Friday, November 14, 2014

Companions of Hajj: Dekh mera Zauq o Shauq (Yearning and Passion)

Hajj kay Saathi (Companions of Hajj): See my Passion and Yearning

This year Arif bhai went for his second Hajj and all through the trip he kept on recalling the saathis (group fellows) of that first Hajj of 1996 in which I also accompanied. When I talked on Skype with Arif Bhai after the hajj, I found him emphasizing again and again that everything seems to have changed from what we saw during that first hajj; the fervor seems to be no more visible, the buildings that we saw at that time were gone, the bazaars that existed then are gone, the small eateries run by Bengalis and offering chatpatta desi food seem to have disappeared, the local touch from the shops is gone, the view of  haram as we witnessed then is no longer there; there is new construction everywhere, new building complexes, new malls,  upscale shops, trendy restaurants and the haram is now dwarfed and engulfed by the commercial highrises all round, and above all the local homily touch that we felt then seems to have disappeared.
I think it is not the buildings, bazaars, or shops or locale that he is missing. He is actually missing the company of our group, specifically that of the buzurgs with whom we performed that Hajj. Gone are they, the old familiar faces: Four of the buzurgs from our group of ten hajjis who went for the 1996 hajj are no longer with us. Gone is the mother of Arif Bhai with whom he was so attached. Gone are my parents around whom my life then was rooted; gone is my mother who was not only my counselor, but also someone whom I looked up to for advice throughout my life. I have now realized that she was also a source of counseling and guidance to the stream of visitors who used to frequent our house. Gone is my father whose great expectations always beckoned me higher and higher.  Gone is Rauf mamoo who had this capacity of making everyone around him feel so special and so close. His commands and control during that hajj were intended to make our visits transformed in to troop movements, which thankfully often did not work out as planned, but were nevertheless useful for keeping us on our toes.

We cherish that hajj of 1996 for so many wonderful memories. Whenever we would relate stories of that hajj, people often ask, "Were you there for the Hajj or had you gone there for a picnic adventure?" How can we explain that the trip was preceded by so many preparations, was looked forward to with so much anticipation and was undertaken with so much  devotion by the buzurgs accompanying us that it became a great event for everyone of us. Each meal time became a party; the simple food bought from the corner Bengali dhaabba (joint) became a celebration. Converting the labban (yogurt) bought from the corner store into lassi by putting it in a 2-liter water bottle with ice and milk and shaking it vigorously  became a much looked forward process that produced the most delicious of all the drinks. The relish with which food items were picturesquely described by Anees Mamoo is now legendary. We don't know how he managed to get away from his job at Taif every other day and drove down to Mekkah to give us company and specifically to his childhood friend and cousin Rauf Mamoo. Everyone listened spellbound to the graphic description by Anees Mamoo of baray-baray (big) peaches and baray-baray tarbooz (water melons) bought from the expedition to the sabzi mandi (vegetable market) of Mekkah where they were carefully selected with so much zest. Cutting and eating such fruit was accompanied by the fond recollections of many such baray baray fruits consumed elsewhere. The decorum with which food was laid out on the dastarkhwan on the floor mat, and the way everyone huddled together around it to consume it with so much relish reminded one of dawat e shiraz. Each mealtime turned into a mehfil with riveting stories: Stories told by Rauf Mamoo and Anees Mamoo of the time spent together in Hyderabad and stories of adventures of the shikaar (hunting) expeditions provided excitement and suspense. Fervent remembrances of the people who had passed away, riveting anecdotes from the culture that has vanished, trials and tribulations of the hard times following the 1947 migration, and of course the warmth of the connectedness of the extended family and the mutual help that was readily offered and accepted with grace and returned in kind. There was so much shukr expressed around these mehfil events that they became prayers to the bounties of Allah. The environment made each trip to haram an enjoyable and fulfilling expedition, each umra became an event which was looked forward to and each of the manasik became a pleasure filled event not withstanding the effort and strain. There was this beneficence of Allah that made our Hajj trip so much full of ease, comfort and barakah.

I think the intention of Arif Bhai, Bhabhi, my eldest sister, my brother and myself for that hajj was primarily to enable the hajj of the buzurgs accompanying us to be as comfortable as possible. Three of these buzurgs were to do the hajj on wheel chairs because of their age related infirmities and health reasons. The trip accordingly had to be planned to make their journey as exertion free as possible. This provided us with a sense of purpose to plan for and a sense of duty to diligently schedule the activities and to meticulously prepare the necessary list of required items, so that we can enable the buzurgs to complete all their manasiks of hajj satisfactorily. There was this selfless and single minded devotion that energized and kept us oriented throughout the months that we prepared for before the trip, and throughout the 40 days that we spent in Makkah and Medina.

    This preparation and planning was necessary because this was the decade of the 1990s and there were no private luxury tour packages, only general governmental arrangements. That was the decade in which we used to hear about the shocking news of hundreds of people getting trampled during jumraat one year, hundreds of people dying of suffocation and trampling in stampedes in the tunnels the next year, hundreds of people burning to death in fires breaking out in the tents at Mina one year or the following year. We heard alarming stories of hujjaj who had gotten separated from their group members, who had gotten lost and could not find their way back to their camp for days, who wandered for hours from one place to another not knowing where to go, who lost their papers and money, and who had gotten dehydrated in the heat; hujjaj not being able to make it to Arafat on time, or not being able to spend night at muzdalifa, or not completing the rammi, or not being able to complete the stipulated rituals, or herded in suffocating buses and stuck among smoke emitting vehicles for hours in traffic jams....

    Some of the returnees of the 1995 Hajj alerted us to the need for taking our parents to Hajj as soon as possible. 1996 was therefore decided to be the year we had to fulfill this farz.  My eldest sister's agreement to join us on Haj and give company and support to my mother made the decision still more easy. My brother's plan to join our group at Hajj directly from USA, further boosted the overall spirits, as now we had two young males to wheel Ammi and Abba.

    To my amazement, planning for hajj suddenly got my father and mother energized. I couldn't believe the speed with which they came out from their recluse in which I found them on my return to Pakistan. They had mostly confined themselves to their rooms and were often reporting one or the other infirmities while resting most of the time. However, once the hajj plan was confirmed, the improvement in their energy and activity was remarkable. Starting from a condition where mother would refuse travel by car to even her daughter's house a few kilometers away often terming it as too strenuous, she not only started preparing for long walks, but also started training for the arduous journey and long waits in traffic jams that she had heard were customary at Hajj. She started with 5 minutes of walk in the court-yard, and started increasing the time gradually. Remarkably, within a few weeks she was walking after fajr for about an hour and for another hour before Maghreb. This practice that she started then continued till a few months before her last. My father got similarly energized in his prayers at the mosque and started participating in long walks after fajr with a group of namaazis. The group would go for about an hour long walk every day. He also started regularly going for a weekly dars that used to rotate among the houses of these mosque colleagues.

      Soon my parents had a list of people who had recently returned from hajj and an itinerary of sorts started getting developed. I was often given a schedule of whom to visit when. Visits to these contacts were pre-scheduled. We then would visit them and conduct "in-depth" interviews, where they would explain their experiences, the issues that were confronted, the hardships that were faced, and other travel details. We attended several hajj preparation workshops at mosques where they explained the processes and the manasiks. We also saw several documentaries on the subject. Soon, a list of items started taking shape; travel items, support items, dresses, shoes, chappals, toiletries, books, finances, food, snacks, numbers, and whatever was mentioned. Books relating to hajj travels were obtained, instruction guides were obtained, and a resource base started getting built.

      As the news about our hajj program had travelled in the family. The first to approach us for accompanying in the hajj group was Rauf Mamoo and Momani. Now the discussions about the preparations invariably included them, and they started regularly participating in such planning meetings. With the introduction of Rauf Mamoo in the trip party, and his strict army officer training, we soon knew that he would be the commanding the hajj "mission". Then, I learned that my younger sister's in laws would also be accompanying us; her mother-in-law, and Arif Bhai, brother-in-law and his wife. Arif Bhai's wife would provide the support and company to Arif Bhai's mother.  Although we had been meeting Arif Bhai in the family get togethers, but this trip would eventually provide us with a wonderful opportunity to know each other and develop a friendship and association that is at a much higher plane than whatever I have experienced before or since. Haj associations are special because they are for a higher purpose and not tainted by the worldly interests.

      I will describe a few memorable events from that Hajj.

      This is early morning, it has taken us the whole night to travel from Jeddah to Mekkah after waiting for hours in line to see the Saudi nincampoops at the Jeddah airport taking five hours to complete the counting of a contingent of haajis of about 200 [which is a story telling separately in a later post]. Anees Mamoo first took us to the lodgings rented for us  near Kubri al Mansoor on Shahrahe Khalil for freshening up and then we went to Haram after fajar: Ammi is with me and we have entered from Bab-e-Fahd and we are slowly making our way towards the Mutaaf. After turning around a corner, we found ourselves getting our first eye contact with Kaaba. I would never forget the zauq o shauq in Ammi that I saw there: I found Ammi to have frozen in the state in which she first laid her eyes on Kaaba. Her gaze was fixated at the Kaaba and she was reciting duas that she had memorized for this very moment and seemingly all the prayers that she could recall and could say.  I saw the tears running down her cheeks. She must have been looking forward to this moment for Allah knows how long. While growing up in the 1960s-80s, we were never in a financial position to afford this fard. Ammi must have been praying for this moment for so long. It appeared as if Ammi would not let go of this time and these prayers. She must have stood there for a good half hour reciting one dua after another, praying for one thing after the other. Eventually she lowered her gaze, offered a couple of nafils and then moved towards Mutaaf for the tawaf.

      Kafir-E-Hindi Hun Main, Dekh Mera Zauq-O-Shauq
      Dil Mein Salat-O-Durood, Lab Pe Salat-O-Durood

      An Indian infidel, perchance, am I; But look at my fervour, my ardour.
      ‘Blessings and peace upon the Prophet,’ sings my heart.
      ‘Blessings and peace upon the Prophet,’ echo my lips.

      This is Masjid e Nabvi and I am in Riaz ul Jannah with Rauf Mamoo. We have just completed our nafils, and he had started moving towards Roza-e-Rasool. Those were the times when one can still peep into the roza from a tiny window with grills. There was a throng of people in line trying to come nearer and nearer to the grill window to take a peep. A couple of shurtas' were standing there trying to ward off people who would like to come too near the grill. I spotted a mischevious smile on the face of Rauf Mamoo that I can never forget. He gave me his bag to hold and asked me to wait outside for him. I then saw this man of 65 years suddenly getting energized and transforming himself into a nimble teenager. He moved left, then right, then ducked below the staff wielding shurtaa and before the shurtaa can stop him, he was not only peeping inside but also kissing the grills and kept on kissing and crying with tears as the shurta started beating him with the staff, but that made no impact on him. Eventually, he was pulled away from the grills. When I met him outside Masjid e Nabvi, his face was beaming with joy and happiness that I can not describe. Later, he were to relate joyously that he had repeated similar peeps through the grill of Roza e Rasool several times. When I asked him about the beatings, he smiled and said that those beatings were just a little inconvenience for the reward he got of expressing his love for Rasool ul Allah.

      Mana Ke Teri Deed Ke Qabil Nahin Hun Main
      Tu Mera Shauq Dekh, Mera Intizar Dekh

      Granted that I am not worthy of your Sight
      You should look at my zeal, and look at my perseverance

      As I recall the expressions on the face of Rauf Mamoo after this adventure to Roza e Rasool, I am sure, no one would have seen in him the old man of 65 that he was, but would have only witnessed a young teenager: A teenager of a different time and place; a teenager of half a century earlier, who loved taking risks and exploration, who would often go for adventures at night to those dark family graveyards in the ancestral hometown of Manikpur (Berar) in India about which the children were expressly told to stay away. There were graves of waliullahs of Hussami-Faridia silsala; including that of my mother's nana (maternal grandfather) Shah Mohammad Shakoor around whose tomb, I am told there is an annual urs even today. There was an old dilipidated mosque at that time in the graveyard in which someone, whom no one had seen, would light a diya (candle) every night. There were reported sighting of other strange phenomena in that family graveyard like coming across figures who were hundreds of feet height and width and would fill the entire space in front, of having meeting with long gone waliullah ancestors, and having other spiritual experiences. I learned of these nocturnal adventures from the stories told to me by my mother who would also sometimes accompany Rauf Mamoo on these expeditions without the knowledge of the elders; the brother and sister pair were fond of such outdoor adventures; Some of those stories were to be related by Rauf Mamoo  in 1999 to us during the last night of his life before he went to meet his creator.

        We are in the tent city of Mina. Fiber glass shades had not been erected till then. It was hot and felt as if someone was pumping blasts of hot air in our tents.  There were coolers in the tent but the environmental heat had tremendously degraded their cooling ability. We found ice slabs in the service area for providing cool drinking water to the haajis of the maktab. We started bringing ice in place of water to improve the performance of the cooler, but that only helped a little. The buzurgs spent that tent stay with great patience. Patience of Arif Bhai's mother and others was remarkable. It was sweltering hot, washrooms were at some distance and the winding path required negotiating through irregularly erected tents and their fastenings, the waiting lines in front of washrooms were long, food from the corner Bengali stalls was simple, but I did not see any of them complaining of heat or any other inconvenience.

        This is Arafat. Our muallim's has allocated spacious tents. After settling down, some of us went to bring the food being distributed there in abundance by the government. On our way back, we saw a running water hose that we quickly used to refresh ourselves by hosing water on us. On returning to tent, I found the buzargs deep in prayers. Especially, the way I saw my mother standing and praying throughout that afternoon was remarkable. Food or other refreshments did little to distract her. She did not move much from her praying place till it was time to move to Muzdalifa.

        We are going for jumraat. I had lost my chappal the very first day that I went to haram. I then stopped taking the chappal inside in the especially made pouches that we took with us from Pakistan. I started going to haram with one pair and would leave it at the door among the hundreds lying there and on the way back would pick another pair lying there, without worrying about the color or type match. However, Arif Bhai with his characteristic meticulousness would always carefully keep his chappals in the pouch that he carried. That pair of chappals remained with him through out our stay in Mekkah and Medinah. But, as we going for jumraat, we went through the first one, then the second one. But, were then caught in a jampacked situation before the third one, with people pressing against each other from every side and we were slowly inching forward with tension on the faces of everyone and with heat it was becoming claustrophobic.  There Arif Bhai, eventually, lost one of his chappal as it tore out from his feet. We, then felt a spray of water drops, and suddenly the tension released. I think they do it from the sprinklers on the poles to release the tension. The relief was quite visible as Arif Bhai was stoning the last shaitan and as he threw the last of the stones, I saw his dear chappal flying off to the shaitan!

        After Jumraat, we sat down on the kerb and Abba squatted down while the barber shaved off his head and then our heads. The sight was singularly remarkable because Abba would always get his haircuts with so much preparation, but that kerbside shaving of the head scene while squatting on the kerb I can never forget. He looked so adorable and cute with his long beared and age, and getting the head shave in that surrounding! Later, near our maktab's enclosure we spotted a hose pipe with running water. We took that hose and started hosing water on each other to freshen up after that stressful jumraat, while the road carried throngs of  thousands of people were walking towards their tents after returning from jumraat.This was a moment worth capturing on a camera.

        We had to go to haram for tawaf e ziarat from Mina. We first went to our private lodgings near Kubri-al-Mansoor on Shahrahe Khalil that was away from what the government has allotted for us. This was a small place with two small rooms and kitchen and washrooms. There was a Bengali living upstairs who also was the caretaker of that house. He used to take us to haram in his car. We found out later that Saudis have put a ban in anyone driving the haajis to haram. We also used to use his telephone for receiving the calls from Pakistan.

        After freshening up in our lodging we went to the haram. It was morning time of around 9am. We were told that mutaaf and haram is jam packed during the days for tawaf e ziarat. Surprisingly, we found the mutaaf nearly empty. The number of people were so less that even Ammi and Abba also decided that they would walk the tawaf and would not use the wheel chairs although my brother and I were ready to wheel them. This was among the quickest of tawaf that we did. It was over in a little over forty minutes. With Allah's blessings the sun also got shielded by the clouds and we had a very light sprinkling of rain drops. I often wonder how could one get such an opportunity for tawaf e ziarat with so much ease in mutaaf. Such opportunities were even precious during that decade.

        Rauf Mamoo describing the care that we two brother took for Abba Jan in his characteristic teasing style would tell others: If you want to see hajj then you should have seen hajj of Ahsan Bhai (my father). Both of his sons would be there right besides him as he was asending or descending the stairs: One on the left and the other on the right. Each time he would life his left foot, he would ask one of his sons to help him put the the feet at the correct spot. Each time he would life his right foot, he would ask his other son to help him put the foot at the right place.  This was of course an overstatement. But, we took it as an acknowledgement of the effort done by the younger ones to help the buzurgs. Arif Bhai and his wife were continuously caring for Arif Bhai's mother. My sister, brother and we were caring for Ammi and Abba and of course also of Momani Jan and Mamoo Jan.

        • See also: 
        We are at Jeddah Haj terminal, the one that had at that time a beautiful tent like arching architecture. On reaching there we found that we would have to wait not only the night but all through the next day because our flight will be late on the night of the next day. For the first time we found the large number of luggage items that we carried from Karachi to Mekkah, to Medinah and back to Mekkah had a different utility. Our extensive preparations before the Hajj had ended up with each of the elders having luggage that consisted of three bigger pieces; a suit case, a larger travel bag, and a smaller bag. Only the younger three of the group had limited themselves to one big bag each. The luggage that Arif Bhai and I had to load on top of the buses and then lift down typically consisted of 20 pieces that also included three wheel chairs that we had bought on arrival at Mekkah. This luggage now also included huge sacks containing prayer rugs bought by each of the four family representatives, and there were nine huge cans zam zam water of 15 liters each. Foam mattresses bought for our sleeping at our private lodgings in Mekkah and the floor mats on which they were laid were also with us, rolled in a hold-all style. We could carry all this courtesy of the good old days when there was no restriction on the number of water cans and their sizes and the number of luggage items. By the time we came back after finding out about the flight schedule, we found that all the bigger luggage items had been used to make a perimeter wall in what would be our private enclosure for the next two days. Foam mattresses were unrolled and soon the comfort necessities were neatly demarcating the boundaries. As it turned out our flight was not on the night of the next day, but on the night of the subsequent day. We spent two nights and two days in that Molvi Musafir Khana but like all other delays and waits during this hajj, this time was spent with huge sabr and shukr.

        Similar cross straps for water
        bottle and pouch for papers.
        Whenever Rauf Mamoo would move out for any trip to haram or for any of the manasiks he would always be wearing two items with their straps crossing across his chest and back: One strap was holding the pouch containing his travelling papers, essential medicines, cash and other stuff. The other strap for holding the water bottle. This indicated that he was ready to go on the expedition and brought to my mind the image of what soldiers often wear on their expeditions as seen in the picture.

        I can never forget that evening, three years after we have returned from that Hajj. It is 1999 and we are at Khala Jan's place, a couple of months after Khaloo Jan had left for the hereafter. I saw Rauf Mamoo cross strapped the same way he used to be during Hajj before any of our movement. Without thinking, I started to recite Inshallah Khan Insha's famous couplet's first verse but stopped after a few words, because I suddenly realized that it was not appropriate:
        kamar baNdhe huye  ........
        and then I stopped, but Rauf Mamoo was quick, he had picked it up, and in his characteristic walihana and lilting style completed the entire couplet:
        ................ chalane ko yaN sab yar baiThe hain 
        bahut age gaye, baqi jo hain tayyar baiThe hain 
        Little did I know that the very next morning, at the breakfast table, as he was describing his impressions of the writings of Quratul Ain Hyder, that he asked for a glass of water, took the sip, and then took a sigh, and collapsed. He breathed his last some time later at NICVD.
        Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.

        Both my mother and father used to pray that they should be on their feet when their time comes. Alhumdolillah both were on their feet when their time came in 2003-04. Abba walked to the car and from car to the emergency room of Liaquat National Hospital where he had another heart attack and left. Ammi was standing and performing ablution for asar prayers when she breathed her last. Inna Lillah e Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.

        PS: (written March 25, 2015 on fb)
        Yesterday we lost our dear Mansoor Bhai, one of the saathis of this Hajj. Inna lillah e wa Inna Ilaihi rajioon. 

        What a "har-dil-azeez shakhsiat" who would meet everyone with so much "apnaaiat" as if that person was closest to him. It was so sudden. We had met him a couple of days earlier at a Nikah reception where he was in his natural jovial self, and the parting comment of his was an invitation for us to come for Umrah and have a good time. 
        May Allah give him the best of abodes in the hereafter.

        He was in Jeddah when we went for Hajj in 1996 with my father, mother, brother, sister and Areff Bhai's family; Areff Bhai, his mother and Bhabhi [he was her brother] and and of course our dear Rauf Mamoo and Momani. During that haj, he used to often drive down from Jeddah to meet us and gave us such a special VIP feeling. On certain days he would come even twice a day and meet our party. We stayed at his place in Jeddah for a couple of days and he took us shopping. Of an on, since then, he had been a regular visitor to Karachi. We enjoyed his company and remember the wonderful time at the farm when we had a jolly good time with his family. 

        At his funeral everyone was remembering the small things he did with care and consideration. The big things he did to support the needy were never mentioned by him and always executed with the left hand not knowing what the right hand giveth. 

        See Also:


        1. Replies
          1. Thanks for appreciating a personl journey through time and space

        2. Received this comment on Facebook by Faizan Shah:

          I only realized that I was crying when I finished reading the complete article.
          Irfan bhai u really took me with u. I was feeling that I was with u during the Hajj. Ur observations like Anees Chacha's takia kalam of BARREY BARREY is really remarkable. Ur description of my parents especially my father and Ur parents really took the life out of me. Indeed our BUZURGS were at a level we cannot even come close to what they were. Their love, bondage and care for not only each other but for us also was simply remarkable.

          Ur house in Karachi was always a safe heaven for us. The NOOR Dadi Amman spread, love and affection of Phophoo n Phupha, presence of an elder bro, care of Humaira Appa añd great company of Doctor, is something I will always cherish. That house has a special place in my life and I was so preturbed when u changed Ur house briefly that I never felt like visiting because my childhood safe heaven was gone.

          Anyhow thank u for taking me along for The Picnic cum Hajj of 1996 and once again reminding us of our great Buzurgs.

          1. Replied on Facebook with this:
            Thanks for the appreciation. We can only try to come near their magnanimity and selflessness.

            I think Anees Mamoos description of the large fruits is much more than a takia kalam. When I went to the Mekkah sabzi mandi, he did not just pick up some fruits, he took his time comparing, selecting, evaluating and finding the best that there are. The phrase "barey barey" is an expression of the real pride and relish that he feels for the fruits and vegetables that he grows and/or buys.

          2. The fruits and vegetables that he grows are not just any fruits or any vegetable. They are an expression of hard labor, intense love, and an artistic creation.

        3. Assalam-O-Alaikum
          Allah has made it obligatory for all the Muslims to perform Hajj at-least once in their lifetime. As mentioned by Allah in the holy Quran “And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for him who can find a way thither” (Aal Imran 3:97).
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        4. Totally loved the blog. I need to pen down my own experience one of these days. I think this is my most fav blog of yours. It seemed as if I was standing in the corner during the entire event. I was able to imagine each scene. When ever one reads a great book, one is able to imagine each scene and put faces to each character. I feel as if I know your whole family cuz I can imagine them so well. May Allah bless you and your family

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