A resident of Chawri Bazar, Mr Faiyazuddin was Old Delhi’s living landmark.
A resident of Chawri Bazar, Mr Faiyazuddin was Old Delhi’s living landmark.

Life of a gentleman

On the passing of a Walled City legend
By Mayank Austen Soofi
PUBLISHED ON APR 29, 2021 11:06 PM IST

If you were to visit him after a prolonged period, he would welcome you with mock-anger and stern eyes, but his face would instantly dissolve into a welcoming smile. Haji Faiyazuddin seemed to be made of wit and grace.

The gentle-mannered Mr Faiyazuddin, who celebrated his 82nd birthday in February by cutting his favourite chocolate truffle cake, died on Wednesday morning due to Covid-19 complications. He spent his final weeks in a south Delhi hospital, far from the world he knew encyclopedically—the Walled City of Shahjahanabad.

A resident of Chawri Bazar, Mr Faiyazuddin was Old Delhi’s living landmark. Partly so for being the proprietor of the iconic Haji Hotel, that was founded by his father, Haji Hafiz Zahoor Uddin, in 1952. Every day, from 9.30am to 8.30pm, this clean-shaven figure would be seen sitting on the hotel’s long balcony, that commands the most panoramic view of the Mughal-era Jama Masjid. If a passerby walking down along the street didn’t spot him sitting at his usual place, something essential was missing.

An alumnus of the historic Anglo-Arabic School in Ajmeri Gate, Mr Faiyazuddin engaged in every conversation, even fleeting chitchats, in an Urdu so elegant that to hear him was like listening to bhule-bhisre geet (old forgotten songs). He was a member of various committees of the area’s charitable institutions, including the Bachhon Ka Ghar orphanage in Daryaganj. His great-grandfather Munshi Turab Ali was Jama Masjid’s first mutawalli (custodian) after the British restored the mosque to Muslims, following its takeover in 1857.

“While assisting walid saheb (father) in the hotel’s early years,” Mr Faiyazuddin once told this reporter, “I would meet great artists who would visit Delhi to record for All India Radio. (Sarod player) Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan preferred room No. 2, where he would shut himself for riyaz (practice). One evening, he called in my father and dazzled him by producing the sound of marching soldiers on his sarod. (Singer) Begum Akhtar, who would come from Faizabad, liked room No. 1. She sat by this very desk, watching Jama Masjid for hours.”

In the recent Delhi winters, Mr Faiyazuddin tended to wear a woollen cap that was hand-knitted by his wife, the late Nishat Begum. Survived by 5 siblings, 10 nephews, and 9 nieces, Haji Mian, as he was known by all, is buried in Dilli Gate Qabristan, next to his mother, Anis Fatima.

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