Abdul Rashid has been faithfully “drumming up” a neighborhood of Rawalpora in Srinagar every Ramadan for the past 12 years. Walking with his drum for miles through the deserted in-roads, streets and back alleys in the dark of the night at 2.30am to 3.30am, Rashid doesn’t tire out for he knows his getting dual rewards and blessings – from Allah and the people. He does this for the whole month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is observed in the Islamic calendar as the month of fasting. People get up very early in the wee hours of the morning for the pre-dawn meal as they have to observe fast throughout the day, for up to 16 and a half hours, till dusk. The morning meal is called Sehri, thus the name Sahar Khan for the traditional drum beaters. Muslims, in the month of Ramadan, observe fast from sunrise and break their fast, a few minutes before sunset. They abstain from food and drink for the entire day. And in the iftar, that is breaking fast, they normally consume a glass of water, dates or juices followed by dinner.
50-year-old Rashid said its heartening to see lights flicking on in houses when people wake up to his drum beats. Waqt-e-sahar, waqt-e-sahar, he cries as he beats the dream. It means wake up, wake up. Eat your morning meal! “I have been doing this for the past 12 years. And I consider it a blessing.”
He shared that things have been difficult for the past couple of years. “Since the 2014 floods, Kashmir, especially Srinagar has had a tough time. Then there was the Burhan Wani encounter uprising followed by Uri Strike, Pulwama attack, Balakot Strike wherein India and Pakistan nearly came to a full-fledged war in early 2019 then the abrogation of Article 370 which ensued into a total lockdown of the valley and no telecommunication or internet service for up to eight months. And then the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “Kashmir…Srinagar, we Kashmiris never got the chance to get back on our feet.
Sahar Khans, like Rashid, live in nearly every locality of Kashmir and they can be found waking up the valley during the month of Ramadan. As a show of gratitude, as the month of fasting nears its end, people either give generous amounts of money or grains.