For a year, I have been living in a small, leafy colony in south Delhi, somewhat ambitiously called Mayfair Gardens. It’s a tiny residential neighbourhood with a beautiful and intriguing architectural monument, consisting of a mosque adjoining a Dargah of a not very well known saint, Hazrat Makhdum Sabzwari. It is ascribed by some to the Lodhi period, dating back to the 15th century and by others to the late Tughlaq period towards the end of the 14th century or early 15th century.
Some writers and bloggers quote from Metcalfe’s Dehlie Diary from the Online Gallery of British Library, which explains that “Durgah (‘Shrine’) Mukhdoom (‘literally a Servant’) Subzwaree (‘title taken from the place of birth’) Saheb” indicates that he was a native of the town of Subz in the Province of Kish, whence he proceeded to Shiraz and Bokhara, where he pursued studies in medicine and other branches of service and literature before coming to India during the reign of Sultan Alauddin Khilji, who reigned AD 1296-1316. Hazrat Saheb died around AD 1325; the Dargah and mosque are said to have been erected by his children. It is from one such blogger that I learnt that the old name of Mayfair Gardens was, probably, ‘Khurd Purd Dharnor!
The tree-lined streets of Mayfair Gardens offer a rich variety of fruits and flowers. Golden Laburnum or Amaltas flowers carpet the streets, along with figs or jamun (Indian blackberry) that offer their rich fare to birds and squirrels. It is common at this time of the year to find crushed wild figs on the streets. There are a couple of giant ‘Bael’ trees that are overladen with fruit. The delicious cold sherbet made from Bael is believed to both cool and heal in the north Indian heat. Bael is native to the Indian subcontinent and is known by several names including Bengal quince or wood apple.
With so many fruit trees, plants and flowers, the colony is a veritable nature park. Some residents are kind enough to put out water and bird food. I often notice new species of birds, butterflies or bees during my walks. There are some species of hawks living around the monument, feasting, no doubt, on the rodent population hiding in the crevices of its ancient walls. Mongoose run across the streets towards the monument as the old dried up wells on the compound are thought to be home to snakes and rodents! These days, it is a joy to walk in the cool morning breeze with the call of the Koel and the chirping and trilling of birds happily feasting on the generous bounty of the trees!
This weekend, however, a different activity stirred the neighbourhood. The Resident Welfare Association organised a vaccination camp with the help of a small private hospital. Well over 200 people were vaccinated against COVID19. Discussions for a camp were held over weeks. Residents came forward with ideas. The President of the RWA contacted several potential partners before one hospital finally agreed to carry out the massive day-long exercise. Earlier, in April, the RWA had facilitated vaccines at a small hospital, helping elderly residents with appointments and transportation.
The vaccination camp helped older residents get their second shots while younger residents got their first. One generous resident made her vacant house available, while others provided furniture, pedestal fans, coolers, portable air conditioners and even some food and drinks for health workers. A welcoming display of rangoli added festive touch, inviting even the most nervous of residents! For smooth conduct of the camp, residents were given slots. A google registration form was devised and a number of youngsters volunteered to help those unable or unfamiliar with filling online forms. Other volunteers used their IT skills to prepare a time chart. This avoided crowding at the camp. People were reminded of the documents to bring and to remember their hats and umbrellas to cope with the hot sun! The entire exercise was conducted with military efficiency. Three doctors living in the colony, including the former RWA President, volunteered to remain on call for the duration of the camp. The local MLA visited the camp twice.
Most importantly, residents got their staff vaccinated along with families living on-premises. One resident offered to pay for the vaccination of all the RWA staff, including security staff and gardeners, while another even pulled in the fruit vendor who comes in to sell fruits on his hand-pushed cart.
A few days ago, the Gurudwara (Sikh temple) inside the colony had organised free RT PCR tests for 178 residents with the help of local authorities. Langar or cooked food, often also sponsored by residents, has been served six days a week since 8 April last year, feeding 125-180 people a day.
Efforts like this are replicated elsewhere in India, though many more need to come forward. This massive pandemic requires all hands on deck!