In the modern time when the mobile phone has become a substitute for a watch, alarm clock, a calendar, a loudspeaker, etc, do people need to be woken up for the morning prayers and Sehri (pre-dawn meal) with the beat of a drum during the holy month of Ramzan?
Call it nostalgia, the tradition of a simple sense of unity drummers continue to wake up the devout in Kashmir in the pre-dawn for Sehri and prayers. The local Mohalla or masjid Committees arrange Sehri Khwani in the cities and villages of the Valley to wake up the people during Ramzan.
Sehri khwani performers wake up people by beating dhol, the traditional Indian drum. The drummer is called Sehri khwan. In the dark of the night, he wakes up the people by giving the sound of 'Sehri Ka Time Ho Gaya' (It’s Sehri time) followed by the loud beating of the drum.
The 23-year-old Muhammad Shakoor from the Kalaras area of Kupwara, north Kashmir has been playing drum for the people of Noor Bagh, Safa Kadal, and adjoining areas of Srinagar city for the last six years.
"I have been doing this for the last six years. To wake people up in Sehri, I roam the streets and roads of the area.” He said, “My companion, Raja Imtiaz, walks with me holding a cane in his hand to avoid attacks by stray dogs.”
He said, 'Earlier, I used to go out in the streets at one o'clock in the night to wake people up for sehri. With the arrival of the month of Ramadan in April this year, the timing of Sehri has changed. So now I leave at 3 o'clock.”
Mohammad Mushkoor said he does this work for reward. "People also give gifts. They give voluntarily and this gift fulfills my domestic needs."
Sehri Khwans of Kashmir
He said, “People are happy to see me and they do respect me."
Sehri Khwan Mushkoor said doing this work gives him peace. “I also read Namaz on time. In the remaining 11 months of the year, I am busy with other things, but I take time off everything for this month for Sehri Khwani.
He said, “My elder brother also used to do Sehri Khawani. I also used to go out at night with him. Now I do it myself.”
Mohammad Ashraf of the area says that there is no need for Sehri Khawani in today's time.
"Today everyone has a mobile phone. They can wake up easily with an alarm." However, the elders of the Valley say that waking people up in the morning has now become a part of our culture and it must be continued at any cost.
Srinagar resident Khurshid Ahmed said that waking up to the drumbeat of Sehri Khwani is altogether a different experience and this tradition has become a part of society and must be maintained.
He said that on hearing the sound of the drum, he has a feeling that the whole world is awake. He said that the sound of the drum brings back memories of childhood. Even today children are happy to hear the sound of the drum in the morning, he says.