The Wretched Khanabadoshis of Koregaun
The second class air conditioned train journey to Sangli from Mumbai, India is relatively comfortable and uneventful; we have dinner and sleep almost all the six hours it takes to get there. We comprise of Imran Dharsi and Anis Surti from Al Imaan and me. Shabbirbhai Nayaani is at the station in Sangli with his son at 05:30 to pick us up and we proceed to his house for salaat and breakfast. Sangli is an appealing town east of Maharashtra, very close to the border with Karnataka. The mosque and imambargah are surrounded with mostly Khoja families who are in the trade and service industries, relatively prosperous and well educated.
It is the wafaat day of our Prophet Muhammad (S) so we participate in majlis after fajar prayers and Ramadhanbhai Nayaani, uncle of Shabbirbhai offer to accompany us to Koregaun, traveling in his vehicle to our destination. We jump at the offer; Ramadhanbhai is an experienced businessman and a mo’min who speaks fluent Marathi, a great asset for our job ahead.
After a superb breakfast (thank you Shabbirbhai and family) we head towards Koregaun, a 3 hour drive. Koregaun has none of the pleasantness or tranquility of Sangli; it is a nondescript dusty, grimy town, one in a thousand others you find all over rural India. We locate Mohabbatali, also fondly known as Popatali (an apt description for his parrot like hooked nose) after a struggle and he guides us to the settlement of his clan.
I am thoroughly shocked and appalled at the small settlement of his clan, some eighteen families of about hundred individuals. Children walk around half naked with snot filled noses; there are no private toilets or showers, no sewers, no nothing and wild pigs roam free everywhere. Anger riles up in me: who in Allah’s name can accept such degradation and abject poverty? I contain myself quickly however; who am I to judge and condemn? I know not what these wretched people must have endured to land up in such a place, in such sordid conditions, such filth. Many people living in Mumbai have comforted me, that I will overcome, that I will get used to the squalor and miseries of slum living as time evolves with my stay here in Mumbai and ongoing CAI projects in slums around Mumbai. Really…?
These Muslims are known as Khanabadosh, descendants of nomadic tribes originally from Iran. Fierce in the protection of their families from any interference and very devout, especially in their devotion to Imam Hussein (A), they are small time traders in sunglasses who barely eke out a living. The hovels they live in must surely collapse in the assault of monsoons, for certain. However, amongst these miserable shambles, in the middle lays an imambargah, testament of their faith.
We perform salaat and have a simple but delicious lunch of spinach and okra curry, as fiery as the people that made it, amongst even fiercer mosquitoes that must think is feast of Eid; I swat and slap myself silly. We then sit and talk with Mohabbatali taking the lead. He thanks us for coming and gives us the duas of all his clan. He tells us about the miseries of his clan, the destitution and despair of families living there. How it is a no end solution for them and makes a plea for us to relocate them. We are ready to live in slums and poverty but we cannot continue living here, amongst pigs and perpetual najaasat, he pleads. You see our plight, our poverty. You see the flimsy barriers we put up against the pigs that defecate and make our lives miserable. Please help us and relocate us. Old widows and women join in with their own pleas of support.
We promise to educate the children and Ramadhanbhai is generous, pledging to take complete responsibility of school fees and related expenses for all children in an English medium school from next academic year (jazaak’Allah!). We visit an acre of available land that has great potential, not only for relocation, but economic empowerment for the community as well. Ramadhanbhai is persuasive in his Marathi and we make an offer of USD23,000; we pray and hope it will be accepted. This deal, if accepted, will change the lives of about 100 momeneen in very dire and miserable situation. CAI will insha’Allah fund this purchase on the condition each family contribute 10% of cost and build their own homes.
We depart for the train station after magrib and ishaa salaat and distributing sadeqa funds that I carry to the widows and more deserving members of the clan. We get liberal chorus of duas for our safety and prosperity and that of our families. I am in a somber mood as we wait for the train to come by. Inordinate thoughts swirl my mind and images of the squalor and misery I have witnessed torment me. What if Allah (S) had not been so generous to me and I was one in that place? What if I was born in that squalor? What if, what if…? No human deserves what I witnessed today, certainly no Muslim/ah, not after what Allah (S) has blessed us with so many resources.
Sitting still is impossible with the mosquitoes on a rampage. I must look a comic for I am in a constant dance of swatting and slapping myself; passing public stare at me strangely. The bloody train is overcrowded and rowdy with high pitch jabber of traders going to Mumbai for purchase and I want to curse the railway system for not allocating us the requested better class seats, but the images of the day has me thankful to Allah (S) for His mercies and bounty towards me. Sleep, when it finally comes, is fitful, but I reach Mumbai in one piece the next morning, alhamd’Allah.
Attached are photos for you to see and contemplate. This is a very worthy cause, I assure you and it costs just USD1,274 to sponsor the relocation of one family; please, please consider helping these wretched people if you can.
Also in this email update
Carpet Weaving Project Implemented in Heraat, Afghanistan:
You might remember CAI initiating a carpet weaving project that would uplift the economic conditions of widows in Afghanistan? Alhamd’Allah, this project is now commissioned and working quite well. This project and the sheep husbandry in YawKawlang has had immediate and profound impact on these mostly shaheed widows; the level of degrading poverty is stopped at once and we see real income earned by the widows, enough to support themselves and their children. Please see few photos received.
Orphan Girls Shine:
In a country where the passing grade is 35%, our girls at Sakina Girls Home at Andheri, Mumbai are absolutely star quality; they have bagged scores of over 90+%; see scorecard. These orphans take the opportunity given them by the horn and soar, a prime example of what children who are assured of meals, shelter and clothes can do. Compare this situation with our poor children from slum areas where food, shelter and other basic necessities are luxuries, maintaining passing grades becomes a challenge for CAI. Alhamd’Allah, we have outstanding girls at Sakina Girls Home and outstanding people who care for them – you, our donors. Jazaak’Allah.
Jazaak’Allah and Allah (S) Bless.