained by acclaimed machine repairer Muhammed Ali who had a workshop in (nearby) Lal Kuan. During the partition, Muhammed Ali went to Karachi in Pakistan, and my father chose to stay in his Dilli.”
Decades later, Mr Ali inherited his father’s profession. “My only son, Ibrahim, doesn’t want to be a machine repairer… he has a job.”
By now, Mr Ali is joined by two friends—Abdul has a scissor shop in Sadar Bazar, Muhammed Hussain has a “machine washer karkhana” in Jaffrabad. With their backs turned against the sheesham doorway, the three men starts to discuss the crisis in war-torn Ukraine. While the slanting beam of the evening sun slowly feels its way over the surface of the door.
Hours later, at night, the workshop lies locked. Mr Ali is presumably at his home in Galli Masjid Syyed Rafi. While a makeshift (night-time) chai stall has materialised in front of the door.
[This is the 480th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
To other shores, other cities