By Shakir Malik
WHEN it comes to Kashmir, every season wears its own colours and ingredients; talk of spring and fluttering butterflies, flowers, greenery and idyllic sunshine comes to mind, winter means snowflakes, icicles and frozen water, so on and so forth. And talk of Ramazan, these things normally linger around, a mosque full of worshippers, a capsizing ‘Kangri’ with couple of people clearing the smoldering coal with bare hands—that of course when Ramazan falls in wintry months; throat clearances to signal the ‘Imam’ to amplify his speed of recital during ‘Taraweeh’, and in case the ‘Imam’ is hard headed then taking refuge in short spells of sleep , etc. On a serious note though, when the entire life seems to be a mere repetition of tasks, Ramazan has a way of making you remember a certain past.
One of the Ramazan stories that I remember is from the footsteps of Jama Masjid, Delhi—cliques of people, loitering with fruit platters, samosas, date palms, etc. inviting us to break the fast with them. And the tone of their invitations would just melt your heart, ‘Brother, please have ’iftari’ with us.’ ‘Brother, brother, brother…’ constant solicitations from all sides. That day, my friends and I had decided to break our fast at Jama Masjid. We finally sat with one group who insisted that we eat as much as we could. And when we left, a person meandering around Gate no. 3 of the same mosque, with a huge container on his back, would offer a cold glass of water to anyone who wanted. To make someone quench a day long thirst in such an enervating heat, while getting yourself drenched in sweat is no mean task by any means. I mumbled to my friends, ‘This is the best of humanity.’ I felt it very profoundly probably because I had not seen such kind of camaraderie around that city before.
Another ‘iftari’ that I remember is from a mosque at Khati Talab, Jammu. Tens of people sat along both sides of sheets strewn with fruits, date palms, etc. Everyone was in a fit of silence, some would raise their hands and pray while others very innocuously stared at the food, counting seconds, perhaps feeling the churn in their stomachs. The volunteers were frantically unfolding mats as more people would enter. These community hangouts are very unique to Ramazan.
While growing up one feels the huge nonnegotiable gap between acts of childhood and adulthood. As a kid, during the last week of Ramazan evenings, I remember watching my sister and other girl children making a big circle and doing rounds while singing the Kashmiri Eid song ‘Eid aayi rasi rasi’. And I would also blend in as my sister used to lobby for my inclusion. A chorus of melodiousness would fill the air. Then, we would talk and make plans for the Eid from day one of Ramazan, about the amount of ‘Eidi’ we would get and toys we would buy. I would rarely keep fast then, but I loved waking up for ‘Sehri’, not because I hated sleep, but I wanted to see the person called the ‘Sehar khan’ who still goes round and round in our village beating the drums to awaken the people at that time. But,I never saw him. Back then, I would worry that he should not be attacked by some wild animal in the street at that hour. That tradition is still in vogue, though my mobile alarm wakes me now.
These days, I love ‘sehri’, especially because of the way Muezzins and other ‘Naat’ singers sing Kashmiri ‘naats’. It is not easy to make that hour of the night reverberate, which otherwise stays doomed in silence.
Ramazan of 2020 and this year have been tough. Last year, when the pandemic struck and I was stuck in Delhi at that time. I experienced there how the collective distress caused by a dreadful disease can spoil our most cherished memories. It felt like everything was meaningless in the moment. Hunger and anxiety weighed on me quite heavily. This year, the same feeling is getting somewhat repeated.
And we are supposed to give up on socializing which otherwise is a very important aspect of Ramazan.
The absence of pre-Eid hustle and bustle in markets and mosques makes this Ramazan a solitary affair. In fact, pandemic is forcing us to go against all kinds of definitions of normal and allowing empty streets to take over.
However, we should understand that Ramazan is not a once in a lifetime event. ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’ will repeat with its promised gusto, probably next year. This year, we would deserve celebrations in a traditional sense only when the virus is brought to its knees and lives of all are secured. And this ‘Eid’, that would require a slight inaction from our part, that is to restrict our respective celebrations to just a feast of family and to practice social distancing.
- The writer can be reached at [email protected]
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