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Meet the ‘sehariwala’ who has been waking Mumbaikars with his twilight Ramadan walks

The people who sustain the tradition are popularly known as El Musaharaty in Egypt and Sehar Khans in Kashmir

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Ramadan Market in Mumbai. Image Source: Huffingtonpost.in
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  • Sheikh also known as Taj Bhai has been waking the Mumbaikars from last 18 years for sehar
  • He starts at 3 and ends the trek by quarter past four, about 15 minutes to have his meal before the fasting begins
  • Sheikh is among the few practitioners of this dying Ramazan tradition

While we have often heard people saying that Mumbai is the city that never sleeps, it will not be wrong to say that it is only because of people like Mohammed Farooq Qureshi Sheikh who have been keeping the city on a move.

Sheikh aka Taj Bhai as he is popularly known, has made it a custom for the last 18 years every Ramadan to remind the Mumbaikars to wake up for sehar (the meal eaten before commencing the fast for the day).

Sheikh begins his trek at three in the morning and charts a seven kilometre march from Shafai Masjid in Dongri to Dawoodbhoy Fazalbhoy High School in Chinch Bunder.

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 While the distance is not much but he walks through every lane and turn, shouting, “Neend se jaago, sehari ka waqt ho gaya. Zindagi ka kya bharosa? Ramzan mile ya na mile.” (Wake up, it’s time for sehar. Who knows what life will bring? If we are able to get Ramadan, or not?).

The 56-year-old ‘sehariwala’ completes his work by quarter past four, about 15 minutes before sunrise, to have his meal before the fasting begins.

Sheikh is among the few practitioners of the dying Ramadan tradition, which believes in waking people up for sehar. This is a tradition that dates back to a time when people did not have access to clocks and needed someone to inform them about the time.

Sheikh during wake-up call. Image Source: Dawn.com
Sheikh during wake-up call. Image Source: Dawn.com

The practice is popularly known as Musaharaty in Egypt and those carrying it out are called El Musaharaty. In Kashmir, the people who sustain the tradition are known as Sehar Khans.

Unfortunately, Sehar Khan or the El Musaharaty, is becoming increasingly extinct as people hugely rely on their mobile phones or alarm clocks to tell them time.

Sheikh started with his Ramadan walks when he was in his mid-30s. His wife passed away when he was 22 and their son died soon after he was born.

Talking to Sroll.in, he revealed, “In the beginning, I would walk up to the last floor in each building and call out to people. Now, I am too old to do that so I have this megaphone.”

Saif Sathi, who has grown up seeing Taj Bhai completing his twilight walks feels, “There are so many people who don’t have anyone to wake them up.”

Sathi added, “People who sleep on the streets, for one thing. Even the local mosque has no one to wake them up. My family, too, relies on his call to awaken.”

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Sheikh believes there are still ‘sehariwallas’ dwelling in the “poorer areas of the city” like in slums in Kurla or Nala Sopara since not everyone there might have a phone.

But in the main city, he claims that he might be the sole practitioner of the tradition.

Apart from giving these wake-up calls, last year, when monsoon was late in arriving, Sheikh began going to the Kasaiwada area in Kurla, asking people to pray for rain. He did the same this year as well, when the monsoon arrived late.

At times, when asked by local municipal councillors, he even announces government schemes.

Sheikh plans to continue this unique profession as long as he is “hale and hearty.”

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  • Aparna Gupta

    Ramadan is a tradition which distinguish Muslim community. It has now became a unique part of our tradition. Its good to see that someone is sustaining that tradition.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Really good that this tradition is been followed until now

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Monsoon Road Trips from Mumbai

The hills are alive this monsoon. The best way to feel the cool winds and witness the mountain storms is to do it on one’s own terms – behind the wheel

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Here are some top recommendations for your next best road trip in this season of Monsoon. Pixabay

The floods in Mumbai have been in the news lately, an annual chaos that seems to have become part and parcel of life in the country’s financial capital. However, the monsoons are not a season to dread and just outside the city, as the curious traveller ventures higher into the Western Ghats, there are some picture-perfect destinations for the season. Here are some top recommendations.

Lonavala
Lonavala would be on top of the monsoon destination list for most Mumbaikars. Wrapped in fog, this historic region gains a completely new avatar in the rains as the forested mountain slopes regenerate and the waterfalls come to life. One of these is Kune Falls, which roars amidst a pristine verdant scenery.

The Lohagad Fort has always been one of the most captivating sites on this route and the monsoon mist gives it an allure straight of a medieval-theme video game or movie. A trek to Liones Point is recommended – the season would require special precautions like monsoon-ready footwear and waterproof clothing. While in Lonavala town, a visit to the lake is not a bad idea.

Khandala
Just next to Lonavala, one can reach the quaint hill town of Khandala, perched at close to 2000 feet above sea level. The mild monsoon temperatures and dramatic scenery make this place an ideal weekend getaway from the bustling metro, not to mention the splendorous drive on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Some of the popular viewpoints here are the Tiger’s Leap and the Amrutanjan Point. Other attractions here include the Buddhist cave temples at Karla and the calm and placid Bhushi Lake.

khandala
The mild monsoon temperatures and dramatic scenery make Khandala an ideal weekend getaway from the bustling metro.

Mahabaleshwar
A jewel tucked in the lap of the mighty Sahyadari Mountains; Mahabaleshwar offers visitors a curious mix of colonial heritage and striking Indian history. Built by Shivaji, Pratapgad Fort has an enigmatic presence in the landscape here, a site of many important events.

Those looking to enjoy some of the high elevations will love a trek to the summit of Wilson Point, famous for its panoramic views of the valley below. The Needle Hole Point is another famous place to catch a glimpse of the scenic landscapes. Venna Lake is another centrepiece attraction at Mahabaleshwar while the hilltop Krishnabai Temple is famous for its architecture and Krishna statue.

More and more travellers are choosing a car rental over public transport. Rates are increasingly affordable and self drive gives total control over the pace of the journey. One can make impromptu stops and detours and there is complete privacy.

Finding a car rental in Mumbai is as simple as a few taps on an app. With platforms like Zoomcar, registered users can book a vehicle in a matter of minutes. One can choose from a wide range of cars – maybe a hatchback or sedan for the family getaway – or maybe a large SUV for the boisterous group road trip. 24/7 on-road support is one of the assurances that self drive rentals offer.

The hills are alive this monsoon. The best way to feel the cool winds and witness the mountain storms is to do it on one’s own terms – behind the wheel.