The 41st death.
[Text by Sadia Dehlvi; photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There was an unmistakable scent of roses in the room. That night she dreamed of a luminous being telling her she would soon journey to the other world.
On the destined night, Sadia Dehlvi hosted a Qawwali mehfil and dinner for family and friends, bidding them farewell in her heart. Just before the morning call to prayer, while she lay on the bed holding her son Arman’s hand, singing ‘Main to Nijam se naina milaaaeerey’, her soul flew away.
Ms Dehlvi rests in the khanqah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Her friends insist that on Thursday evenings they see her light a candle in the dargah’s courtyard; but, they say, she disappears when they try to touch her.
Wanting everything to be perfect, Ms Dehlvi had spent an entire week planning the last evening. Even though Sabir had assisted her in the kitchen for over twenty years, this time she cooked herself. She prepared all the delicacies that friends loved of her table including aloo gosht, biryani and mutton stew, as well askhili mash ki dal, aloo palak, and matar pulao for the vegetarians. The khameeri rotis were brought from a bakery in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. As always, Ms Dehlvi knew that Rakhshanda would bring firni and Shiraz Ray, the Bengali ragullas.
After arranging the chrysanthemums on the side tables, Ms Dehlvi lit the lobaan. The khushboo would welcome the djinns and the spirit of the Auliyas whose names would be invoked in the Qawwali. She then bathed, changed into a ruby-coloured cotton gharara with a cream kurti and a floral dupattta.
The drawing room soon filled up with Ms Dehlvi’s friends. Salman Chishti from the dargah of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz in Ajmer presided as the Mir e Mehfil. Singer Dhruv Sangari and his group began the Sufiana kalam with ‘Man kunto maula’, and followed with the songs of Amir Khusro. No one clapped – the rules of Sama were followed.
Rakhshanda, Vidya Rao, Raza Rumi, Kaamna, Karthika, Oroon, Mushir, Shivam, Sumbal, Martine, Haroon, Sofiya, Sunil and Perwaiz were among the forty guests. The arrival of Ms Dehlvi’s father came as a pleasant surprise; he climbed the stairs with much difficulty. Ms Dehlvi’s brother Vaseem and his wife Himani came with their sons, and gifted her an iPhone 6 Plus; they forever indulged her with presents.
Ms Dehlvi believed her mother to be her severest critic, but on this occasion Zeenat Dehlvi approved of her daughter’s clothes, dastarkhwan, and even her invitees, and for the first time she whispered “I love you” to her daughter.
In a rare gesture, the hostess allowed friends to pick up any book they liked from her vast collection, including autographed books of Khushwant Singh.
After the last guest left, Ms Dehlvi settled on her burgundy-coloured sofa (on which she wrote and took her midday naps), opened her loyal MacBook Pro, and posted ‘Joining the Beloved’ on Facebook. A moment later she smiled and wondered if the Mac could be buried with her. It had been her confidante for many years and had borne the weight of her writings.
Finally, Ms Dehlvi reached for the Quran placed on top of the bookshelf, unclothed it from its brocade dressing and clasped the Book to her heart.
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