On the eve of Eid-e-Milad-un Nabi, the birth anniversary of the holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), every year, my memory of an incident at the revered mosque of Assar-e-Sharief Dargah Hazratbal, Srinagar gets refreshed.
Although a pretty long time has gone by, yet the 17 long years’ reminiscence about how I lost my new shoes at the shrine is still on my mind. Those days as kids, we called it mela (fair) which usually would come in summer season. I know everyone in my village, those days, would eagerly wait for this day to come. Even in school, children would inform each other about the arrival Milad in so excited a manner.
Most of the children were taken along by their parents to Hazratbal, Srinagar which that time seemed too far a place to travel. Unlike other children in my school, my desire to participate in Milad celebrations was so strong that I would not miss the religious occasion at any cost. That time, it would hardly need a person Rs.100 to go to Hazratbal, Srinagar from Rafiabad. However, due to rising prices nowadays, even Rs.500 seems too inadequate for a person for the same journey.
I recall, due to financial-strains I had to cry loudly for at least an hour at my home to acquire rupees 100 from my parents for Dargah fair. Shall I ever pay back to my beloved mother? It was of course she, who would arrange Rs.100 for me to visit Dargah, Hazratbal. Arranging one hundred rupees those days was like passing the ‘preliminary’ part of civil service examination whose ‘mains’ was ‘who would a person go with?’ Allah almighty bless my mom with long life and good health. She, in order to fulfill this wish of mine, would hand me over to a responsible person of a group from the village.
Unlike present times, those days, groups (tooliyan) would leave for Dargah, Hazratbal shrine to have the glimpse of the holy relic of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him). However, going with a group from the village did suit me only up to 8th standard. In class 9th, I was mature enough to visit the shrine all alone. I very vividly remember, how during an Eid-Milad-un Nabi (SAW) celebration, I lost my new shoes that my father had so fondly purchased for me. I would lovingly call it ‘gola-boot’ (attractive shoes) which cost my father Rs.800 then. But who knew that it will get stolen at Dargah during Milad occasion.
I’d often pack dinner along. But that day my mom had given me some extra money as I had refused to take any food along. On reaching Hazratbal shrine, I felt so excited to see so many people having congregated at the place for the night-long prayers.
But my happiness was followed by grief! During evening time, the whole silvery-white mosque of Hazratbal shrine looked so magnificent that one felt ecstatic. The splendid reflection of the lights from the waters of Dal Lake, the hustle and bustle of devotees and their resounding supplications made the place abuzz with celebrations.
During this auspicious occasion, sitting for the ‘shub’ (night-long prayers) is as important as
having the glimpse of the holy relic the next day. I recall, how I went inside for the night- long prayers, and kept my new shoes at shoe-rack not knowing that it will get stolen. Due to huge rush of devotees at the shrine that day, I could not reach the outer entry-point where I had placed it.
Every one else was handing over his shoes/slippers to a person at the entrance for paid protection but my stupidity, I just kept it on the shelf that too on first door towards the north! After the night-long prayers were over, in the morning I was totally shocked to find my new gola-boot missing. O, what an agony was it to search it everywhere later. After checking the shoes of almost every devotee around, I went towards the announcement-cabin to make an announcement that I had lost my shoes. But, that too was in vain.
When I again came back, bare feet, towards the same rack where I had kept it, an elderly man, who saw me crying, consoled me. He cursed the thief and suggested me to wear the only worn-out slippers that were lying there. After wearing those old slippers, I wiped-off my tears and left towards the front-side of the shrine only to soothe myself by sitting at Dal steps. Everyone was so busy in his own life but I was alone in my grief. Due to night long prayers, I felt so fatigued and had no option but to leave for home.
No doubt, every year lot more changes for the comfort of the devotees yet on the eve of Eid-Milad-un Nabi (SAW) many complain about the losing their belongings. The officials of the J&K Wakf Board who oversee the affairs of this shrine, besides laying emphasis on following strictly Covid-19 SOPs, should ensure that a separate CCTV surveillance room is kept all time ready to redress the problems of the devotees during Eid-Milad-un Nabi (SAW) at Dargah Hazratbal.
May this day bring peace, prosperity, happiness and strengthen the very bond of harmony and brotherhood among the people of J&K. Ameen