Mission Delhi – Babar Ali, Jama Masjid, Gurgaon
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is five minutes to 2. The afternoon is no longer as hot as it were just a day back. The father and his little son sit down to start their lunch. It is a gravy dish of baingan, accompanied with rice, lots of rice.
Babar Ali is a relatively new face among the alm seekers of Jama Masjid, the mosque in Gurgaon’s Sadar Bazar. The other two are Mujibur, who has been here for 7 years, and Akbari, who has been coming here for five years. They all sit beside the staircase that goes up the mosque. This is a small plaza, crammed with a few kiosks selling caps, scarves and prayer heads, a longtime kebab stall, a chai stall and a couple of meat shops. Despite being here for only a year, Baba Ali has become an integral element of the place, known to most of the people in the area.
“We arrived from Cooch Behar,” he says, referring to a West Bengal district. Pointing out that he lost his sight about a decade ago “following a serious attack of typhoid,” he says he had to consequently give up work as a farm labourer. Following years of hardships, he eventually moved with his family to the so-called Millennium City, he informs. “But we left our elder son behind in the village… he lives and studies in a madrasa.”
Babar Ali does’t ignore his meal while chatting. Son Azhar, who is eating from a smaller plate, is enrolled in a government school. “Abhi, I’m in a chhoti class,” he says boldly, confidently, ending his sentence with a grin. Babar Ali’s wife is the family’s chief bread winner. “She works as a maid,” he says. The son explains further: “She goes to a society everyday.” Does he mean a gated compound of multi-storey apartments? The boy nods uncertainly.
The family lives near Bihari Mandi. Babar Ali commutes to Jama Masjid in an auto. “I stay here from 10am to 6pm, and I am grateful to anybody who gives me whatever they wish to give.” He pauses to toss a ball of rice into his mouth. “It is difficult to work when you cannot see.”
Soon, the lunch gets over. Babar Ali stacks up all the dishes. Son Azhar takes them up to the mosque to wash them under a tap.
After some minutes, the father is sitting quietly at his place, while the son is jumping off-and-on the mosque stairs.
[This is the 517th portrait of Mission Delhi project]