One fine morning he left our locality never to return
NOSTALGIA BY Z.G.M
Shrines were sanctuaries. That is how I remember most of the shrines in my childhood. It is longtime since I last visited a shrine in wee hours of the morning. I, in fact, got disconnect with the shrines and mausoleum in my birth place after I took a job in Bombay. In the mad rush of this glittering and fast growing metropolis where every morning five to six million people descended on the Church Gate Railway station and same number left in the evening after doing their job, I was one amongst the millions who in their endeavors for becoming iconic figure in this city of dreams lose their identity. Living on a top floor of a six story building near Sasoon Docks with windows opening on two sides towards the sea, I often tried to search for my jetty in this sea city. It were two shrines- Makdoom Baba and Bahuddin Baba, sounding very familiar to me that provided me some kind of cultural affinity with this city that had long before cradled young Muhammad Ali Jinnah as a political icon and allowed Dilip Kumar to emerge as a great star of the celluloid world. But, it was the cultural ambience of these shrines that often painfully reminded me that painfully I was not in my land.
I do not know as of now, if the shrines in my birth burg retain the same cultural ambience that made distinct from the shrines in the sub-continent or like our culture and social ethos they have undergone a sea change. I however, have very vivid impressions about the morning scenarios in our childhood at most of the shrines in our locality. Much before the rays of morning sun added glow to the golden spires of these shrines these places of spirituality pulsated with life. They bubbled with activity when boys would be still inside the bed. Thursdays and Mondays would attract large number of devotes from all over the city to the shrine atop the Koh-Maran but many a shrine in our locality would be full of life on all days.
Every day at dawn devotees with offerings: fuming huge tea samovars and traditional Kashmiri breads in willow baskets; rice cooked in turmeric spruced with fried onions and rice cooked in sugar and turmeric and semolina sugar pudding (halwa) would arrive at the shrine. It is believed that this tradition of offering has come into our land from the Central Asian states and Persia along with caravans from these places. Some believe that rice-cooked-in-turmeric is indigenous. I very remember how these offerings brought joy on the faces of mendicants and travelers who had stayed for the night at the shrine or in the nearby mosque.
History tells us about constructions of inns by the Sultans and the Moguls but this culture had died much before we were born. In our childhood the travelers would pass their night or two inside the shrines or in mosque adjacent to these shrines. Every day after the dusk many travelers would arrive in our locality. Many of them would be patients from far and distant villages. They reached in our locality for consulting some top Hakims and bone setters. In those days, when word-of-mouth was the only mode of communication, stories of some Hakims (physicians) and bone setters of our locality having miraculous curing powers had travelled far and wide.
Some of these patients arrived in the city with cooked rice sprinkled with some dried vegetable wrapped in a cloth. And those that carried no food with them would be served by both well-to-do and not those well-to-do families. I do not remember a single when a patient traveler or mendicant staying in a mosque or shrine would go empty stomach to sleep. Those staying at shrines were better off than those staying mosque outside the shrines. They would be pampered by people as devotees of the saints. I still remember how I was sent by my uncle many times to find out if there was a mendicant or traveler staying in the shrine in the vicinity of our home. Many times I carried bowl full of rice spread over with vegetable to the shrine.
It were not only the patients from villages and other travelers that took shelter in the shrines and mosque but many people in search of spiritual attainments made shrines as their permanent abodes. Decades after, images of some hermits roll before my eyes as do the black and white movies from local television channels. The memoirs of some of these ascetics are as fresh as the happenings after June 11.
I do remember how my imagination ran wild on watching hermits with their heads drowned inside their long tunics touching their ankles sitting against a Chinar tree for hours together in all weathers. The vagaries of winter did not put them off. Sitting under stark naked tree they looked to me heavenly.
More than an ascetic sitting against Chinar trees or one with eyes shut counting the beads of a rosary it were the majzoobs arriving in the shrines that aroused my curiosity. I do remember glowing face stately majzoob that never wore shoes or sandals and walked on the frozen road in sub-zero with same comfort as in early summers and springs. But, more than the sparkle in the eyes much sought after majzoob it was a boy, some years older to me who aroused curiosity in most of the boys in our locality.
It was during a chilly winter that he arrived at the shrine. He was not wearing any woolens and had wrapped himself in a sheet made out of an old gunny bag, and for this he was nick named as Teehali-Tat. He also wore no shoes and walked barefooted on the snow and ice. I do remember that by pulling his gunny sheet and calling him by nickname we tried to play pranks with him but he never reacted and many a times laughed them out. It took us sometime to realize that he was not a child like us- then stories about him started spreading in the locality. He did not pass his nights in warm mosques or the shrine. None of the boys in the Mohalla knew where he spent his nights. It was after sometime that we learnt that he was passing his nights inside the coffin outside the hospice. He slipped into the coffin late in the night and came out in the mornings. Many a time I and my friends thought of opening the lid of the coffin when he was inside but we never dared to do it. It was the horror stories about men living inside coffins that prevented us. It was much later that we learnt that many a majzoob as a part of training for gaining spiritual highest lived inside coffins…and the young majzoob lived in our locality after completing this spell of arduous training will not dwell inside coffin.
One fine morning he left our locality never to return.
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Lastupdate on : Sat, 30 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 30 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 31 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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