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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December, 2003, 12:19 GMT
Mecca looms for aged pilgrim

By Narayan Bareth
BBC correspondent in Jaipur

One of the world's oldest men is just days away from fulfilling his lifelong dream of visiting the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

Habib Miyan
Habib Miyan is being feted by friends and family
Habib Miyan, who says he is 132 years old, is busy packing his bags and meeting well-wishers in western India.

Next week, he leaves for the annual Hajj pilgrimage with his two grandsons and his daughter-in-law.

The trip is being made possible by the generosity of a London-based businessman, who was moved by Mr Miyan's story after reading about him on BBC News Online.

The 30-year-old businessman, who wishes to remain unidentified, wired $5,700 to Habib Miyan to fund the trip.

Later, another benefactor from the United States sent an additional $750 to help pay for the pilgrimage.


In his tiny house the Indian city of Jaipur, Habib Miyan is busy attending feasts organised by his relatives and friends.

Habib Miyan's dream is to make a Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca
"I have to participate in three such feasts daily which are hosted as a mark of respect for the person going on the Hajj," he says.

"I am fit for the trip and my health is in good condition."

His great-grandchildren keep him in good humour as he recites Urdu poetry.

"Life is a gift of God. Do not throw it away.

"Take in your stride whatever comes your way," he tells them.


His entire family of 32 members is, meanwhile, busy making sure the old man is properly equipped for the trip.

Habib Miyan
I will not forget to pray for the two generous persons who helped me make my trip
Habib Miyan
New cotton tunics and trousers have been purchased, as have four new caps and three pairs of shoes.

At every given moment everyone talks about the impending pilgrimage.

Grandsons Chhutan and Mehboob are also excited at the thought of accompanying him.

"I will pray for peace and tranquillity, communal harmony and India's progress," Habib Miyan says.

"After all India is my motherland."

But, he adds: "I will not forget to pray for the two generous persons who helped me make my trip."

Habib Miyan retired from his job as a clarinet player in Jaipur's royal band in 1938.

His pension book records his age as 125 although he claims to be seven years older.

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