Mission Delhi - Annu Begum, Panj Peeran Graveyard

Mission Delhi – Annu Begum, Panj Peeran Graveyard

Mission Delhi - Annu Begum, Panj Peeran Graveyard

One of the one percent in 13 million.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Her voice is fainter than the slight sound of the evening breeze.

“Hussain, Hussain, mera Hussain, Hussain…”

At times, the voice falls completely silent, though her lips are still moving, murmuring.

At times, the voice returns, rises, falling silent again.

Annu Begum is walking inside a graveyard, heading towards the grave of her son. He died two weeks ago, aged 6.

“I come here daily to meet him. He fell ill with pneumonia and two days later…”

A flower seller, she lives in a nearby slum, under a flyover, with her other son, her daughter, and the daughter’s young son, the quiet Moinuddin, who is walking with her, holding her hand.

“I am not able to eat anything. I’m surviving only on pani, chai, pani, chai.”

The narrow path is lined with graves on either side. Most graves are overgrown with bushes.

“Husain, Hussain, where are you?”

She rubs her eyes with her dupatta.

“It was very hot today, I could not see properly in the afternoon. Everything had become blurry.”

They continue walking with a steady pace.

“Hussain said he wanted to be a munshi on growing up.”

She buries her face into her dupatta.

“Hussain, Hussain, Hussain…”

They pass by a tin shed. Two men in kurta pajama are sitting on plastic chairs, by an empty bier.

“When I’m sleeping, he comes in my dream. I always see him standing at the door of the jhuggi, saying, ‘Come with me, Ammi, come. I’ve come to take you with me.’”

Her words are mixed with her wailing.

“Last week I had a pathar (stone) installed for him.”

Slowing down, she glances at a grave towards her right. “My grandson Rehaan, he died five-six months ago.”

A keekar tree is standing directly ahead. Underneath, a mound of earth is covered with a green chadar, and is bordered with bricks. A long plant is growing from a pot. Annu Begum sits down by the headstone, which bears her son’s name and age, and the name of their slum (Dildar Nagar). The green chadar upon the grave is sprinkled over with drying rose petals. She places the loose end of her long dupatta on the dusty ground, beside the grave, and starts to pick up the rose petals one by one from the chadar, piling them on the dupatta, murmuring “Hussain, Hussain…” Her grandson remains standing.

[This is the 545th portrait of Mission Delhi project]