Skip to main content

A myth and a legend, Sadia Dehlvi believed true Islam is about Sufi way of life

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed* 
“You never said I’m leaving,
You never said, good bye, 
You were gone before I knew it 
And only God knew, why! 
All people die, but not all people live!” 
Sadia lived! She packed so much life into her eventful six decades. She travelled, chased her dreams, worked in a profession she loved, fell in love, mended a broken heart and still put one foot in front of the other battling what she knew from the start, was an incurable cancer. She did so with grace, dignity, integrity and courage. Even during her utter weakness and painful moments, she had the heart to laugh at her lovely foibles. 
Sadia Dehlvi -- the woman, the myth, the legend that she was -- men wanted to be with her, women wanted to be with her and abive all, the kids wanted to be with her! In the passing away of Sadia Dehlvi, a Muslim woman of much capability and prominence of the past 60 years, an era is finished, the era of a vibrant, vivacious and valorous Delhi’ite, the keeper of the heritage and sainthood of Delhi. She was proud of the well-cemented inter-faith concord as believed that the soul of India is inclusive, pluralistic, and democratic. 
Once when someone asked about Sadia’s illness some time ago, despite in agony, she was able to have gala time when she stated, “One of the few advantages of dying from Grade 3, Stage IIIC endometrial cancer, recurrent and metastasized to the liver and abdomen, is that you have time to write your own obituary. (The other advantages are no longer bothering with sunscreen and no longer worrying about your cholesterol.).” 
Having seen her versatility and sharing the hobby of writing, I first wrote an article on her in the “Evening News” (a publication of “The Hindustan Times”, now closed) of July 19, 1988 on her project of uplifting the literacy levels of Muslim girls in the walled city of Delhi. Very early in her life, Sadia had also started making films on social cause with “Amma and Family” in 1995, with Zohra Sehgal being the most popular one. Even her television series in 2001, “Zindgi Kitni Khoobsurat Hei”, she acted as the lead. 
I have known Sadia, since my childhood, as her father, Yunus Dehlvi, and two uncles, Idrees Dehlvi and Ilyas Dehlvi, all pillars of the best Urdu publications -- Shama, Sushma, Khilauna, Bano, Shabistan, Mujrim, Doshi and a whole lot of publications from Shama Book Depot and Khilauna Book Depot — were acquainted with me as I had often visited them in their office at Asaf Ali Road. 
In her rather short time on this earth, Sadia’s journey was like a rock thrown into a lake; sending ripples ever outward into the future
Sadia must have spent a very colourful and royal life living it to the lees and fullest, yet, internally, she was a very spiritual and ecumenical soul. In her benchmark, “Sufism, The Heart of Islam,” she has focused on the fact that true Islam, that many have forgotten, has been about the Sufi way of life that joins lacerated hears and broken families. 
Her work, “The Sufi Courtyard: Dargahs of Delhi”, nicely laid out what in Urdu is known as, “Chaudah Khwaja ki Chaukhat” Rendouzvous of Fourteen Saints). Her book, “Jasmine and Jinns” is a hallmark on the life and times of the Shahjahanabadi walled city of Delhi. 
Sadia’s unquestionable love for her family, especially her only son, her love of music, her life-long love of learning, her love of cuisine, her acceptance of everyone and refusal to judge or dismiss anyone, how much she enjoyed being with people, hearing and telling funny stories, I cannot stop hearing the sound of her laugh. The more I hear it, the harder I get impacted. 
I vouch, if ever there was a competition of best dishes, she would have won numerous times, with her inimitable purani dilli (old Delhi) dishes learnt from her mother and grandmother. Her pool parties were legendary. She could make killer cabbage rolls and mouth-watering and nostril-tickling shami kebabs. 
Being the heart and soul of Delhi she loved the city’s variety of seasons. Delhi has distinct seasons, and once upon a time lifestyles revolved around the weather. I would hear stories of how shopkeepers pulled down their shutters when the first rains arrived and went to Mehrauli for picnics with their families. 
Special dishes were made in the monsoon like harimirch qeema chilly and minced meat, besani roti and fresh mango chutney. Nihari was always associated with winter, and was eaten “nihar muh” (early morning), that is on an empty stomach. Being the heart and soul of Delhi, Delhi has distinct seasons, and once upon a time lifestyles revolved around the weather. 
I would hear stories of how shopkeepers pulled down their shutters when the first rains arrived and went to Mehrauli for picnics with their families. Special dishes were made in the monsoon like harimirch qeema, besani roti and fresh mango chutney. Nihari was always associated with winter, and was eaten “nihar muh”, that is on an empty stomach. 
In her rather short time on this earth, Sadia’s journey was like a rock thrown into a lake; sending ripples ever outward into the future. Your addiction doesn’t define you. She was a writer, a traveller, a columnist, an educationist, a social activist, a poet, a thinker and above all a never say die community worker. She loved music, and her friendships and family ignited the hearth that was her heart! However, without Sadia, Delhi will be poorer! 
--- 
Commentator on social, cultural and educational issues, chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hydarabad

Comments

TRENDING

Ganga world's second most polluted river, Modi's Varanasi tops microplastics pollution

By Rajiv Shah  Will the new report by well-known elite NGO Toxics Link create a ripple in the powerful corridors of Delhi? Titled “Quantitative analysis of microplastics along River Ganga”, forwarded to Counterview, doesn’t just say that Ganga is the second most polluted river in the world, next only to Yangtze (China). It goes ahead to do a comparison of microplastics pollution in three cities shows Varanasi – the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – is more polluted compared to Kanpur and Haridwar.

How real is Mamata challenge to Modi? Preparing for 2024 'khela hobey' moment

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  Third time elected West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is on a whirlwind tour of Delhi, meeting everyone who matters within and beyond the government, the Prime Minister, the President, some Cabinet ministers, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, several other opposition leaders, et al.

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

UP arrest of 'terrorists': Diverting attention from Covid goof-up, Ram temple land scam?

By Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, Sandeep Pandey* That corruption is rampant in police department is a common experience. However, there is another form of corruption which devastates lives of individuals and their families. It has now emerged as a common phenomenon that police more often than not register false cases because of which individuals have to spend number of years in jail.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Effluent discharge into deep sea? Modi told to 'reconsider' Rs 2275 crore Gujarat project

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well-known Gujarat-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, has protested against the manner in with the Gujarat government is continuing with its deep sea effluent disposal project despite environmental concerns.

Khorigaon demolition: People being 'brutally' evicted, cops 'restricting' food, water

By Ishita Chatterjee, Neelesh Kumar, Manju Menon, Vimal Bhai* On July 23, the Faridabad Municipal Corporation told the Supreme Court that they have cleared 74 acres out of 150 acres. Despite the affidavit of the Municipal Corporation, the court, on the complaint of various litigants, that the arrangements for living, food etc. have not been made for the people. 

Gujarat govt gender insensitive? Cyclone package for fisherfolk 'ignores' poor women

By Our Representative A memorandum submitted to the Gujarat government by various fisherfolk associations of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat under the leadership of Ahmedabad NGO Centre for Social Justice's senior activist Arvind Khuman, who is based in Amreli, has suggested that the relief package offered to the fishermen affected by the Tauktae cyclone is not only inadequate, it is also gender insensitive.