VIDEO: India’s surviving town crier keeps a dying tradition alive during Ramadan
Akbar Warsi belongs to the last generation of town criers in India. Carrying forward an age-old tradition, he walks through the streets of Old Delhi at night during Ramdan, waking up devotees for suhoor (pre-dawn meal).
Warsi calls out neighborhood people’s names or professions. The number of town criers is dwindling across the Muslim world.
Until a decade ago, every Muslim neighborhood in India had one man assigned for this task. Now, there are around a dozen in Delhi, which has more than 16 crore Muslims.
Town criers are known by various titles in different regions. In most of the countries, they are found carrying trumpets or drums.
Some town criers are chosen by the community people. Others volunteer for the job. The service has no fixed remuneration. Every Eid, neighborhood people give them cash and delicacies.
Old Delhi’s town crier, Akbar Warsi, says he waits beneath the houses of heavy sleepers, till they respond to his call.
“We (town criers) follow a few rules. We call out the person’s name. We don’t intrude into another town crier’s area. We do not call out the names of those who are dead. In those cases, the family tells us the name of some other person,” he said.
Anas Khan, a resident of old Delhi says until last year, there were many men doing this job.
“They do it selflessly and not hoping major monetary benefits. If individuals in the neighborhood had expressed their gratitude to them (town criers), we would have seen many more people coming forward for this task. But that didn’t happen. The result is that, now, not many people are interested in this job,” he says.
Warsi is aware that these days, increasingly more number of people are using clocks and mobile phones to set alarms.
“I realize that my job is becoming irrelevant,” he says.