Special Ashura Post

10 Muharram 1425

‏I am sure you will all forgive me for not blogging yesterday after you read this post. And if you still don’t find it in your cruel hearts to forgive a poor being like me then I can say nothing except “Please date me I am desperate“.

We had a long weekend from Saturday to Tuesday due to the 9th and 10th of Muharram. At about 1035 on the 9th of Muharram I was deep in slumber. If I recall correctly I was dreaming about a giant rabbit that jumped very high and I wanted to compete with. But no fate had to make me lose and my cousin woke me up. The rest of the day is a perfect example of a day in psychosis. I hadn’t had enough sleep so I was slightly woozy all day long. I was slightly tired all day long as well.

But the day went in the preperation for what we do on the night of Ashura every year. That is, in the preperation of ‘Haleem’. ‘Haleem’ is a South Asian dish that includes cereals, lentils, meat, spices and a lot of other food items. I think it has the largest number of ingredients in out whole cuisine except for ‘shab degh’. And we had to get all of those things in one day. Including the ‘Degh’ and other things used in the process of cooking.

Lets just say that it took us 8 hours to get everything. Of course most of this time was spent lazing about and asking each other from the group to work. And we finally managed to get what we needed. Then we decided to play cards and basically waste time until someone else started working on the Haleem while we sat and played. Well, we are all very sharp. So we had to get up at around 2200 and work on the whole thing. Now here is where I hit the hazy part since things were going about fast.

We first put about 5,697 pots of different cereals, lentils, meats, bones and spices on different pots to warm. And then we all had to keep continuously moving those things so they dont get burned. Not as fun as it seems or sounds from this blog. So after two hours of slaving some of us guys took a time out form the work and went for a drive. During the course of this drive we went to see a little Matam.

About Matam. Long story short. About 50 years after the demise of our Prophet Muhammad there was a conflict over who should be the Khalifa (Caliph) of the Muslims. The nephew of our Prophet was Hazrat Imam Hussain. And the Khalifa was Yazid ibn e Muawiya. Yazid murdered Imam Hussain and his entourage slowly in cold blood on the 10th of Muharram. There are two major sects amongst muslims. The Shias and the Sunnis. The Shias till this day grieve for the death of Imam Hussain who they profess as their spiritiul head. This they show by doing matam, the closest English translation would be self Flagellation to show the pain that they feel. Sunnis in general consider the whole process of Matam as wrong but there are different opinions some are ready to accept it, some are ready to bear it and some are ready to stop it. All shades of opinion here.

So let me tell you what I saw there. There was a Noha being played. It had a strong, hard and regular beat. That was the que to hit yourself. There were many different kinds of matam there. Some just hit their chests with their open palms. Some lightly some strongly. This was by far the least violent of the lot. Then there was another group which hit their backs with wound up pieces of rope. Seemed very very painful but there was no blood. Then there is a group of people that hits their backs with metallic chains. Yes, It must hurt a lot. Still no major blood. Just a little bleeding but that is it. Then there is another group of people. They have small knives attached to the end of the chains. So it is very bloody and people get big wounds. And if there are a lot of people the ground gets wet with blood. Then there is a group of people who do matam with swords called Qama ka Matam. They hit their heads with swords lightly. Then there is the penultimate matam walking on glowing coals. Actually walking on glowing coals.

So we spent abotu 2 hours watching people do all sorts of matam. A very strange experience if you ask me.

Then we came back to take a look at the Haleem. It seemed that nothgin went amiss in our absence. Everything went according to schedule. Everything was cooked and ready. Now all that remained to be done was to to mix up the things in correct proportions and to start churning them. This took a little while and we sat down to play cards. While the younger crop of boys was made to churn the Haleem. Called Ghota in Urdu it means to churn the Haleem using a wooden spoon so that all the cereals will get mashed. This takes a long time and is very hard work.

We really felt bad for those guys who were doing it. While we played cards and had a lot of tea.

Really bad.

We are such nice people.

Then when the Haleem was done after hours of hard labour we divided into packets. Went to our homes and slept for 13 hours. That is the longest I have slept in quite some time.

And now here I am telling you all about it.

So till the next post. Good bye.

A regular reminder that my Urdu blog is here. Where I have started to try to teach Urdu as well.

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