Hindu at Taj Mahal’s Namaz

I have always been interested in different religions, particularly in Islam and finally I got an opportunity to learn something about it. I shared the apartment with a Muslim guy named Sana in Gwalior during my tour guide training and now we are very good friends. We shared the apartment for 6 weeks in Gwalior and then traveled together for next one week in Jaipur and Agra and I stayed at his apartment in Delhi. I had always wanted to learn about Namaz (the prayer to Allah). I was in Agra on Id and I was staying with Sana, his friend Khesal and Prem. We were staying at hardly five minutes walk from Taj Mahal.

Sana is a different kind of Muslim. I remember him once telling that he was an atheist whereas Khesal was really strict Muslim. He used to go for Namaz by leaving the class during training period. Sana was open for everything, even for drinking which is completely prohibited in Islam. It was Id day and Sana and Khesal both wanted to go for Namaz at Taj Mahal. Id is a day when entry is free to Taj Mahal so they decided to go to Taj Mahal for Namaz. I also asked Sana and Khesal to take me with them. Sana was open for it but Khesal seemed a bit concerned taking me to a mosque.I had already talked about Namaz with Khesal on the night before to Id and I had some idea about how it would be like and I was so excited for it but I was a bit scared also at the same time.

I did not want somebody to stop me and tell to leave the mosque because I was a Hindu. I talked about it with Sana and he said everything would be fine if I follow his instructions. He asked me to hide the red thread I had over my wrist and asked me to take care of my Janeu so that nobody could see it. I was excited for the Namaz but I was feeling a bit scared. I asked my friend Prem to come with us to the Namaz and he seemed okay at first but later he said that he did not want to come with us. He was also a kind of Hindu who did not know Hinduism well because Hinduism teaches to respect all the religions. Well, I went to the Taj Mahal for Namaz with Sana and Prem.

I bought a handkerchief to cover my head and was pretending to be a familiar guy to Islam. I think there were at least twenty to thirty thousand people at Taj Mahal for Namaz and I am sure that I was only Hindu there, and worst thing about me was that I was a Bramhin. Finally the Namaz was started and now I was seriously concerned about me doing anything stupid. Sana had already taught me basics of Namaz and I was just looking at other people around me with my half opened eyes but still I made a mistake but fortunately Sana saw me making this mistake and stopped me from doing so. Sana had told me that people repeat Ayats of Kuran during the Namaz but I did not know anything so I started repeating the Gayatri Mantra and somehow I was able to complete the Namaz without anybody letting know that I was a Bramhin doing Namaz there.

I was so happy to have completed the Namaz. Sana had told me that the people who do Namaz regularly never get any joint pains because they have to sit and stand up several times and now I seriously believe it. I think I had to sit down, band my whole body and put my head on the ground and then stand up for at least five times and the right way to perform Namaz is to perform it five times a day. So I am sure that if anybody is performing Namaz for five times a day, he would never get any joint pains and it is a very good physical exercise. After performing the Namaz, I went in the Muslim neighborhood right behind the Taj and saw Muslism celebrating the festival. It was really a nice experience performing the Namaz and I would really love to learn it properly and would love to whenever I get anyone like Sana who secures my safety and take cares of me.

Finally received tour guide license

I, receiving the certificate

I, receiving the certificate

I finally got my tour guide license on the 30th after three years of wait because I had applied for it in the year 2006. I started preparing for the entrance exam after applying for the license in 2006 and continued it for a few months but finally I stopped because the tour guide association of India sued the Indian government for issuing the license. They never want new people to come in the industry as they are afraid of loosing their bread and butter because most the old guides are not good. They got their license when it was so easy to get it. Now the process is tough but it will definitelyproduce better tour guides who are at least trained to not chew betel while talking with their clients:)

The certificate

The certificate

My brother Chandan, who is an escort, told me something really funny. He said that when he was in Benares last time with his group, he had hired a government approved tour guide who went with them for morning time boat ride. This tour guide started talking about Benares, Hindu religion, Benares culture and Ganga. He said several times that Ganga is not only a river for Hindus, she is considered as mother. After a few minutes when his speech ended, he started chewing betel and later spited it out in the river Ganga in front of his clients. The clients got really upset and they asked him if Hindus spit on their mother and he just did not have any answer. I hope the people who have attended this training program will not do such thing.

Sana and I at convocation hall

Sana and I at convocation hall

The tour guide training program was stopped several times because the tour guide association of India was alwayssuing the government. They sued the government first time right after the application forms were open and then it took few months to settle things, and then government organized entrance exam and then again tour guide association sued the government and the program was stopped again for a few months as the case was going on in Delhi High Court. Finally the government won the case and High Court of Delhi ordered the government to start the training as soon as possible so finally training was started after 3 years in August 2009.

Happy moment

Happy moments

The training was held at IITTM in Gwalior where I got to learn a lot. The total duration of training was 16 weeks- 6 weeks of classroom teaching and 10 weeks for field work. There were over 75 lectures in 6 weeks and I did wrote my research paper on Benares. I focused on cultural diversity of Benares. There was a written exam and an interview at the end of the program and I passed both and finally got the certificate. Now I have to go to Delhi to India tourism office with a police verification certificate and then they will issue me a provisional license which will be valid only for two months. And after two months my red card (the permanent license) will be issued. I hope they will not create any problem in Delhi.

Research with laborers and construction workers

Now Adam wanted to talk with some labors who work at construction sites. He wanted to talk with different kind of labors like the one who work independently, the one work for some agency, the one who work under some contractor or the one who work for the government… I had seen a construction going on in my neighborhood and I thought it would be a good idea to talk with some labors there so I took Adam there and talked with two labors. Adam asked them several questions but something that was most interesting for me was the training for labors.

Adam asked them if they knew of some place where training is provided to labors or skilled labors in Benares and the labors said that there was a government training center for labors in Chunar. Adam asked them if they went there to learn and both of the labors said no. Adam asked would they like to go there and again both of them said no. Adam asked why people don’t go these training centers and they said since they are poor they can would not like to stay at some place and make nothing. It is better for them to work and learn so that they can make some money while learning.

Both of the labors said that all the labors, almost 99.9%, start working at a construction site where they carry the bricks or just help the skilled labors and someday they also become a skilled labor. None of the labors were happy with the money they were making. They said that labors make only Rs. 120 ($2.5) and skilled labors make only Rs. 200 ($4) per day which sounds terrible to me. India is also becoming an expensive place to live and I don’t understand how these people survive. �Sometimes when they are working under some contractor, they get less paid because contractor also gets a cut.

They said that most of the labors in Benares are Biharis or they come from nearby villages. Adam asked them what if they are injured while working, who pays for their medical bills? And they said that most of the time contractors make some pressure on the land owner and if the land owner agrees to pay, then they pay otherwise contractor takes care of it but usually they have to face trouble getting anything extra from the contractor or the land owner both. Something else that was very interesting to me was when they talked about why women are not skilled labors in India.

They said that skilled labor’s work is kind of risky sometimes because when they work on the outer walls, they have to climb up on the walls and there is only bamboos to support them. I think Indian women are more involved in risky activities than Indian men because it is women who cook on the kerosene�oil stove, I often hear about LPG cylinder blast in the kitchen and mostly women look after our kitchen, marrying an unknown person also seems risky to me… Women are often forcibly married to someone chosen by their parents and later they are harassed for dowry and in a lot of cases they are killed. I think these things are more riskier than climbing up on the wall.

Adam is looking for some contractors to talk with. I know few contractors in my are and I would ask them to talk with Adam. Adam was looking for a recommendation letter from VDA so that his grant could be easily passed by his university. We went to the VDA office and talked with a officer there and he asked us to meet with the Chairman of VDA. We met him next day and talked about Adam’s research. He said that VDA doesn’t do much construction because it doesn’t have much money. But he agreed to give a recommendation letter to Adam. He asked Adam to write the kind of letter he was supposed to give to Adam. Adam wrote the letter and the chairman asked his typist to type the same.

I don’t know what had happened but his typist took like more than an hour to type only one page. Finally we got the letter which was very valuable document for Adam’s research. VDA promised Adam to provide any kind of help Adam would like to have in the future, which sounded very strange to me because we Indians never hope for any kind of help from our government. Well, whatever, we got what we needed and that was the most important thing.