What It Takes to Be a Human Alarm Clock During Ramzan

‘Seheriwalas’ – or ‘Seherkhan’ – are human alarms and go house to house and wake people up.

Updated07 May 2019, 06:58 AM IST
Videos
3 min read

Camera: Athar Rather and Abhishek Ranjan

Video Editor and Graphics: Kunal Mehra

Producer: Abhishek Ranjan

(This story was first published on 5 June 2018 and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the month of Ramzan.)

Nights in old Delhi are bright, cheerful and festive during the holy month of Ramzan. People wake up at around 3am to offer namaz, shopkeepers open their shops, people either eat at their homes or come out to eat at the many eateries that operate through the night. Many catch up on early morning conversations.

A shopkeeper awake since at 2 am, offering tea and coffee during sehri.
A shopkeeper awake since at 2 am, offering tea and coffee during sehri.
(Photo: Abhishek Ranjan/The Quint)

In the holy month, the predawn meal – or ‘sehri’ – is really important. One cannot afford to over-sleep and miss it. A decent ‘sehri’ ensures that a devout can fast for the whole day till the post-dusk meal – or ‘iftar.’

People wake up to have their pre-dawn meal called sehri
People wake up to have their pre-dawn meal called sehri
(Photo: Abhishek Ranjan/The Quint)

‘Seheriwalas’ – or ‘Seherkhan’ – are human alarms who go house to house and wake people up. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact date when the tradition started, but some say it dates back to the Mughal era.

One such Seherkhan is Mohammad Irfan – a clip seller by day and a parking attendant in the evening. He lives in old Delhi near Jama Masjid's gate no. 1. He finishes his work by 9 pm. However, exactly at 2.45 am he’s up. It’s time for his duty for Allah.

 Mohammed Irfan, a Seherkhan, wakes everyone up for sehri.
Mohammed Irfan, a Seherkhan, wakes everyone up for sehri.
(Photo: Vatsala Singh/The Quint)

He heads out of his home and soon a loud shout resonates in the area. It’s a Seherkhan’s waking up call for sehri and pre-dawn prayer of Fajr. In the times of alarm clocks, a Seherkhan like Irfan looks obsolete and redundant. But for many rozedaars – or people fasting – absolutely nothing can replace the wakeup call of the human alarm.

Mohammad Irfan eats his sehri after waking everyone up.
Mohammad Irfan eats his sehri after waking everyone up.
(Photo: Vatsala Singh/The Quint)
People after having their sehri go and offer <i>Fajr ki namaz</i>.
People after having their sehri go and offer Fajr ki namaz.
(Photo: Abhishek Ranjan/The Quint)

Irfan has been doing this for almost a decade now.

“As a child, I used to wake up my parents and relatives. They treated me with sweets and during Eid gave me money.”
Mohammad Irfan

But now, Irfan expects absolutely nothing in return – no money, no gifts, not even words of praise. He’s a true believer, in the service of the almighty, and the blessings are his real gift.

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.

Published: 05 Jun 2018, 09:17 AM IST

Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!