History & Culture

A brush with Sadia Dehlvi

Sadia Dehlvi (in pink) at an iftaar at home   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Often when I would visit the Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah, there would be one familiar face, which even in tthe hustle and bustle can’t be missed. It was Sadia Dehlvi, writer, columnist, filmmaker and activist. It began with just glances that slowly graduated to warm smiles.

And then in 2016 in the month on Ramzaan, I got lucky. I was invited to an iftaari at her house organised by Commeat, a group of food enthusiasts who do at-home events, among other things. I had already heard a lot about her dastarkhwaan (food spread) and now, I would get to meet her in person.

As we chatted that evening, she explained the nuances of iftaari. The baithak saw all of us digging into delicacies like aloo gosht, chicken karahi, white maash ki dal, matar-chaval, biryani, dahi badey, shahi paneer, and phirni that she herself had cooked.

Her home echoed her vibe: a place that was filled with life and laughter. Every corner of her house saw a bit of her, whether it was the calligraphy or the stacks of books.

As a devotee of the Sufi tradition, she always had her home open, and no, you couldn’t leave without eating.

As she now rests with so many of her family, may Jasmine and Jinns be there with her.

Ayandrali Dutta is a freelance writer and home-style chef

I have always been an admirer. The two reasons were her devotion to Sufism and its poetry, and her love for Delhi and its cuisine which had made our city richer and more aromatically vibrant.

I remember inviting her to a literature festival back in 2015, which she had politely turned down. A few weeks later, when I saw her at another, in Delhi, I immediately went up to her and introduced myself. Very gently she put her hand on my head and said, “I am sorry I could not come”, later adding, “Come home sometime”. She belonged to Delhi’s elite circuit, but it never stopped her being courteous.

Once she had collaborated with an NGO to empower women by training them in a tailoring course. She remained connected to all the women who benefited from this course. She would ask them of their progress and help them enhance their designs. She would travel down to the NGO centre to encourage them.

On another occasion, the NGO had invited her over to felicitate her. It was raining heavily, but she arrived on time, and shared her award with a child in the NGO. She was radiating when she handed her trophy to that little kid.

I pray heaven welcomes her with open arms.

Yaseen Anwer is the director of Kaafiya, an organization that looks to poetry for expression and healing

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 11:26:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/meeting-sadia-dehlvi/article32326294.ece

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