City Landmark – Bimla Devi’s Water Filter, Sadar Bazaar, Gurgaon
A woman’s portrait.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She isn’t famous, but she is a public landmark. Bimla Devi has a pyayu, a cold water filter for thirsty passersby, named after her in Gurgaon’s Sadar Bazaar in the Greater Delhi Region.
“I set it up this summer in May,” says atta-chakki (flour mill) owner Prem Chand. The middle-aged trader installed the pyayu “as a respect to my mataji’s (mother’s) memories.”
Ms Devi died in 1989, aged 80. This dispatch is a fleeting glimpse of a woman whose life perhaps paralleled that of many women of her generation.
She was born in Etah, UP, and moved to Gurgaon after her marriage to a town merchant. The 18-year-old girl went on to become the mother of six children.
Son Prem Chand finds it difficult to recall particulars of his mother’s biography but he does remember that “mataji was very sensitive and always concerned for the well-being of even those people who weren’t related to her by blood.”
It was his mother’s daily habit of keeping water pots outside their house in Subhash Nagar for thirsty passersby, such as labourers and rickshaw pullers, which inspired Prem Chand to set up the pyayu.
“My father passed away in 1971.”
Turning to a garlanded portrait on the wall, he says, “She is mummy… this picture was taken two years before her death.” In the photo, Bimla Devi is wearing a sari. She is seated on the floor, her eyes turned sideward, away from the photographer’s camera.
“We performed her final rites in the crematorium near Pataudi Chowk and immersed her ashes at the Garh Ganga (river) in UP.”
Now the mill owner stands beside his mother’s portrait and poses for a formal photograph. He is joined by his son, Ayush, who arrived too late in the world to see his grandmother.
A life remembered