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.
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.
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.’
‘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.
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.
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.
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