RAILWAY COMMUTERS getting off from crowded trains at Mumbra railway station post 6.45 pm during Ramzan are now used to a routine: take a few dates from the trays containing dates held out by three men, keep them in the pocket, take a bus ferry home from outside the station free of cost. This ensures that those fasting are not left stranded midway between the railway station and home, when it is time to break their Roza(fast) – normally around 7.15 pm. If commuters reach the railway station around 7.15 or later, they also get cold Rooh Afza, water and fruits that they can gorge on, to end their fast.
This practice, as per locals, has been going on for more than 15-20 years at Mumbra station. Yasin Qureshi, a local corporator in Mumbra, along with his childhood friends are behind this initiative. “It all began around 15 years back, when a friend who was fasting reached Mumbra station. It was iftaari time and he could not get an autorickshaw to reach home since everyone was away breaking their fasts. There was nothing to eat as well. As a result, he had to go hungry and thirsty till he managed to reach home,” Qureshi said.
He recounted the harrowing experience to his friends that included Qureshi late that night. “We realised that there must be so many like him who would be reaching Mumbra at iftaari time and not having anything to eat. So we decided from the next day to at least distribute dates at the railway station, so people reaching at iftaari time do not have to suffer,” the corporator said.
From the next day, the friends pooled in money, purchased dates and distributed it at the railway station. “There was a good response and a lot of people would take the dates and thank us. Since then it has become a practice that has been followed every Ramzan,” Qureshi said. As years have gone by, the scale at which they operate has gone up. Now in addition to dates, they supply water, cold sherbet and fruits for those reaching the railway station post iftaari time.
A volunteer said that they gather the paraphernalia — four huge water drums, two of which are filled with a Rooh Afza, two with water, nearly 50 glasses, big plates for offering dates and a large tray with fruits. A team of around four people including Qureshi start the distribution process from platform no 1 where the peak hour traffic of train commuters coming from CST alight.
As soon as a train reaches the station post 6.45pm, the three volunteers spring into action. They start chanting “khajoor le jaao, door jaane wale khajoor saath le jaao (take dates and go, those going far take dates along)”. Then another volunteer shouts “station ke bahar auto nahin hain, bus leke jaein” (there are no autos outside the railway station. Take the free bus ferry and go).
During the nearly past two decades, the group once faced a problem when there was a complaint that they create noise on the platform and dirty the place. “We have a person whom we pay to wipe any leftovers that may have fallen on the platform. A railway police official was asked to come and see if we created any problem. The official later wrote back to the Divisional Railway Manager saying that the group was creating no problem. Every year we just submit a letter to the station manager to get permission which is largely a procedural matter,” Qureshi said. He added: “We are just doing things to earn sawaab (blessings) and do not wish to inconvenience anyone. The distribution of food and water is not limited to those fasting. Commuters belonging to all religions stop by and sometimes share iftaari with us.”
Abdul Mannan, who lives in Mumbra’s Amrut Nahar said, “Since the last five-six years, every Ramzan evening I have been breaking my fast with dates distributed at the station. On days that I reach Mumbra after iftaari time, I eat some that people at the station offer. I don’t need to carry food with me to break my fast.”