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The last of Pankhawallas

"I owe my life to the lord. If he's asked me to serve people, I'd do it for the rest of my life," says Nizam, a young man probably in his 30's roaming in the 'Hazrat Nizammudin Auliya Dargah' with his gigantic fan precariously held by a bamboo. His statement and his actions prove sheer contradiction to us being incensed to think of summer with a whole lot of fuss.

Nizam is accustomed to pick up random people and fan the heat away from them on a daily basis. Albeit he never asks for tips. He has been doing this for the last twenty years. "Das baras ke the jab yaha aae Ajmer se ab malik ka hi khate hain toh unhi ke yahan seva karenge na," he says. (I was ten when I came here from Ajmer, I live on what the Lord has given so I have to serve where he is).

What Nizam and his partner Habibullah do might not seem professional to us, but this contraption is not an alien thing to us. The 'Pankhawallas' were professionals who were paid according to their enthusiasm and a good session at the Lord's house.

Nizam and Habibullah are like the last prolific rays of the sun, who keep this profession alive. They make up for great optics when they roam in the shrine with their elephantine fans and pristine smiles. "koi bura nahi hai" (nobody's bad) is what Nizam had to say when asked which shrine was his favourite. They were four earlier, two left and found other ways for a living due to low earning. Nizam and his partner earned the greatest on Thursdays. "Bade aur meherbaan aadmi log jumerat ko aate hai" (big and kind men come on Thursdays) they said.

They make mere one trip back home during Muharram. For one's surprise, Habibullah had a saree business way back in his hometown at Varanasi. "Ab tho pachees saal ho gye hain dil yahi par lagta hai ab jab tak maalik ka raaj hai hum bhi yahin hain," (It's been twenty-five years now. I like to be here, as long as the rule of the lord triumphs, I am here only) says Habibullah when asked why he didn't continue with his business.

But stories like that of Nizam and Habibullah bring joyous salvation in two ways, one for reviving and respecting the dying profession. They will fan you irrespective of your faith.

Preeti Sati

Preeti Sati

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