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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
  • 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.”

ALSO READ:

  • 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

Next Story

Crossing Railway Tracks in Mumbai? Yamraj will Find you and Teach you a Lesson. Literally

This Yamraj ji saves lives

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Railway, Mumbai, Yamraj
As per Hindu mythology, Yamraj is the lord of death and justice. Wikimedia Commons

The Western Railway on Thursday launched an innovative campaign in Mumbai to spread awareness, save lives and discourage trespassing.

In pictures shared by the Western Railway on micro-blogging site Twitter, a person dressed as Yamraj is seen carrying people attempting to cross railway tracks on his shoulder.

As per Hindu mythology, Yamraj is the lord of death and justice.

“This Yamraj ji saves lives. He catches people who are endangering their lives by trespassing the railway tracks, only to save them. This Yamraj picks up people to release them safely. Please do NOT cross tracks, it’s dangerous,” the Western Railway tweeted.

Railway, Mumbai, Yamraj
In pictures shared by the Western Railway on micro-blogging site Twitter, a person dressed as Yamraj is seen carrying people attempting to cross railway tracks on his shoulder. Wikimedia Commons

The post from Western Railway has gone viral and attracted hundreds of memes, jokes and funny reactions.

Here are some reactions on the Yamraj tweet:

A women tweeted: “It’s very nice social message to teach valuable lesson to those commuters not following the safety rules #Andheri #Yamraj. Hope people learn from this awareness drive for their own wellbeing.”

“At #andheristation, new initiative taken against people who is crossing railway track #yamraj is coming to pick them up,” another user tweeted.

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A person with the usnername @srivastava_neh tweeted: “#Yamraj on Special duty! Kudos to @WesternRly & #RPF for this innovative awareness campaign about the dangers of trespassing & crossing railway lines. Other zone must come up with the similiar ideas in order to curb the menace.”

“Personal safety is important and there is always someone waiting. So don’t let “Yamraj” wait for you. Don’t cross railway line by foot but use foot over bridge. Same should while crossing Highways,” another tweet read. (IANS)