Bells Proclaimed Freedom

In the Holy month of Ramadan to us everything around looked celestial



In recapping childhood- my days of innocence and beauty many a time, I fumble for right words. For its lilting rhythm, candor and naturalness, it was a Blake’s poem- love, pity, peace and mercy personified.  Our childhood was hymn personified, truly it was angelic, during the Holy month of Ramadan to us everything around looked   celestial – a tapestry of legends, myths and specters.   
In this column, some time back, I did write how during our childhood the Holy month of Ramadan was greeted in our part of the city. Festivities started a fortnight or so before the Ramadan crescent was sighted. These started with cleaning of the homes and hearth, daubing the walls of the houses with green clay and floors with brown clay. The affluent would get walls of their houses smeared with lime that was commonly called gaa’chh and or with reddish clay that for being imported in the past from Multan a hot city in Western Punjab was known as Multan ma’ach clay. I loved watching my mother and aunt making paste of white clay, mixing it with some green ink   in a big copper cauldron, and making brush out of an old cloth for evenly spreading it on walls of the house. Many a time, I annoyed them by spoiling my hands with this paste- or splashing it on ground by putting a stick in the pot or throwing a pebble in it. 
A week or so before the commencement of the Holy Month after the sunset women, young and old, would gather in a big compound for performing Rouf - singing in chorus folk songs welcoming the advent of the holy month. It was a rare opportunity for women for giving vent to their feelings and expressing themselves without tags.  For most of the songs born spontaneously, it was an opportunity for them to exploit their poetic faculties. Some women used the opportunity for sharing their sufferings with other fellow women and seeking blessings for Allah. Some through these songs yearned for the return of their loved ones who had been exiled and jailed for their political beliefs. These evening festivities brimming with catharsis and supplications continued throughout the month of Ramadan. It is unfortunate that no conscious effort has been made to document the folk songs that for centuries resonated in lanes and by lanes of the city during the month fasting.  These contained fundamental human truths and embody the ‘culture’s belief system.
 My siblings and I craved for sighting the Ramadan moon. Then, it was spotting the crescent often compared to a sword of Islamic warriors was   full of thrill and excitement. It was spotted in water kept in a Doul- a wide-open copper utensil kept on a ‘garden-rooftop’ or in an open compound. Nevertheless, we were never allowed to go up on the roof for fear of falling down.  I do remember having spotted the crescent in water in an open space in our Mohalla on more than one occasion and crying full throat with my friends:  Cha’ander, Cha’ander and go in the street making announcement about the beginning of the month of fasts in by crying hoarsely on the streets.   I do not remember, if it was some Mufti or Molvi that would confirm the sighting of the moon but for us tolling of   the big bell in the minaret of Jamia Masjid was the only confirmation.
No sooner, the bell in the minaret rang louder and louder, it brought out children on the streets- crying with joy and some would lit fires in the backyard of our home.  For us tolling of the bell announcing sighting of moon was no less than proclamation of freedom- freedom from fear of jinni’s and evil spirit that we believed lived  in the mulberry, kicker and celtis australis (brimj) trees in and around our mohalla and roamed freely after at night. More than once grandmother had told us that during the holy month, angels chain jinn’s, demons and evil spirits. For all eleven months, neither my siblings nor me dared to venture out at night and go near a big mulberry tree on the gravesite of some Saiyed Sahib in our Mohalla – who reportedly had accompanied Mir Syed Ali Hamadani to Kashmir.  Encouraged by the words of grandmother out of share innocence during the holy month in pitch dark I went near the mulberry  to see the top jinnee in chains- but to my disappointment never see the jinni in tethered to his abode in massive chains.   

Lastupdate on : Sat, 13 Jul 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 13 Jul 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 14 Jul 2013 00:00:00 IST

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