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Islamabad

September 23, 2018

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My childhood Muharram

I still remember the days when ‘tazias’ in Lahore were colourful, when people from different sects watched the procession of mourners mesmerized, with silence and reverence.

As a small child I would run full speed up the house stairs, skipping one or two times, leaving my mother out of breath at the back.

She feared her son may not lose limb and life while hurrying to the roof of the house. My childish mind never bothered about any danger; all I was interested in was to get to the roof of the house, stand there and take a long look at the ‘tazias’ that congregated on the road leading to the Imambargah, Delhi Darwaza on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.

Some ‘tazias’ were colourful with accompaniments and trusses; others were stark black, almost sombre and mournful. Discovery rather than mourning engaged my mind. As the ‘tazias’ slowly but surely wound their way through by the side of the Pilot Hotel onto the Delhi Darwaza along with mourning procession goers beating their chest, I ran after them, quick of feet, keen of eye, stopping by, only to look with jealousy at kids lifted by their fathers on to their shoulders for an enhanced sight.

On the odd occasion when I took my eyes off the ‘tazias’, I saw men and women, and children, standing on the balconies of their houses at the first floor, some sneaking a quick look from behind a window, others standing on the roof, as the ‘taizas’ proceeded amid a jam-packed procession. I could not enjoy so much luck and soon found myself locked in my room by my mother who would find a thousand and one excuses to keep me there for a few minutes. She was unsuccessful regularly, and my tears and sobs won over her.

The occasion restarted every year in the run-up to Muharram, my tiny heart leapt with enthusiasm as reports, unconfirmed and embellished, filtered in of artists coming from Royal Park and other venues filled with film studios for designing ‘tazias’, some as high at 15 feet tall. Each ‘tazia’ was more attention-grabbing than the other. Kids lined up, men and women, boys and girls holding their hands on the procession route. They gave water to the mourners who fainted. Many hailed from other faiths and stood outside their homes and shops to look at them with deep deference.

Now in 2018, the ‘tazias’ do not look as huge as during my childhood days, maybe it is because, much water has flowed under the bridge since then. The number of ‘tazias’ has not reduced, but their route cut short. Times have changed but not the passion of mourners.

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