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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 12:39 GMT
Hindu helps faithful Muslims fast
By Ram Dutt Tripathi
BBC correspondent in Lucknow

Barati Lal
Barati Lal (right) makes sure the faithful are awake in time for their meal
Waking up in time for a pre-dawn meal is vital for Muslims who wish to fast, as their faith demands, during the daylight hours of Ramadan.

But the faithful in Lucknow in northern India have no need for alarm clocks during the holy month.

They have Barati Lal, a 55-year-old Hindu government clerk.

For 16 years, Mr Lal has functioned as a walking wake-up call for the city's fasting Muslims, having fended off early criticism from fellow Hindus.

'A place in heaven'

Not long after 0300, he sets off for the city's Muslim neighbourhoods.

Dressed in a monkey cap and a long woollen gown, he bangs a cane along the road and calls out through his loud-hailer: "Get up, my dears. It is time to take your meal."

Barati Lal
Mr Lal has been waking up Muslims for Ramadan for 16 years

Along the narrow lanes of the Muslim quarter, Mr Lal's arrival is greeted with cries of "salaam".

Abdul Wahab, 80, opens the door to greet Mr Lal, and then shuts it as the pre-dawn chill sets him shivering.

At the mosque of Chaudhuri Tola, Imam Rafi Ullah and his friends are full of praise for Mr Lal.

Allah will surely grant him a place in heaven, says one Muslim.

Another one says having Mr Lal around means no one in the neighbourhood misses their "sehri" - the pre-dawn meal that precedes the day-long fast.

Late-rising friends

The sound of the Ramadan wake-up call is one Mr Lal remembers from his childhood.

In the past, groups of Muslims went from door to door chanting prayers to wake the faithful.

But the arrival of loudspeakers in the mosques put a stop to that.

Mr Lal says he took it upon himself to give the wake-up call after hearing Muslim friends of his complain that they had failed to keep their fast because they couldn't get out of bed on time.




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