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Peace Watch » Editor's Take » Bombay Days 14. Spiritual Solace In Madding Crowds of Bombay

Bombay Days 14. Spiritual Solace In Madding Crowds of Bombay


Spiritual Solace in Bombay



Instantaneously, on my arrival, in February 1983, I had fallen in love in with metropolitan not only for its glamour and glitter, its pulsating evenings and safe nights but the honesty amidst the hullabaloo of crime and fraudulence. The cab drivers, mostly Muslims from   Kutchi Memon community that had come from Gujarat to the metropolitan in the early nineteenth century had earned trust with the commuters for their scrupulousness and integrity. So was true about the Dawoodi Bohra community, which owned major footwear showrooms and stores in all fashionable streets of the city.  The Bohra community like the Parsis for following a particular dress code, manifestly makes one feel the presence of the Muslims in the maddening crowds of the city.  Despite, enjoying every bit of the space, the city offered to me; I often felt there was some vacuum, something amiss in my life.

Tethered to my moorings and the downtown ethos, I felt very close to what American novelist and short story writer Henry Roth has said about the writers. “Detach the writer from the milieu where he has experienced his greatest sense of belonging, and you have created a discontinuity within his personality, a short circuit in his identity. The result is his originality; his creativity comes to an end.” For missing, the downtown culture and ethos, with every passing day, ‘I was feeling a discontinuity within my personality and short circuit in my identity.’ In the downtown Srinagar, in our childhood visiting in wee hours on Mondays and Thursdays Astana of Makdoom Sahib, Sheikh Bahauddin Gunj Baksh, Khanqah-I-Moula, Khanqah-I- Naqshbandi and Dastageer Sahib for spiritual solace was an integral part of our social milieu. For most of the Astana located in the city founded by the Sultans of Kashmir in fact,  the deep devotion towards the native and other saints was largely part of the downtown identity.  Suddenly, one day, when I was on my way to visit a senior medic of our state convalescing in the Bombay Hospitals, I spotted a Dargah in front of the hospital with its gate opening on the main street. On reading Hazrat Bahauddin Shah Baba embossed in Urdu letters on a permanently fixed signboard on the gate, I instantly a struck up an emotional bond with the Dargah. It made me nostalgic, about the days when as a young boy I used to visit religiously Astana of Bahauddin Gunj Baksh every Saturday morning- just ten minutes walk from my home. The Dargah at Marine lines was equally just ten to fifteen minutes drive from my residence and visiting it on Sunday filled up the spiritual void that I initially suffered in the glitzy city.  I don’t remember having seen many a Kashmiri at this shrine as one finds at the Dargah of Nazim-u-Din Auliya in New Delhi.  It came as a glad tiding to me, when my driver Hanif, a UP boy during a visit to the Dargah of  Bahauddin Shah informed me about   Dargah of Makdoom Baba in Mahim near the Cadel Road- for the name connecting to Makdoom Sahib back home, it was another spiritual solace for me. People of all faiths throng the magnificent multi-dome Dargah built in the name of Saint Makdoom Ali Mahimi. Titled as Quitab-e-Konkan, for scholarship and spiritual achievements, the saint whose real name was Zainuddin Abul Hassan is widely revered. Whenever I visited the Dargah, there were huge crowds, and pushing one’s way inside the shrine mostly filled with fragrant smoke coming out of thousands of burning incense sticks was suffocating. The women generally outnumbered men. The devotional practices followed in the shrines of Bombay were altogether different than those in our Astanas.  I remember, having seen some woman, perhaps not   Muslim, with open untied hair covering their faces out of devotion whirling their heads outside the Dargah like famous Whirling Dervishes of Egypt. The most common feature in all Dargahs is a caretaker touching the grave of the saint with a broom of peacock feathers then lightly hitting the same on the head of the devotees.

To know more about, the saints of Bombay, I visited the Dargah of Haji Abdul Rehman Malang atop a hillock in Kalyan, about eighty kilometers from Colaba. The three-kilometer uphill trek that leads to the Dargah has similarity to the shrines of some of our native Reshi saints on a mountaintop or in deep forests.




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