Ramadan in Kashmir

In Kashmiri diction Ramadan is pronounced as ‘Ramzan’)

Like any other Muslim nation, Ramadan has its special significance in Kashmir. The holy month tends to be boring, no hustle and bustle during nights, no night markets and an eerie silence that is only broken by thousands of mosques reciting Quranic scriptures.Conflict wise, Ramadan is usually the month when historically the pro-independence armed groups call for unilateral ceasefire. On the third of the Ramadan in 1990, Kashmir’s famed armed revolutionary Ashfaq Majeed Wani was martyred by Indian Forces in Srinagar.

A day in the life of a Kashmiri in Ramadan

In old days when there were no alarm clocks, the mohalla commitees would appoint a ‘Sahar Khan‘. Walking in the dark of the night, beating drums, screaming ‘Waqte-Sahar’. Although this is the era of smartphones which have embedded alarm clocks many Mohalla committees still have maintained the tradition.

The Sahar Khan is housed inside the mosque for the entire month usually in the ground floor by the corner side.

At Sahar, the family first starts with a heavy dinner (kuftas are usually made during this month). Then followed by Nun Chai and Tsot (Gyav’Dar Tsot is a saviour as it’s fresh till morning). There’s a strong emphasis on taking lots of water (that bloats tummy like a balloon. Plus dates of course.

There’s always this kid in the family, the youngest and most enthusiastic about observing the fast. But his age factor is not in his favour so he’s not woken up for Sahar.

If this kid wakes up, there are two possibilities:

1) So mad, will watch everyone have Sahar but won’t have it despite the pleading parents. As if punishing the family for not waking them from sleep.

2) Done the above many times and knows that it’s not a good idea. So swallows the pride and eats the meal.

The teenagers usually keep snoozing.

“Wath tsear ha goy” calls the mother

“Yekah paantsch minute” replies the teenager

This five-minute snooze continues until only five minutes are left. So they get up and gobbles anything in those five minutes (slow motion).

Off for prayers, it’s an unbelievable sight to see the mosque jam packed at fajr (it decreases slowly until the end of the month). Awraad Fatiha is recited by more people than usual.

Taapi Sahar

A childhood nightmare. It’s a meal given to kids during the afternoon. There’s usually a fight which ends with a false promise ‘Bas Az yot’.

Once we were playing in the field, and one of my friends was doing the ‘Rozedaar test‘. Basically it involves investigating taste buds and a lot of acting.

So I was a ‘Rozedaar’ in this test performed by my friend Tariq while playing cricket. And here comes my mother armed with Bushqaab. I run away as i am chased through the nettle infested field to the baker’s firewood heap but my mom finally catches me. It feels like food is being pumped in while you are on a hunger strike and the tyrant won’t have it.

All the friends started laughing while my mom was enjoying feeding me.

She left. I followed, head down with ras tchoant.

Post Asr Scenario

After Asr, the waiting time which seems so little but feels as if it were never-ending. The boys are assigned to get bread from the baker. There’s a long line and the smoke from the Tandoor makes the waiting worse. So Tariq who was the baker’s son used to give me a special pass. It’s always good to have friends in the right places.

Iftar

A typical Kashmiri Iftar is nothing without babribyol drink. It consists of basil seeds put in milk with hint of sugar. It’s an iconic drink during Ramadan. There’s the Tsot which is brought after lot of hard work at the Kandur waan. Also the usual dates and water. Rest is additional.

The mosque is swarmed with kids. Kids you knew and kids you never thought existed. Hoarding on the dates and firni boxes brought to the mosque by the neighbours. Usually these kids occupy the last row in the mosque, and are highly stared at by the oldies who are just irritated by their sight. “aaye betchi kath” (here come the hungry sheep)

There are some kids who show signs of leadership as they fight to take the trash bin for date seeds. Or help the mosque with distributing iftar.

During the prayers there’s a lot of coughing which is a signal to the Imam to finish quickly as they want to go home to eat food.

Once the Imam ends the Salah, there’s a huge rush to the exit door. But alas they have to wait as the late comers are still praying. So one person finds a creative path through the maze. Leaping over shoulders, trampling the feet met with scornful looks “kyasa rovui”. The rest of the people follow the path laid by this person.

The kids meanwhile run to the Tehar and gobble it in minutes. Mostly Kashmiris have dinner after Maghrib but some prefer having nun chai with tsot. The wait for Taraweeh starts.

Taraweeh

Following are the people who you’ll find during Taraweeh:

1) Skippers: The young lot who skip Taraweeh to hang around friends and run the entire length of the area until the Taraweeh finishes acting as if they prayed the entire 20.

2) I-stood-up-first-show-offs: Usually these persons will stand up before everyone during the ‘Wabarik wasalim alayhim’. They’ll stand up before the ayat is even read and look behind as if they finished a race. They’ll keep doing this until they are done.

3) I-am-watching-you: These persons usually have a crack in their neck. They’ll always look behind to see who is where and who is late while murmuring the Tasbeeh.

4) Tempo raisers: When the beautiful zikr reaches “nustugfirullahi nasalukul jannati, wa na udhubika min an-naar”  the entire mosque reverberates into a high tempo, you’ll find these people raising their voices to the highest decibel level possible.

5) Imam Ferraris: These Imams are in a race to finish the Taraweeh quickest. If there are two mosques in close vicinity. The Imams are in a competition to outdo in speed with smaller surahs and super quick recitations. Such mosques are more occupied than those with those who read the entire Quran.

6) Once in a blue moon: Such a person will show up only during Shab-e-Qadr rest of the year he’s invisible.

7) Chai Police: During Shab-e-Qadr there’s a group of people who will drink as many chais as they can and eat as many kulchas as possible. Also there are willing volunteers who help with the catering.

8) The Hamamists: During winter Ramadans, the hamam floor is occupied by these people throughout the month. Usually a hub for a lot of conversations from Politics to why the tsot was not fresh today.

When the Taraweeh finishes, the entire valley is quiet. Some people pray in the dark and make the most out of it in the night.

If you haven’t been to Jamia Masjid during the last Friday of the Ramadan or Laylatul Qadr then you have missed an heartfelt mystical and spiritual feeling.

During Ramadan in Kashmir, there’s a strong sense of spirituality in the air. Mystical zikrs keep the heart busy in the remembrance of the Almighty.

p.s: Watch out for the khoshk’ees who will break out in a fight at any given moment during the day. Also the little boys might give false iftar calls.

Stay safe from unscrupulous foundations who are actually fraudsters. Don’t take it to heart if the kids go ‘Rozdaras ropye saas, dehil dees’as mohil taas’ (A thousand rupees for the one who fasts and a strike for the one who didn’t)

Please add more if you can 🙂 Ramadan Mubarak hazraat.

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