Mission Delhi – Faisal Khan, Mehrauli

Mission Delhi – Faisal Khan, Mehrauli

Delhi’s Bandaged Moments – Prime Time Rape, Munirika

One of the one per cent in 13 million.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Taking off his yellow T-shirt and flexing his muscles, he says, “I’m eating too much biryani. I need to tone up my body.” The Delhi Walla meets Faisal Khan, 24, at his one-room apartment in Mehrauli, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. Mr Khan, who works as a customer care executive with Lufthansa airlines at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, is however currently less focused on his abs, and more on his broken heart. His girlfriend is refusing to see him. “I’m a Muslim, she’s a Hindu,” he says. “Her parents promised to drink poison the day we would marry.”

A native of Rampur, a town in Uttar Pradesh, Mr Khan arrived in Delhi in 2001. After graduating from Jamia Millia University, he was hired by a handling agency that supplies airport ground staff to foreign airlines on a contract basis. While issuing boarding passes to the ticket holders of Turkish Airlines at the airport, Mr Khan started noticing a fellow customer care executive stationed at the adjacent China Airlines counter. They eyes would occasionally meet but they never talked. A year later they both were moved to the counter of Uzbekistan Airlines. They started talking.

Their first date took place in Connaught Place, the city’s Colonial-era shopping district. “We had the same work roster that week. She came from her home in Tilak Nagar and I came from Mehrauli and we met at Rajiv Chowk Metro Station. We then walked out to Central Park where she said that she liked me.”

Mr Khan’s room has a bed, a TV, a fridge, a carpet, and three framed sceneries of the Swiss Alps. “She’s very simple,” he says of his girlfriend. “She has sharp features, big eyes and a good height. She’s very courteous and is polite even to a sweeper.”

The lovers worked together in the airport. During the weekly off-days, they dated: lounging on the grass in Purana Qila, shopping in Connaught Place, and eating burgers in Janak Puri District Center. They planned to marry. Mr Khan’s mother had no problem but his girlfriend’s parents – in his words – “blackmailed her emotionally.” She started withdrawing from him.

It must have been tough for Mr Khan’s girlfriend. When her parents threatened suicide, she stopped receiving his phone calls. If he tried talking to her at the work, she would be rude to him. “She hasn’t stopped loving me. Each time we come across each other in the airport, I can see on her face that she is feeling for me.”

Mr Khan understands her helplessness. “If she comes to me, she’ll be doing a disservice to her parents.” A common friend informed that his girlfriend has been crying a lot. The private despair hasn’t come in the way of her career, though. In 2010, Mr Khan’s girlfriend was promoted from Uzbekistan Airlines’s ground staff to Cathay Pacific’s cabin crew. She went for a three-month training to Hong Kong.

Mr Khan is happy for her and despite setbacks in love, he hasn’t stopped hoping for a happy ending. Each time he talks of his girlfriend, his eyes twinkle. And he continues to smile.

“Can you forget her?” I ask.

“I cannot.”

“Can her parents let her marry you?”

“If I’m promoted to the cabin crew… perhaps, yes, though she’d said that they would never agree. You see, it’s tough to let go of her.”

[This is the 37th portrait of Mission Delhi project]