Grand Bonfires

Many in our childhood attributed the loss of barakat to the closure of the Srinagar-Rawalpindi Road



My childhood, many a time looks to me like a mythical folktale- with lots of invisible folks, lost in their own happy-go-lucky world weaving a happy dream world.   
Ours was really a fabulous world exuding with all joviality. Those were the days of scarcity, strange but true people in our childhood had no grievances against poverty instead they saw their days as full  of ‘barakat’… a phenomenon that speaks about people enjoying inner peace, a sense of deep satisfaction and faith. If they had any grouse, it was against loss of barakt, that they believed was slowly vanishing from the society. 
Many in our childhood attributed the loss of barakat to the closure of the Srinagar-Rawalpindi Road or the Jhelum Valley Road- the road that connected Kashmir to rest of the world.  Elders that had travelled on this road turned nostalgic about the scenic beauty of this road and   people living in smaller hamlets along the road.  Their experiences about travelling to far and distant lands in the Central Asia through this road with huge caskets of artifacts and returning with lots of money and porcelain and other goods of beauty sounded to us fairytales. They brightened our faces with joy but many a time while narrating their experiences the their faces drooped like weeping willows and they yearned for the days when they would once again be able to  travel hassle free  to those lands  of plenty  with their goods.  
I have very vivid impressions about how the closure of this road had affected not only the families that traded through this road but all and sundry- the needle worker, the woodcarver, the carpet weaver and the silver smith.  Families of many of my friends had lost all their fortune.  Their palatial houses had tales of desolation to tell but what was beautiful about them they had not lost their poise, calm and dignity.
Ours is the nation of great resilience - eating plain rice spruced with red chilies, we have learnt making best out of adversity and poverty.  The greatest trait of this nation has been that we have mastered art of adding a great festivity even to the solemn religious occasions. This attribute has enabled us to add a great festivity to the holiest month of the Muslim calendar - the month of Ramadan, from the day of its commencement to the sighting of Shawwal moon. Of all the days, the solemnest day   of Shab e Qadr used to be for children a great day of festivity.
I remember,   for celebrating Shaba-e-Qadr - and making it a big festive occasion we started preparations   two or three days in advance.   We gathered on a shop-front or on the lawns of the grand Masjid  to chalk out a three-day program for collecting donations in cash and kind. We divided ourselves in three different groups and moved in three different directions for collecting donations. it was full of thrill and excitement. For making fund raising campaign effective we invented slogans - most of the slogans were born spontaneously.   Going from door to door through narrow lanes and by lanes of our Mohalla we raised full throat slogans  Onien te onien asi Gachi Donien, (Give us two annas), Onien te Onien asi Gachi Chonien (Give us four annas) and oopi ate oopi asi Gachi Rupa (Give us a rupee). Those who donated liberally would earn a kudos from the children - Hurkat-ta-Harkat Yeth Garas Barakat (May Allah bless this house). And the miser who did not open their tight fists earned a curse, “Hugar-te-Huagar yeth Garas Gagar (May rats infest your house).
Besides, coins we also asked people to donate rice, cereals and firewood. Every boy had a job assigned and the stout amongst us had to a gunny bag on his back for collecting rice. The donations thus collected were pooled at one place. From the collected money, we mostly bought candles, earthen lamps and oil for illuminating our Mohalla and hospice on during the blessed night. Some boys would engage themselves in cooking the collected rice with turmeric in big traditional cauldron borrowed from one or other neighbor- this yellow rice doused with oil and spruced with roasted onions was distributed amongst the boys and passersby.
The grandest of the occasion was the bonfire- a pyramid of logs of wood would be erected in the middle of the road and then it would be put on fire.  I have no idea how this tradition of making a bonfire on Shab-e-Qadr had become part of our culture.  

Lastupdate on : Sat, 27 Jul 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 27 Jul 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 28 Jul 2013 00:00:00 IST

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