Gone are the days when an enthusiastic troupe of people, equipped with drums, dholaks and lanterns strode down winding lanes during the month of Ramzan. Soulful and beautifully woven nazms (poetic verses) filled the air intruding a good nights sleep and cajoling rozedaars out of bed for ‘sehri’ (pre dawn meal taken before the morning prayers)
Songs like ‘dhali raat roozedaaro, waqt ho gaya suhana. Hui rehmato ki baarish, luta noor ka khazaana’ and ‘jaago azaan ho na jaye, ye suhaana sama kho na jaye’, still linger fresh in the minds of the city’s senior citizens, who grew up witnessing the scene.
Qudsia naqvi, 60 says, “That is an era gone by. At that time people had limited access to technology and had to rely on these troupes for waking up late in the night. As children, my sister and I would run to the door to catch a glimpse of the passing Qafilah”.
The shrill of alarm clocks and sirens fitted in mosques have silenced the voices of the ‘human wake up calls’ that no longer bang doors and entertains people with their singing until dawn.
“These are the times when a quick beep on the cell phone flashes a friend’s message that urges to shun sleep and bite into the delicacies of sehri. Apart from setting alarms, the regular announcement through the loudspeaker of the mosque helps us to wake up”, says MA Naqvi, a retired government official.
The experience of the troupe members themselves is no less extraordinary. Gathering some 70 odd numbers of boys at a rendezvous and walking the streets to wake up people for sehri was not an easy task.
Septuagenarian, Abrar Ahmed Idreesi, did the work for more than 50 years until he left it three years back. His troupe ‘Anjuman Taara’ had more than 70 people.
“Nothing could dampen our spirits, be it rain or shivering cold. We would sing nazms and naats all the way along and our singing did not stop until morning. People requested us for some particular songs. They not only gave us money as tips but would also offer us tea and lacche (fine sticks made of flour and soaked in milk. People at times used to shower money from their terraces. Not only did we cover a large area in the home town but we were also called upon by people from Kanpur, Malihabad, Barabanki and others. We rehearsed for two months before the month of Ramzan”, says a nostalgic Idreesi.
These kafilahs used to belt out songs and nazms that were tactfully incorporated on the tunes of bollywood numbers. “I can still remember their songs, which were skillfully set on the tunes of popular hindi movie songs. It was fun guessing the original song on the tune of which a nazm had been set”, says Qudsia.
Tunes of Ramanand Sagar’s film ‘Geet’, and that of ‘Ganga ki Saugandh’ starring Amitabh Bachchan were requested for. The naat ‘ab aaya hai maahe ramzan, ab chayi ghata noorani’ that was a remixed version of the song ‘deen dharam ke jhagre, insaan ki badi nadaani’ was the most popular.
Well known poets such as Ibrat lucknowi and Basheer Farooqui also wrote the lyrics for the songs, the tunes of which were set by us, says idreesi.
Competitions were held at Machli Mohal, where various troupes tried to out do each other for cups and shields.
‘People gathered to listen to our naats. The best team walked with cups and shields and at times money. We always had a tough competition with ‘Abre Rehmat’, a troupe from Daliganj, says Raes Ahmad, a member.