Mission Delhi – Khalil Ahmed, Matia Mahal
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Thanks to the invention of chairs, many of us have forgotten how to sit cross-legged. Or sit with our legs properly postured.
Unless, of course, you’re a yoga practitioner and well-rehearsed in beneficial sitting positions.
Khalil Ahmed professes ignorance of yoga exercises. Even so, the 60-year-old cook is sitting atop a bench at a chai stall in Old Delhi’s Matia Mahal bazar, plopped rather like Gomukhasana—the so-called Cow Face pose in yoga.
The posture relaxes this gentleman, he insists, especially his legs. “I’m a roti cook in an eatery,” he reveals as explanation. Mr Ahmad has been in this profession for a good part of his life and “I have to daily stand for seven-eight hours straight slapping the roti on the tawa.” Such long durations of standing on one position stiffen his legs and “whenever opportunity permits I fold my legs this way–ek ke upar ek (one leg upon the other)–and feel the stiffness escaping rapidly.”
In fact, he may well have learned the trick from a yoga practitioner. “Some 25 years ago I had to break a bad drug habit and was admitted to a rehabilitation centre. There the instructor taught us to sit like this.”
The only addiction he still has is the special way of sitting. At home as well. “When I sit in a chair I never dangle my legs, but always sit in this position.”
Now Mr Ahmed demonstrates another sitting posture, his legs suddenly entwined in a new arrangement. “This too gives my legs aaram (rest).”
[This is the 258th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
A child’s working life