“Dilli Ki Sair” (A visit to Delhi) is an Urdu short story written by Rasheed Jahan. Rasheed Jahan was educated in Lucknow and New Delhi, and was the first woman to write with great frankness and courage against the exploitation of women.
“Dilli Ki Sair” (A visit to Delhi) is translated into English by Syeda S. Hameed and Sughra Mehdi. The translation which is given below is taken from the book “Parwaaz: Urdu Short Stories By Women.”
A VISIT TO DELHI
“Oh please! Wait for me.”
This voice came from the veranda and a young girl emerged, wiping her
hands on her kurta. Among all her friends, Malka Begum was the first to
have sat in the train. And that too all the way from Faridabad to Delhi!
Even the far off neighbors had thronged to hear the tale of her journey.
“Come quickly, if you must. I am tired of repeating! May God not let me
utter a lie, I have repeated this hundreds of times. Well, we sat in the
train from here and reached Delhi. There ‘he’ met some wretched station
master acquaintance of his. Leaving me near the luggage, ‘he’ vanished.
And I, perched on the luggage, wrapped in a burqa, there I sat. First
this damned burqa, then these cursed men. Men are anyway no good but
when they see a woman sitting like this they just circle around her.
There is no opportunity even to chew paan. One damn fellow coughs,
another hurls a remark. And I… breathless with fear. And so hungry…
that only God knows. And the Delhi station! Bua, even the Fort would
not be as huge. Wherever one looked, one saw nothing but the station,
the railway lines, engines, and goods trains. And what scared me the
most were those blackened men who live in the engines!”
“Who live in the engines?” someone interrupted.
“Who live? How do I know? Wearing blue clothes, some bearded, some
clean-shaven. Swinging with one arm from the moving engine. And the
onlookers… their hearts leap into their mouths. And the sahibs and
memsahibs. There are so many of them in the Delhi station, Bua, that one
loses count. Hand in hand they walk by, talking gitpit gitpit. And our
Indian brethren… they stare at them so wide-eyed that I wonder their
eyes don’t pop out! One of them even said to me, ‘Just show your face’.
At once I…”
“Did you?” someone teased!
“Think of Allah, Bua! Did I go all the way to show my face to these
wretches? My heart started pounding madly.” She added angrily, “If you
want to hear, don’t interrupt me in mid-sentence!” Everyone quietened
down. Such delightful events rarely occurred in Faridabad. And women
had come far to listen to Malka’s experiences.
“And the hawkers, Bua, not like the ones we have. Clean khaki clothes,
sometimes white, but the dhotis of some were quite dirty. Carrying
baskets, ‘Paan-Biri-Cigarette’… or ‘Toys!.. Toys!’… Selling sweets in
closed boxes they run all around. One train came in and there was so
much noise that it tore the eardrums. Coolies shouting at the top of
their voices and hawkers howling in the ears. And the passengers…
piling over each other. In all this poor me perched on top of the
luggage! How many pushes and shoves did I suffer! And in my nervousness
reciting Jal tu Jalal tu aiyee bala ko taal tu. At long last the train
started moving. Then started the bickering between the coolies and the
passengers. ‘One rupee’. ‘No, two annas’. One hour of bickering before
the station cleared. Did I say cleared? The damned scoundrels hung on.
After two hours ‘he’ came along twirling his moustaches. With what
nonchalance he said, ‘If you are hungry shall I get you some puris etc…
yes? I have just eaten at the hotel.’
“I said, ‘For god’s sake take me back to my house. I have had enough of
this ‘visit to Delhi’. May no one ever go with you, not even to
paradise. What a great trip you brought me on!”
“The train for Faridabad was ready. There he settled me and pulled a
long face. ‘It’s your wish. If you don’t want to enjoy a tour of the
city, don’t. Don’t blame me!'”