“Return to home before the nightfall”, you used to tell me whenever I used to go out. Waking up early, before the Sunrise was another instruction you always insisted upon. Don’t you know, the night never falls on this city now as the blinding street lights, the colourful television screens and hi-tech mobiles stay alit all the night? The Sun continues to rise, but there are no mornings as the concrete walls and sophisticated ceilings have barred the zephyr from entering our rooms, restricted Sunlight from piercing the darkness of our souls and muzzled the melodious songs of birds from stirring our ears. It is not that we do not wake up, but we are no longer woken up by Fajr Azaan, we instead wake up to the call of morning hunger, to the official exigency, to the Facebook notifications, to the tweets of people, to our Wats App messages. Friends no longer have time for hour long conversation on Masjid Soufa after Fajr, for they are either absent from attendance or too busy to attend the call to mundane world. Friends are not seen going to that river side that now seems to have been abandoned altogether, festered by marsh, indwelled by dogs and seen, not as something call to yore but a space to be done away with. Women are no longer seen with pots over their heads rushing to fetch water from rivers and gone are their gossips they used to have by riverside. Do you know, fortunately, the darkness of night is still ruptured by the voice of Muazzin, but the roads that led people to Makhdoom Sahib early morning are more or less desolated? We have discovered jogging parks, gyms and sports stadiums to rush to and we have been promised that they will bring us health and hail. Nobody climbs the stairs of Makhdoom Sahab and Ashmuqam shrine to transcend the world. We do still reach atop, praying for concrete houses and cars, for things we left behind – there is something mysterious about gravity, it pulls our bodies as wells as souls back to earth. The chorus of Aurad I fateh doesn’t rise any higher from the minaret of Khankah. I too was there, I too tried to rise my voice and stir the spirits, but I too was taken over by sleep and yawning. How was it that you read aloud and kept reading the whole day? Do you know what has happened to your copy of Aurad I Fateh, Of Kibriyat I Ahmer, of Dalail Ul Khairat? Time has put layers over layers of dust over them, bookworms indwell them and they are now stationed in attic, not as even relics, but as garbage to be sold someday to garbage dealers. I am trying to preserve them from the robbery of time – but how long? You left this mansion and wealth, had you left an iota of the tradition behind, the Aurad would have been sung in home every morn and night as you used to. Now nobody has touched it in ages, for how shall those who get up late and have to leave early for taming body can have any consideration for the wants of spirit. Ammi no longer prepares Samovar and nor do we cluster around it like beads of a rosary in the morning. Tea is kept in thermal flasks now and we have it in instalments by the time sun is already overhead. Sattu is no longer seen moving from hand to hand, adding taste to tea, for we have ordered artificial chemicals to polish our tea and poison our body. The wood logs we had stocked in attic to fuel our heart have been long discarded, for the rice-cookers and induction heaters have taken the place of hearth, promising us comfort – but no consolation. The chimney stands extinguished, the hearth blown off!
We have been spared of the burden to decor ourselves with long robes and elegant turbans as we prepare for office and market. We have rather been told to wear modern up to date clothes, forget our individuality and identity and for the sake of participating in global village, betray the customs and traditions of our own native village. You remember the footfall at Habba Kadal, where Muslims and their Pandit brethren walked in chorus creating an aura of brotherhood of love and affection rarely to be seen elsewhere in the world? Now its span seems shrunk, its embankments deserted and the bridge itself has been taken over by its “New Parallel”. The Baba Demb, where you boarded a boat to Dargah has been hijacked by Macadamised road and concrete buildings. The Sumos still carry few devotees to Dargah – Hazratbal, but what about fervour, faith and devotion? They seem to have been buried under the road too. That Temple in the middle of Baba Demb, it has been abandoned since ages, nobody enters its precincts and the bells are silent. Sometimes while sititng in my attic, I used to listen to the chants from Ganpatyar Mandir, but now no longer does air carry those waves to my ears. The case with Darood O Azkaar from shrines is no different, for the doctors of religion have banned all these sacred activities. I stand, all alone, in my loneliness, in soliloquy, now reciting the naat then humming the lila – I am the singer, the song and the listener.
The wheel of time, in perpetual motion as it is, has taken turns and twists, too harsh to acclimatise to. The coordinates, space and time all seem to have suffered inversion and I stand hallucinated in the midst of all this. The progress neither ought to be nor will be opposed, the direction of time can’t be reversed, nor the motion of wheel retarded. I am not lamenting the idea of ease, the case for prosperity, the call for progress. What presses my heart is the dissipation of all values we held closer to our heart, the dissolution of moods and mores we were inheritors to. When the window opens towards riverside now, no longer I see women gossiping nor do I see men taking a dip. A blood stained shirt stays afloat in my dreams and the piercing bullet shots across the river wake me up from my sleep.