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The morning men

Devotees offering namaz at Jama Masjid in Old Delhi

Devotees offering namaz at Jama Masjid in Old Delhi   | Photo Credit: PTI

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If you find it difficult to catch up with the early morning meal during Ramzan in Old Delhi, worry not as there are people whose job is to wake up the devout for sehri

Forty-year-old Sajjad missed his morning meal before commencing his Ramzan fast last week. His alarm rang but Sajjad could not coax himself out of the bed to have sehri, the pre-dawn meal the faithful have to replenish their body. Around the same time, Sabir in Old Delhi was luckier. One night, or shall we say, in the wee hours, he too put his alarm to sleep before falling asleep himself. Sabir though managed to catch his sehri, courtesy Gulzar Ahmad, a 55-year-old humble man from the streets of Shahjahanabad, who has taken it upon himself to wake up the faithful for sehri.

So people like Sabir, who fail to get up after the alarm rings, manage to catch their meal because Gulzar comes knocking at their door. He is clearly more effective than mobile alarms! Around 2 a.m. when most people are in deep sleep, Sabir wakes up to go on his daily rounds of the little lanes and bylanes of Old Delhi, calling the faithful to leave their bed to prepare their meal and have it before the fast commences. Gali Gadayya, Gali Kuenwali. Gali Mir….they are all within his zone!

Keeping him company in ‘wake up before it’s too late’ routine is Shakeel Ansari, who does the same job around Matia Mahal, Chitli Qabar, Gali Takhat Wali and the rest. Gulzar and Shakeel have similar ways of waking up the faithful. First come the loud calls, “ Uth jaaaaaooo sehri ka waqt ho gaya hai”. Then they knock at all doors in the locality. At some places, they bang the door, at others, they politely ring the bell. The effect is the same: people wake up!

Both Gulzar and Shakeel use similar tools and reap similar dividends. Dressed in casuals, they move around with a torch in their hands and a whistle in their pocket. Both have been around for some time, Gulzar longer. “I am doing this traditional job for the past 20 years and our father and grandfather also have done the same. Our father started doing this on a note of charity and for religious self-satisfaction,” says Gulzar.

After a month of waking people up at night, they get their rewards, meagre as they are. “Earlier we got only sheer and sevaiyan, nowadays we are given some money, clothes and other food items on the auspicious occasion of Eid,” says Shakil.

But does this one-month earning suffice for year? No. The other months, Shakil is a manual worker and Gulzar runs an itar shop.

The two have very little competition these days. The dervishes have all gone, the community elders no longer deem it appropriate to do it themselves. Still, the two carry on gamely.

Asked why they do this work in the age of alarm clocks and mobiles, they reply, “Yes, it is very obvious nowadays everyone has mobile phones and other electronic devices but still some of them prefer us. It is a traditional manner to awake people. It feels good to hear people respond to out call, ‘Yeh sehri ka waqt hai, raunaq hone wali hai’. We love this job. It gives us satisfaction.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 7:26:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-morning-men/article6229000.ece

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