Mission Delhi – Aliya Sayyed, Mehrauli
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There she is. Now, she is over there — her frock ballooning around her. Is she real or just a smudge of pink?
This moment she is laughing.
This moment she is silent.
This moment she is on the stairs.
The Delhi Walla meets her in the dargah of Khwaja Qutubbudin Kaki in Mehrauli. It is the city’s first Sufi shrine. The girl’s frock is embedded with glass beads. She is wearing a necklace of white pearls. Seated beside an unknown tomb, she is piloting a helicopter.
“Will you fly with me?” She asks.
“But I don’t know you,” I say.
“I’m six-year-old. I have four brothers and one sister. My father works in a sari shop in Chandni Chowk,” she says.
“I’m older than you. I have two sisters. My father is an engineer,” I say.
“Where is he?” she asks.
“I have come here alone,” I say. “And where is your papa?”
Pointing towards the dargah’s mosque, she says, “He is praying.”
“What’s your name?” I ask her.
But she is looking away. Her attention has moved to a girl of perhaps her age who is circling around a pole. She gets up, runs across the courtyard and again becomes a smudge.
As the blue evening sky turns black, I leave the shrine. About half an hour later, I see her standing alone on a street outside the dargah.
“Where’s your papa?” I ask.
“He is coming,” she says. “He is in a shop.”
“So, you have not told me your name,” I say.
She smiles and shakes her head.
“Ok, I will not ask you your name. Tell me what do you want to do when you are as big as papa,” I say.
She seems puzzled.
“Pilot?” I say.
Looking doubtful, she says, “No… doctor.”
“Why?” I ask.
She shrugs her shoulders. She is looking amused.
“Actually I know your name,” I say.
She raises her eyes.
“Your name is Arundhati,” I say.
“No,” she says. “My name is Aliya, Aliya Sayyed.”
Soon, the father arrives and escorts Ms Sayyed to her residence.
[This is the 71st portrait of Mission Delhi project]