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Muharram and Kurla

Woke up today at 5 AM and geared up by 7 AM for another ordeal – commuting from home to office – Dombivli to Kurla by suburban local train. I had to go to the railway station early, since my quarterly ticket expired yesterday and I had to renew it. The ticket window for First class travelers does not have a queue, but the second class queues stretch until eternity. Today however that queue was very short. At the same time, the platform was less crowded and when the 7:48 Titwala train arrived, everyone boarded it effortlessly!

It was only when I got inside the local train that I realized something was wrong. It just couldn’t be so comfortable on a weekday. Ah! righto! Today is optional holiday for the occasion of Muharram.

I was amused by the way all this happened. The whole system in Mumbai works with clock like precision and the sequence is so seamlessly integrated, that you reach destination wholly by reflex action. So Mumbai’ites, being in a state of perpetual race against time, are more-or-less oblivious to things happening around them.


Kurla, a suburb dominated by Muslim population wore a different look. I’m not aware if the population there comprises of Shia Muslims or Sunni Muslims. I’m not aware if Sunnis follow Muharram at all (I know Shia’s do). Hell, I’m so ill informed about this religious day, that until last year I believed that one wishes ‘Happy Muharram’ or ‘Muharram mubarak’ or something like that. No dear Priyank, it’s a day of mourning for the Muslims.

Return journey in the evening from my office at Kalina to Kurla railway station took forty-five minutes against the usual twenty minutes. On the way was a procession of mourners – who I believe were Shia’ites mourning the death of Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, commemorating the Battle of Karbala. It is interesting to note that I have seen on the same street a procession of Hindus on Ganeshotsav, Jains on Mahavir Jayanti, Neo Buddhists on Buddha Pournima and Sikhs on the Guru Nanak Jayanti. (And every time, I reached the railway station late!).

There are many more “odd” things visible in Kurla. The holy cross church and missionary school running in an area barely populated Christians. A saffron flag or banner suspended from the window of an Islamic madarssa run on first floor of a crooked building with a Shankar Vilas Hindu Hotel – which is no more than a tiny tea stall – on the ground floor. A number of tiny little ‘durga cosmetics’ or ‘pragati stores’ managed by a bearded man with a white cap. There is even a पुणेरी पाटी (placards with slogans written in a style particular to Pune) saying ‘काम नसल्यास दुकानासमोर उभे राहू नये..’ (Don’t stand in front of our shop if you not dealing with us).

I don’t know how all this works in our country. But it does make me feel proud of our social system.

Published inSocial Commentary


  1. khan a.h. khan a.h.

    Indian non-Muslims are not aware of any of our festivals. They think all are about eating meat and having feasts.

  2. mohammed javed mohammed javed

    The population of kurla is around 8 lacs of which muslims alone comprise of about 5-6 lacs.There are very few Shias in kurla compared to Sunnis and being a resident of Kurla for nearly 15 years I have never come across traffic during moharram particularly on the main road that is L.B.S marg. Most of the activities during moharram takes place in the masjid in case of sunnis.

  3. Khan A. H.: I agree and its very shameful to note that. However that may also be the result of the environment.

  4. Mohd. Javed: Thanks for your insights. I was talking about the Kurla-Santacruz road mostly (and I should have clarified that.) Several road projects were in progress there, I hope they have managed to make the roads better.

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