Mission Delhi – Devi, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The elderly woman is walking alone with three bags. Two are hanging down on her back – one is a large sack. She is carrying the third in her hand.
The Delhi Walla sees her one afternoon in Central Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. The woman is dressed in a mustard-green tunic that falls over a pink kaftan-like garment. Her accessories include black-rimmed glasses and red-and-yellow glass bangles. She is walking down the Mirza Ghalib Street, a lane of kebab stalls, tea kiosks and meat shops that is named after a famous Mughal-era poet.
“We started seeing this aurat (woman) about six months ago,” says a bearded grocer holding a Quran on his lap. His neighbor, an observant eatery owner, says that the woman stops outside every neighborhood shop once a day and waits to be given some money but, he says with great astonishment, she never utters even a single word. He adds that the woman spends the greater part of her day sitting next to a bus shelter on Lodhi Road.
I approach the woman as she stands outside the Husseini Hotel. I ask for her name. She looks up at me, smiles and mutters something incomprehensible in a very low voice. It is impossible to untangle her words.
The gentle-mannered owner of the Husseini Hotel comes to the rescue. He says he once tried to talk to the woman and figured out that her name was Devi and that she had come to Delhi from a village high in the mountains. He says she has no one in Delhi.
Meanwhile, the woman has gone ahead. She stops by a pull cart and takes out a small handkerchief from her handbag. It has a few coins and currency notes, and some medicines. She gazes on at the contents of her handkerchief for about a minute. She then keeps it back into her bag. She delicately places the bag on her head, and walks on.
[This is the 105th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Lady with the bags