With 80 years of wrinkles and a beard that has long turned white, Faizul Hassan Qadri has been working away his golden days on what he calls a labor of love — a grave for his wife, his “begum.”
For years, the retired postmaster has been building a monument reminiscent of India’s ancient shrines outside his home in Kaser Kalan, a village in India’s Uttar Pradesh, pausing from time to time when he runs out of money for materials. He has sold farmland and his wife’s finest jewelry to get enough rupees to finish the job, according to the Hindustan Times. But it’s a promise he made to his wife, Tajammuli, who died from throat cancer in 2011.
Tajammuli had asked him who would remember her when she died.
“I will build a tomb that everybody will remember,” he replied.
The tomb has become known as a “mini Taj Mahal” and Qadri as a common man’s Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who built the original at Agra during the 17th century for his Persian empress, Mumtaz Mahal.
Visitors from all over have traveled to see Qadri’s mausoleum that sits on 5,000 square feet of ground in his garden, Press TV reported. “I traveled almost [15 miles] with my friends just to get a glimpse of this structure,” Pahasu resident Zakir Ali told Hindustan Times. “The efforts put in by him is really commendable.”
Qadri and Tajammuli married as teens in 1953, according to the newspaper.
“We were just a normal couple,” he told the Associated Press last year.
Since Tajammuli’s death, Qadri has dedicated himself to preserving her memory. He said he designed her tomb on his own but got help with the construction from a local mason who “prepared the dome and constructed the four ‘minars’ around the central building, which is a little more than 27-feet in height,” he recently told the Hindustan Times. “The structure is built on my own land and I have also tried to plant some trees around it and have a small water body at the back side of the building.”
But construction has been touch-and-go, coming to a halt last year.
“Initially, I sold a piece of land for Rs 6 lakh [about 600,000 rupees or $9,000] and my wife’s gold and silver jewelry for Rs 1.5 lakh and got the ‘makbara’ [mausoleum] constructed with the help of a local mason named Asgar,” he recently told the Hindustan Times. “A total of Rs 11 lakh was spent, but now I have to get marble studded on the monument and also to build a lush green park around it, both of which is likely to cost me another Rs 6-7 lakh.”
Many, including the state’s chief minister, have offered him help but he won’t accept.
“The chief minister wants to meet Qadri to appreciate his efforts and to offer some financial help so that he can complete his unfinished building,” additional district magistrate Vishal Singh told the Hindustan Times.
“It is a proof of love,” Qadri told the Associated Press last year. “I have to do it on my own.”
He wants to finish the tomb before he dies, he said, and then he wants to be buried in it too.
“I have told my brother to bury me here by the side of my wife,” he told the Hindustan Times. “Everything that comes has to go away some day. My wife is dead. I will also die some day. The monument too might not stand forever. I just wish to see it complete before I die.”