Get up for ‘sehri’ with a drum beat
By Yasir Ilyas
Ramazan has certain traditions in this part of world, perhaps because a majority of the population of Pakistan comes from rural settings where people have a lot of time to sit together, share one another’s joys and sorrows, and keep the concept of ‘community’ alive. Similarly, urban areas -- particularly the ancient halves of cities -- also have a reflection of this lifestyle. People exchange ‘iftar’ items and collectively enjoy the blessings of Ramazan.
Beating the drum (‘dhol’) is one ancient tradition associated with Ramazan. A man wanders from street to street, beating a drum and calling people to awaken them for ‘sehri.’ There has been a slight modification over years as we now have two men performing this duty in unison. One beats the drum, the other plays the harmonium, and the duo recites verses from popular ‘naats’.
Technological advancements have wiped out the value of traditional drum beaters, but their presence can still be experienced in certain localities of the city. Even though a majority now relies on cell phone alarms, they do not object to these people performing their age-old job. Interestingly, even though the drum beaters and harmonium players are fully aware of the fact that most people have already gotten up before their arrival, they continue with the ritual because it is not only a source of income for them but is also believed to be an act of virtue.
Muhammad Sajjad and Tanveer Mehmood are such two men who roam street to street, reciting verses from the famous ‘naat’ ‘Shah-e-Madina.’ Sajjad beats the drum and Tanveer plays the harmonium. They visit every street of Sir Syed Chowk, Raheemabad, Dhoke Chiraghdin, Chah Sultan and Tipu Road. Both of them are residents of Chah Sultan, a locality on the rear of Benazir Bhutto Hospital.
“We get up at 2 a.m. and set out on the task of waking people up for ‘sehri.’ We know that they use their mobile phone alarms to get up, but we perform this duty as virtue. We serve people by waking them up for a religious obligation. Moreover, we praise Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and so we do so for the sake of virtue,” Muhammad Sajjad said.
Responding to a question, Tanveer Mehmood said, “We do not earn much. After waking people up, we offer our ‘Fajr’ prayers in the mosque of the locality, where people acknowledge and appreciate our effort and pay Rs10 to 20 to us after offering their prayers. We usually visit the locality on weekends, when many people pay us for the service. We also go door-to-door for ‘Eidi’ (cash given on Eid) as a reward for our services. On the average, we manage to earn Rs200-250 per day from this noble activity.”
Come Eid, and these people disappear for the entire year, only to reappear the following Ramazan. During this period, they perform in parties, religious congregations and death anniversaries of ‘sufis’ and saints. Theirs is not an easy duty -- they travel five to eight kilometres daily on foot in search of ‘virtue’ and ‘livelihood.’