In Photos: Srinagar’s ‘Human Alarm’ Keeps a Ramzan Tradition Alive

Sahar Khan goes around beating a drum in Srinagar to wake people up for Sahar or the predawn meal in Ramzan.

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(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)

In Kashmir, if you forget to set an alarm for Ramzan's predawn meal Suhur, you don’t have to worry. Sahar Khan (the human alarm) has got you covered. Before sunlight reaches earth, a man, locally known as Sahar Khan, moves around the alleys of Srinagar, beating a drum to wake the faithful during Ramzan. He chants ‘Waqt-e-Sahar’ (time for dawn) as he moves around residential areas.

(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)
(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)

For 12 years now, Abdul Rashid, 50, has been working actively as a human alarm in Ramzan. He starts his journey along with his nephew, Manzoor Ahmed, at around 1:45 am in the area of Lalchowk.



(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)
(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)

Rashid comes from an economically backward class. He supports his family of four by working as a custodian at a mosque throughout the year.



(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)
(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)
“I don’t do this for money or worldly gains, I do it to earn some good deeds”, says Rashid.

Despite the technological shift, Rashid believes the tradition has its own charm and cultural value. He said, when children hear the drum sound at dawn, they get excited, and it makes them wake up and eat the predawn meal to keep the fast for the day.



(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)
(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)
There are fewer challenges if you are a human alarm in the city area. However, it’s very difficult to work in the village due to less development. Also, people in the city don’t look up to us like people do in the village. In remote locations, we are respected much more.
Rashid

With the availability of cell phones and other gadgets in the houses, many people think this tradition maintained by Sahar Khan is not required.

“I don’t think there is any need of Sahar Khan these days, my mobile phone does a better job quietly, without disturbing the whole locality” says Sibtain Hyder, a youngster.


(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)
(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)

Even Rashid’s sons feel the same way.

They are studying and they won’t carry this tradition as they feel ashamed.
Rashid

However, elder people feel this tradition should continue. “It’s a part of our culture. It reminds me of my childhood days, when I would get up on hearing those drumbeats”, says 45-year-old Wahid Ahmed.



(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)
(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)

Rashid says he does this because he is passionate about the tradition. “I will do it till I have energy in my body and my heart is pumping”, he said.

At the end of the month of Ramzan, Khan visits the houses, and collects remunerations for his work.



(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)
(Photo Courtesy: Hashim Hakeem)

Here’s the video of Sahar Khan going around the city, waking people up at dawn.

(Hashim Hakeem is a freelance photojournalist based in Kashmir.)

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