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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

The Craft of Distilling Is Ancient, Different Story Behind Every Bottle

The craft of distilling is very ancient and recipes have been handed down generations. To me, food and spirits are very culture-centric and each dish or drink is an experience of this culture and have a lot of story to it.

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The aim is for the curated audience to meet curated brands and learn about their stories. We consciously wanted to create a small, well-curated festival that encourages such conversations amongst the visitors," Prakash elaborated. Pixabay

Every bottle of alcohol has a tale to tell and to celebrate this, over 20 international masters, distillers, mixologists and story tellers will gather in Mumbai over the weekend on a platform that celebrates the craft of distillers and distilleries. It will also be a rite of passage for the new consumer who is open to experiencing luxury beverages that are a product of passion and commitment and are produced in small batches, without any compromise on quality.

“Every bottle has a tale, waiting to be shared – of its founder, of the distiller, of the wood in which it lay, of the people who built the spirit, of the mixologist who decided to `play’ with it and more. Listen, learn and celebrate the people behind the spirits,” Keshav Prakash, who began his career as an advertising filmmaker and then travelled the world to discover the world of fine spirts, told IANS of The Vault Biennale at the Mahalakshmi Race Course.

“The craft of distilling is very ancient and recipes have been handed down generations. To me, food and spirits are very culture-centric and each dish or drink is an experience of this culture and have a lot of story to it.

“For example, making whiskey is a tradition native to Scotland, much like rum to the Caribbean, Mezcal to the Mexico and so on. These are parts of their values and teachings handed over from generation to generation, with much love and celebration, making it an intrinsic part of a living culture,” Prakash explained.

bottle
will also be a rite of passage for the new consumer who is open to experiencing luxury beverages that are a product of passion and commitment and are produced in small batches, without any compromise on quality. Pixabay

The event is open to only 400 aficionados each day.

“We envision two kinds of visitors at the Biennale – one who are newly immersing themselves in fine spirits and others who know their single malt, gin, whiskey etc. The aim is for the curated audience to meet curated brands and learn about their stories. We consciously wanted to create a small, well-curated festival that encourages such conversations amongst the visitors,” Prakash elaborated.

Also Read: The Unconventional Way of Learning: Textbooks Come Alive in Gujarat’s Schools
What will be on offer?

Over 50 handpicked fine beverage brands like Kilchoman Machir Bay, Rémy Martin, Cotswolds Gin, and Amrut Peated Port Pipe. Leading the audience will be mixologists from World’s 50 Best Bars, among them Hiroyasu Kayama of Tokyo, Alex Simonidis & Georgia Georgakopoulou of Athens and Jose Luis Leon of Mexico City. (IANS)