Those who offer their services are better, nobler, and far more virtuous than those who don’t. The people of our locality never forget the service of the late Sona-Ullah Ganie, nicknamed Soni-Kak, a humble person with a lot of good qualities. Besides the caretaker of the village mosque, he was a well-known Ramadan drummer -Sahar-Khan.
During the month of Ramadan, when most of the people remained in deep slumber at night, he started his walk through the lanes. By-lanes of our village awaken the believers of Islam for pre-dawn meals, chanting loudly Waktay-Sahar, Waktay- Sahar, and singing verses of poetry mainly the couplets of renowned mystic saint Sheikh Noor Din Noorani RA to awaken people and encouraging them to eat and keep fast.
Earlier, his wife accompanied him with a lantern in one hand because there were no street lights in those times, and by another hand, she kept a long wooden rod as a weapon against the dangers of street or wild animals. Later, his growing son replaced the role of his mother as he became bold enough to hold a lantern and a long wooden rod. He always kept his instruments well prepared; did some renovation to his drum if needed before he attended that noble job which he considered as an excellent service towards his community.
One can understand his relevance as the drummer when compared to the situation in the context of the past time when there were no loudspeakers, digital clocks, and mobile phones which we are using nowadays as awakening gadgets.
Neither the harsh nights of winter nor the shortest nights of summer reduced his passion for his job, which he inherited from his forefathers. Even we often saw him during the daytime, but our curiosity grew more and more to see his face at pre-dawn time. Sometimes, we peeped through the window to see him, watching his actions.
During the early 1990s when the political situation of Kashmir was fragile, there was a frequent battle between life and death, most of the drummers quit this job owing to security reasons, but he remained steadfast with his work.
His role was not limited only up to pre-dawn, but at the time of Iftiyar, he used to stand in the middle of the village with the drum near the shop of Haji Gh. Ahmad Bhat Sahab – one of the few people in the village who had a pocket-watch fastened on his half-sleeve coat -Sadiree. We, like the kids watching his movements keenly, staring at his drumsticks, and as soon as Haji Sahab intimated Soni- Kak about the Iftiyar timing, he beat the drum with full power-producing melodic tunes, many people particularly children look forward to watching his performance. In the meantime, Haji Sahab offered each
one of us a special drink -Babribeoul Treish. Then started our excitement time, we as kids roaming around the village, chanting the word Iftiyar, Iftiyar…….After taking the meals, female folk, old or young, married or unmarried assembled at any particular place chanting Kashmiri chorus songs – Rouf till the male members of each family returned from the local mosques after offering the special prayer- Nimaz-Tarayee. The most popular chorus song that they chanted during the holy month of Ramadan was Rathawa Manz, Rathkusyee Jan, and Shubiyun Mahramzan – meaning which month is the holiest month in a year? It is the holy month of Ramadan, the holy month of Ramadan.
At the end of the month, the residents of the neighborhood offered him brown or white rice with a happy mood against the month-long wake-up service he provided. Few People showed more generosity
and gave him Edi -Cash Amount on Eid day. That collected grain and some cash amount gave him timely help to fulfill his economic needs for the rest of the year.
Though, the Muslim community increasingly relies on modern gadgets like loudspeakers, alarm clocks, cell phones but, these old-aged traditions are still prominent in many countries or states, including ours. Let us hope that our next generations also retain this century-old, rich tradition alive in this part of the world- Kashmir.
Haroon Rashid Bhat is a teacher by profession. He can be mailed at [email protected]
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