Mission Delhi – Qurban Ansari, Hazrat Nizamuddin East
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The dainty ornamental park at the B block in genteel Hazrat Nizamuddin East is ringed by trees. All day long they swell with the twittering of birds. The surrounding bungalows remain cocooned in quietude.
But this morning a different tune is wafting through the air. It can’t be coming from the red house in A block, whose dweller daily practices the piano accompanied by an opera singer’s accomplished voice. This sound is of a bansuri. Has a flautist move into one of these homes?
And suddenly the mystery is resolved. The musician is sighted. He is carrying a bouquet of flutes in one hand; the other hand is holding the flute he is playing. The tune, inspired from an old Hindi film song, is extraordinarily calming. One is tempted to suspend whatever one is doing, and settle down into a rocking chair with eyes closed.
Qurban Ansari is a hawker of flutes. He commutes from distant Gurgaon to Delhi everyday on hawai chappals. At 18, he has only a whisper of soft moustache lining his upper lip. He lives with parents near the town’s bus stand, and supplements the family income with his street hawking. “I can easily sell the flutes within Gurgaon alone, but I like travelling to great distances.” Mr Ansari’s voice is as markedly dolce as his flute rendition, though he has no familial history with music of any kind. “Father works in the office.” Standing beside a parked car, the young man confesses thar his vending career could have centered on any consumable item “but I always liked bansuri…. even in my childhood, I repeatedly watched the film songs in which the hero played bansuri.” Nobody taught him to play the instrument. “I learnt gradually as I started to sell these (flutes) two years back.”
Mr Ansari follows a different itinerary every new day. Today he boarded a bus to Sarai Kale Khan, from where he crossed the rail tracks to reach this central Delhi neighbourhood. He lands here four or five times a month. Showing his flutes, he informs that they are made in Mathura town. “This one is for ₹750 and this one is for just ₹40.” Very often, “instead of buying bansuri, people give me ₹100 or even ₹500 after hearing me play a song.” Once, while walking through B block, he was invited to a residence, and was generously remunerated for his impromptu drawing-room concert.
Mr Ansari plans to end the day in Mandi House “where I will board the bus to Kapashera… from there I will get a shared auto to home.” He now walks ahead, with a new tune—this one is of a love song from the film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
[This is the 442nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The pied piper of B Block