City Life – Three Friends, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
Bonds they share.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A great amount of uninhibited giggling is going on among the three friends, here in this lane in central Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. A quick investigation reveals that Saddam (in the centre) is being gamely roasted by Muhammed Ramzan Ali (right) and Muhammed Hazar. “You see, Saddam doesn’t bath everyday,” Mr Ali claims. “And he is insisting that today he did have a bath,” says Mr Hazar. “And they can’t believe me,” exclaims Saddam in mock anger.
And again they start to laugh, their arms slapping each other’s shoulders. The laughter is so loud that busy passersby are slowing down to throw a hurried glance at the friends.
The three men work independently though have the same kind of living. “Hum maang ke kamate hain,” says Mr Ali, suggesting that they earn by seeking alms on the city streets. He also says that they are “paidashi nabine,” explaining “we can’t see, and this has been the case since we were born.” The men agree for a brief interview on the condition that the interlocutor would give them each the cutting of the intended feature when it appears in the newspaper.
In their 30s, they all are from Assam but arrived separately in the Capital at different points. Mr Ali came to Delhi many years ago, as a child, accompanied by his father. “We were here to get my eyes cured, but the doctor at Safdarjung Hospital gave up.” He says his father died soon afterwards and he stayed on in the city. “I live in a rented room, I have a wife.”
Saddam, who was the butt of his friends’ jokes, arrived as a teenager and “I’m also settled in Delhi with a rented room and a wife.”
Mr Hazar arrived in Delhi a month back. “There is so much poverty in my village,” he says, confirming that his parents let him travel alone so far from home without expressing any worry. “Because he has a stepmother who wanted to get rid of him,” Saddam says, amusedly. Mr Hazar good-naturedly protests, and praises his stepmother’s “good heart.” He too has rented a room for himself, he says.
The men don’t always hang out together but share a strong bond. “We three have a special connection,” Mr Ali asserts. Saddam observes in a fond tone, “Our day isn’t fully over until we dost (buddies) get together for at least a few minutes.” Mr Hazar grins. Mr Ali thoughtfully remarks, “We laugh together to lighten each other’s heart.”
The three now pose for a formal portrait by making solemn faces, but one of them again starts to giggle. Then they all burst into fresh peals of laughter.