Mission Delhi – Sabeeha Jhinjhanvi, Chitli Qabar
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Sannata, utter silence—that’s her word for it.
It’s around 10 at night and Sabeeha Jhinjhanvi is standing by her second-floor bedroom window. She is peering out into Old Delhi’s Chitli Qabar Chowk. The place is seeming to her like “andhere ka kuan (well of darkness)”
In her late 40s, the cheery-natured lady is talking on WhatsApp from the self-isolation of her home—the photos have been taken with some difficulty through the phone screen that connects her to The Delhi Walla.
Ms Jhinjhanvi’s lively neighbourhood bustles with bazaar crowds even beyond the midnight hours. But in the ongoing countrywide lockdown, all the “raunak (bustle)” of the place has vanished. “I have never before seen such sannata in purani Dilli.”
The silence reminds the lady of her western UP village. “The nights were scary. There would be ghup andhera (pitch darkness) outside our home, as if all the other houses were swallowed by the earth. Even the trees looked frightening.”
Those terrifying nights ended after she moved to Delhi at 18, following her marriage to a Walled City man.
Some years back, Ms Jhinjhanvi donated one of her kidneys to her husband during a medical emergency. Not taking their immunity for granted, the couple are resorting to extra precautions to protect themselves from the coronavirus. The husband has stopped visiting the neighbourhood mosque, and the college-going sons aren’t permitted to step out into the street even for a “short break.” Nobody is allowed to enter the home.
“I often prayed to Allah mian for peace and silence in our home and in our mohalla,” says Ms Jhinjhanvi, leaving her to wonder that perhaps she was not careful of what she was asking for.
The lady particularly misses the window views from the bedroom. “I see no kebab walla, no chai walla… all pavement stalls have gone… there is absolutely no one down there on the street.”
Though now, Ms Jhinjhanvi reports with a chuckle, she is able to eavesdrop on the chatter in her neighbour’s house.
Nevertheless, “I will implore Allah mian to bring back all the street noise that we had,” she says in a tone that is only half-joking.
[This is the 289th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Her answered prayers