I am listening to the song HAJI ALI from the film FIZA. This recent film is touching upon a controversial topic of riots, fundamentalism and partition etc, I haven’t seen this film till now but only few trailers on TV. While hearing this song on my computer, I noticed some eyes were full of amazement and looking at me. It was clear that there is doubt in their minds. How come this a Brahmin, enjoying the Qawali on “Haji Ali”. The song plays continuously on the media player till you close it.
In backdrop, Afghan war is ensuing for past 30 days. Many views appeared in the media from several quarters over the division/ polarization of the world into Muslims and the rest. Few in India took it to the division of Muslims itself. Fanatic and “liberal –moderate Muslims”. Danger was that it was done vis-a-vis Hindu and fundamentalists. They are stretching the point too much. Terrorism is now world vide phenomenon. And only those who want a tag of liberal or secular are using this kind of comparison. Mainly they are from English media. I think they think of themselves as a global citizen. The danger is that these are the people who can or may influence the political thinking of any country or community. Which will result in the exploitation of the poor the common man.
I am amazed to see Muslims of many countries are demonstrating against the US attack. By this they themselves creating this impression of linking the terrorism with the religion. It may be like If India wages war against the Dawood Ibhrahim and the Terrorism and by virtue of his being in PAK (as reported by the media) the Muslims of world start demonstration against India.
A report came up in the HT that talks between Afghan and US were going on for last three years to hand over Osama till the September 11.
I just want to confine myself to India. Why the protests were not held when there were killings in J&K. or they had some hidden agenda to give religious flair to the terrorism in J & K. Neither the Muslims nor the rest of the world spoke at the brutal killings (either sikhs or others) in J & K. Whereas the country stood up when killing of two Christians was reported. The So-called the secular, were in the forefront and tried to build pressure on the Centre. It has to be accepted that people sitting in Delhi have a clout.
HAJI AlI of Bombay (now MUMBAI) has a special place in my life. Eight years in marriage they ran here & there, for search of a boon- a child. Though they might have performed puja daily to please god. But the single visit to the Dargah oF Haji Ali blessed them with a son -that is me. Later I also visited the Dargah and paid my obedience at Haji Ali. My parents also visited Ajmer Sharif and Salim Chisti Dargah. they had wished that if their desires were fulfilled they would visit these Dargah of the famous Sufi saints. The belief now I have inherited.
Next time we visited these places again in 1976 & 1982. This time all the brothers and sisters prayed together to these saints. Tradition continues from generation to generation.
As a child we used to visit Hardoi, the native place of my maternal grandmother. Bus from Hardoi city would take us to a spot on road to sandi. At the stop there were only shops and few houses on both side of the road. The road formed the mid rib of the village. One shop neighboring the well was of Jumman Mia the tailor of the area. He was surrounded by the an old sewing machine, few glittering pieces of cloths few with faded colors, one assistant a boy of 14 to 15 years of age, nearby three four goats were enjoying there time jumping running eating all over the place. Two loyal dogs patiently looking at us the intruder to their territory. His beard was the only distinguishing sign from others. Noticeable things were an aluminum pot with a stout and the round cap over his head. He was a jolly fellow.
To his query that to whom I want to visit. I told about my grandfather. To my surprise, the place, which was looking deserted and inaccessible, suddenly became spacious and filled with energy and warmth. Takhat was empty he cleared of all the cloths etc. Three four persons from the other shop arrived. They fetched drinking water from the well and a bullock cart was arranged for us to reach Murauli village. Whenever Grand mother was with us we never faced any problem on the way. She was daughter of the village and aunty to all of the area. and people in that area were all in some way or the other were uncles, brother etc. Since she belonged to this village thus all residents of that village are my relatives..!!!. What a great place we belong to?
She would share jokes with Jumman Mia and his group. Some times she would curse somebody and also bless some. All this goes on in a very healthy atmosphere.
Back in city where my grandmother lived at the end of the lane there was a house full of Reshmas, aiyishas begums etc. Often they would come to fetch drinking water from our house in absence of any municipality tap. The well was inside of our house. These ladies call out for my grandmother standing at gate. My grand mother never denied for drinking water though there was some resistance from tenants.
At the end of the lane there was a Sarai, originally this place is meant for travelers for resting etc, this sarai must have been built during mughal period. It was big a rectangular compound eclosed by walls on all sides and two gates. The boundary wall was very high and huge domes were mounted on four corners. A pathway passed through the Centre. There was a huge well inside. This well would be full of buzz whole day.
Later I heard that one Saabir Mia bought this sarai. In sarai lived kallu my childhood friend. Whole atmosphere of the sarai was very pleasant. There were trees of Tamarind some of the pomegranate, few of guava and berry. Some were NEEM trees. The Street was full of activities whole day. In pre noon hours vendors would roam selling their items from the spices to many mysterious things. I came to know many things in the life through these activities on this street. How the Printing is done on the cloths, How the copper, brass etc utensils are polished, How the knives edge is sharpened. How the cotton is prepared for filling in the lihaf Rajai (quilt). How the wax toys are made. How the toys of sygar are made. How that sweet paste is made from which You could get watch, horse driven cart and bullock cart. I think they were able to make any shape, only thing was you had to name it. Seeing men wet with sweat during Long hours of preparation of the stuff was very painful and noteworthy.
The sarai housed at least twenty families. Few dwellings were vacant. visitors used to occuppy these. There were street magician, toy makers, merchants etc. In the first house lived one Maulviji. He had prescribed few remedies for me also. He was considered to be having some mysterious powers. Whoever in need would rush for his help. He would simply close his eyes and prayed and then exhale air on the patient. Muttering some mantar (not the mantra, I prefer to write in this way) and a big PHOONK.
There lived a gang of notorious ducks (such was my experience). The leader was big black duck. While crossing the sarai I was chased by this devil. He with his elongated neck chased and squeezed on my leg. That was very painful.
There was ‘kallu ki dai’ as my grand mother called this lady, to whom my grandmother approached for eggs for me. A doctor prescribed one egg for me, hence my grand mother contacted this lady. She had few hens. One was without any feathers on the neck. Surprising thing was that the hen was kept tied with small rope in its leg. Even my household was strict vegetarian, but when doctor told one egg a day for me, My grandmother without thinking approached someone whom she knew would help.
I do remember that on one festival, girls in SARAI made small mud houses two to three story tall. Well decorated with colors. Proper staircase and rooms windows and domes every thing was there to see. I do not remember the actual name of the festival. But I used to take part in making of these houses.
Then there was another one when everybody made small Tazias. Some used the colored paper and some used the glittering papers. When this TAZIA procession was taken out on the streets the ladies, daughters would carry their babies under the tazia. Supposedly that would bring good luck and long life to the baby. Many families regardless of the religion did this.
I had on some occasion accompanied some friends from sarai to a local Masjid. Where I noticed they would line-up in front of the gate or staircase holding baby in their arms and the elderly or all those coming out of the mosque after prayers would give mouthful of air to the children. This is known as “Foonk” or “Phoonk” in our local dialect.
On the ID or EID my neighbours had always sent the raw SIMAI or semia gud (jaggery), dates, sootpheni, etc to our house, knowing that my grandmother and mother are strict vegitarian. Thus no cooked food will be allowed from their house. They thought thatat least this would be cooked in our house and we will eat it. Similarly we recirpocated all these in our Diwali, Holi etc. And i ams sure many of our people in Mohallas of old Lucknow, Kanpur etc always did this for generations. That was known as GANGA JAMUNI Tahzeeb. It had continued since 500 years or more so.
Incidently in Hardoi, it is a saying that ancestors of my grandmother fought with muslim nawabs and won few villages. But they kept one village for themselves and chose to settle there. They had originally came from MATHURA region. They were known as PATHAK brothers. Thus the village is known as Pathakan ki Murauli.