Ramzan is an auspicious month for Muslims across the world. From giving charity to praying for extended hours at night, Muslims try to absolve themselves of their sins and please Allah during this holy month.
Mohd Rais, too, has been doing something special in order to please his lord. He takes to a being a ‘bangi’ during the month-long festivities and devotes the entire day to praying and working for the people. A ‘bangi’, as he is known in Old Delhi, is most often a man who is assigned by the local mosque to become a public waker for sehri – the pre-dawn meal Muslims have before they begin the fast everyday – during Ramzan.
Bangis are known as messaharatis in the Middle East. The bangi roams around in streets and calls out the names of the residents often carrying a stick to bang on the doors or plays a small drum. Rais has been a bangi for the past 14 years. He took over his father’s legacy. “During Ramzan, my day begins by waking up the residents of Jama Masjid area in Old Delhi. It takes me around one-and-a-half hours to call out names of almost 300 people.” His love for Allah and for his fellow Muslims is the driving force for the man.
He has also been given the responsibility of managing iftaar at the local mosque (Hauz wali masjid). Iftaar is the evening meal that Muslims have while breaking their fasts. Rais manages with the iftaar that the nearby houses send and distributes them to travellers and the underprivileged fasting people who stop by the mosque.
Technology has taken away the role of the bangi, but Rais claims that it would not die any time soon. There are people who love the call of the bangi and would like the centuries old tradition to be carried forward by each generation.