City Obituary – Shabana Banu, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
A life, passed.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
No sign of her things—neither of her bundle, that served as a pillow at night, nor of her hand fan. She had been living on this spot of the pavement for more than 40 years, here in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.
Shabana Banu died about three weeks ago. Sadiq, an alm seeker like her who lives on this same pave, recalls the fateful morning. “She was sleeping on the patri, covered in a (rain-proof) plastic sheet, for it had rained at night…. some unknown biker ran his wheel upon her leg.” Sadiq woke up at 5 am on hearing Shabana Banu cry in pain. The elderly woman asked him to get her a glass of chai. She passed away soon afterwards.
Quiet and gentle, Shabana Banu was capable of staying silent (and sitting still) for long hours. Her roofless living quarter was a portion of the pavement on the main lane of the Basti. There she sat during the day, and there she slept at night. Pilgrims on their way to a sufi shrine in the neighbourhood would occasionally give her money. A native of Hyderabad, Shabana Banu was a young widow when she arrived in Delhi years ago, with her little boy. Her life saw no transformative alterations in this city, except that she became a grandmother of four. She however lived alone, while her son lived with his family on another pavement nearby. Until some years ago, she would often be seen at night in company of her eldest granddaughter Firdaus, who liked to sleep with her “dadi.”
The great event in Shabana Banu’s life occurred when her son died in a road accident three years ago. She had told The Delhi Walla how, on the night of Asif’s death, “I had bought him dal chawal and aloo bhaji in plastic packets…. I had no idea that would be his last meal.”
Shahana Banu’s final rites were performed by scores of people who lived or worked on this same pavement, says flower seller Annu. She was buried in Panj Peeran Qabristan, the graveyard where her son was buried before her.
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