Mission Delhi – Muhammed Sadiq, Near Jama Masjid
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A hotel near Jama Masjid. Sitting behind the counter, its manager Muhammed Sadiq opens his lunch box. The chicken korma, dal fry and rotis were prepared by his wife, Shahida.
This lunch hour scene encapsulates the world of two Old Delhi streets, represented by the husband and the wife.
Sadiq was born in Katra Hiddu. Shahida was born in Ahata Hajjan Bi. In his 40s, he has lived all his years in the same street. She spent her years in hers until their marriage in 2015. Katra Hiddu is part of Farash Khana. “Hiddu was a buzurg (elderly man) who lived a long time ago,” Sadiq says. Ahata Hajjan Bi is a part of Rodgran. “Hajjan Bi was some famous man’s daughter who had the fortune of performing the hajj,” he says after confirming the details with his wife on phone, who conferred with her relatives.
Sadiq and Shahida never saw each other during their growing up years, although it takes only five minutes and four streets (Karoli Wala Phatak, Chatta Nawab Sahab, Dhobiyon ka Phatak, Akhundji Galli) to walk from his katra to her ahata.
Sadiq’s understanding of his katra suggests a place of dizzying diversity. “In my street, some work with khairad machine, some trade in nakhun polish, some make surmedani, some are tailors, some are zari embroiders, some are cooks.” His dada had briefly been a halwai, before he switched to selling tin boxes at the “main chowk” in Lahori Gate. His father founded a travel agency in Urdu Bazar.
In Shahida’s street, Sadiq says, “almost every house at one point belonged to a zardozi karigar who embroider by hands. Her father was one such artisan. He died young, leaving behind her mother and seven sisters.” The family continued with the same profession, taking up zardozi assignments that they would execute within their own home. Eventually, Shahida ended up as a shop assistant in a watch shop in Chandni Chowk’s Ghadi Market “where I first saw her, on the recommendation of a matchmaker,” recalls Sadiq.
They were married within months. The marriage was held in her locality. The reception was hosted in his locality. The dinner was by Bablu Bawarchi of her locality. Immediately afterwards, Shahida quitted her job. “For so long, she worked hard to support her family, but now she has a husband who earns for her,” observes Sadiq.
Today, Sadiq walks through scores of streets to reach his workplace near Jama Masjid, while Shahida manages the home in Katra Hiddu, which is only the second and, she hopes, the final street of her life.
[This is the 516th portrait of Mission Delhi project]