Having been forewarned about the possibility of losing my way in Mina and the danger of a stampede at the Jamarat, it was but natural to feel worried before reaching there. Our group, called Maktab, numbered 48, started its hajj days on 8 zulhija itself. From Makkah, we were taken by buses to Mina and from there by metro to Arafat, Muzdalifa, Jamarah-ula and back to the tent city, where we had to spend three nights. The entire Maktab was accommodated at Pole No 16/56 in between the two roads, one leading to the Jamarat and another leading to Masjid Khaev. My fear was over when, from Muzdalifa, we were taken to Jamarah-ula by metro early in the morning, the time scheduled by the Saudi Government, and I found stoning the Jamarah-ula very easy. Since, this time, Saudi authorities had fixed different timings for different groups, there was absolutely no possibility of a stampede or huge crowding at these sites. We footed the distance from Jamarat to the tent, No 5; my wife had been accommodated in tent No 9, a separate tent for ladies. It was an 80×18 ft tent where 140 pilgrims were accommodated in four rows, each row with 36 beddings of 2×4 ft size; tent No 9 had 60 occupants.
The width of the bedding was such that if you didn't take care in turning to your right or left side, you would surely fall on your neighbours on either side. Beddings weren't a problem as such, as we realized that we didn't have to spend life in the tent. It was actually the ACs—two in each tent—that made living in them difficult. Two huge Japan-made-ACs that were fitted across the width of the tent should have normally kept the tent cooler, but because of the carelessness of the authorities, they remained more or less useless. The tent should have been fixed well, leaving no scope for the outside hot wind to enter there. However, we found that there was a very large opening at the mouth of the ACs, through which the hot wind came in and rendered the ACs useless. Also, the side walls were not so well fixed as to make the ACs work efficiently. When we complained about it to the Muelim, he showed his inability to rectify the wrong. As the outside temperature had touched 50 degrees Celsius, I found the situation hard to bear. Accommodating 140 pilgrims in a small tent and not providing adequate AC facility was something that worried us all. At times, it became rather difficult to sleep, and people would move from one place to another in order to get some air from the ACs. Religious obligations notwithstanding, spending time in a tent is a real ordeal. However, moving about the city and to and fro travel to Jamarat was absolutely no problem.
This time, the Saudi authorities had scheduled the stoning of the devil for each group. Before the commencement of the hajj, we were given a card containing Muelim's name, Maktab No, the site at Mina and the timings for Jamarat. As our tent was 1.6kms away from the Jamarat, we faced absolutely no difficulty in stoning the devils from 10-12 zulhija. The fear that, God forbid, we could be caught in a stampede, went away on 10th itself when Jamarah-ula was stoned; stoning the three devils—on 11 and 12 zulhija—was even easier. This time, it was an incident-free stoning. I realise how difficult it must have been for earlier pilgrims, before ACs were there, to live in these tents. But, now there is no reason for the authorities not to make the living comfortable as the tents are fire-proof and no cooking is allowed there. It is really surprising that the Saudi authorities aren't taking care to see whether the tents can give comfort to the pilgrims, and that the pilgrims are left high and dry to brace the dry and hot winds that make even breathing difficult.