A secret superstar in Old Delhi
An Internet-challenged scrap dealer’s wife has empowered herself and her family through her exotic recipes on YouTube
NEW DELHI: With desolate Mughal monuments, smelly butcher shops, fancy eateries, hasty rickshaw pullers, uncouth auto-drivers and closely knit dingy homes, the sullen and crowded streets of Daryaganj in Old Delhi strive hard to strike a balance between the modern and the traditional. Home to some very conservative families, Ganj Meer Khan locality behind the famous Delite Cinema is a shabby array of tiny homes and lanes, but what is truly unfathomable is that it is also home to a secret YouTube “superstar” who didn’t even know how to operate a smartphone and who has studied only till Class X.
Samina Karimi, a mother of three and wife to scrap dealer Mohammad Khalid Karimi who struggles to make ends meet, is the face behind the very popular YouTube channel Zaika Dilli 6. Apart from tending to her daily household chores, 42-year-old Samina has created 400 cooking videos for her YouTube channel, wherein using her traditional wisdom and heavy Old Delhi dialect, she step by step explains the process of cooking Mughlai delicacies. A year old journey on YouTube has garnered her a following of nearly three lakh and has etched out a new source of income for her family. In an attempt to juggle her religious beliefs, orthodox taboos and her humane aspirations, Samina has refrained from showing her face in the videos—it is only her voice and hands that the viewers identify her with.
With lakhs of views on YouTube translating into liquid money, Samina is happier and more financially secure than she has ever been in life.“All this feels like a dream to me. My life has drastically changed after YouTube. It is all so unreal that I feel that someday someone will wake me up from this beautiful dream,” she says in her newly-furnished home. “There was only a single CFL bulb in my kitchen when I had started shooting videos. I was hesitant to show my old utensils and worn out kitchenware to the public, but it was solely my necessity to uplift my family from severe financial crisis that I overlooked such factors and went ahead with my videos.”
Her 45-year-old husband is very proud of his wife. Blushing at his praises, Samina says, “Yeh mujhe gharkharch ke liye har mahiney sirf dus hazaar rupay dete thay aur usmein ghar chalana mushkil tha... (He used to give me only `10,000 per month and sustaining the household was difficult in that). Now I earn `60,000 or more per month from my videos and can buy whatever I want to. You can see the difference in my videos. Now I use all new and fancy utensils, crockery and kitchenware.” Showing her new refrigerator, she says, “We have even bought a new fridge, which I had never thought I could buy.”
Her revenue comes from a tie-up with YouTube and brand advertisements; her recipes on the channel are free to view.
Her 23-year-old son Mohammad Saqib Karimi convinced her to start a channel. The first videos were shot with his second-hand smartphone, edited and uploaded. Aarfa Karimi, her 19-year-old daughter, helps her with shooting the videos and in replying to subscribers’ comments, while Saqib helps her with the technicalities of the art. “Bhai is the unsung hero of our home,” says Aarfa. Samina chips in, “I’m known in the entire family as the best cook. I simply love to cook for everybody. But it is only due to Saqib’s relentless persuasion that I am able to pursue it as a profession. My biggest strength is my children. They have taught me everything.”
Samina’s culinary journey was not a bed of roses. Fearing ridicule by relatives and neighbours, she recalls when she and her children initially shot the videos secretly. “We had not even told my husband about our YouTube stint. It was only after the first payment that we disclosed our little secret to him. He supports us with all his heart now,” she smiles. “We used to bolt the main gate of our house and put a huge lock on it and then shoot our videos so that neither people would disturb us nor would they know what we were up to. Now a few of my close relatives know that I run Zaika Dilli 6, but our neighbours still don’t know.”
She has learnt that the Internet has the means to empower anybody. “One must not wait for help from someone else when you can help yourselves in this technical age,” she says. To women of her community who fear stepping out of their homes and yet aspire to earn, she says, “Through the Internet it is possible to earn without unveiling yourself, and if you have talent, you mustn’t hesitate. Koi hunar chota bada nahin hota, har hunar ka qadardan mil he jata hai (no talent is big or small. Real talent will always end up being appreciated).” A true celebration of International Internet Day today.
281,824 people have subscribed to Samina’s YouTube channel Zaika Dilli 6
35,299,265 views have been garnered by the cooking channel