Haj a life-changing experience for Indian writer

Haj a life-changing experience for Indian writer
Updated 09 November 2012

Haj a life-changing experience for Indian writer

Haj a life-changing experience for Indian writer

JEDDAH: The spiritual journey of Haj is sprinkled with incredible experiences that put us in touch with our real self, says prominent Urdu writer, critic and translator Rakhshanda Jalil.
“It has been a life-changing experience for me. I feel lighter, more grounded and internally transformed,” she said in an exclusive interview about her experiences during Haj this year.
Jalil, who is known for her activities as coordinator of the cultural center in Delhi’s Jamia Millia, first visited the Kingdom as part of India’s cultural delegation some years ago and is now fully engaged in literary activities. She translated several books including poems of Shehriyar Khan from Urdu to English and researched the progressive literary movement in India.
She said Haj was an internally transformative experience. “It is too early to say how it will affect my life or work. I see the Haj as a personal, inner experience. I’m not sure if in my case it will manifest in any outward way. It isn’t as though I‘ll start wearing a hijab or my husband will grow a beard. Instead, I think inwardly we will be stronger. Hopefully I will pray more regularly than I did before.”
Jalil said when pilgrims stay in Mina, they don’t think about worldly matters. “My cell phone was off for two weeks. I didn’t read newspapers or watch TV and I haven’t felt like I missed anything. My only contact with the real world was daily calls to my two children in Delhi. I enjoyed the feeling of communion with Allah. Sitting in the Grand Mosque facing the Holy Kaaba and praying, you feel you are communicating your deepest feelings to Allah.”
Jalil was highly impressed by the volunteer service extended by the Indian community during Haj. “I was told around 2,000 Indians, mostly from Kerela, come from all over the Kingdom to serve the Hajis. They gave directions, helped consular staff and did many things to reduce the difficulties of Hajis.” She praised office manager Mamdouh Mohammad for his selfless services to pilgrims.
The only problem Jalil found in Mina was the accumulation of garbage. “We stayed in the camp of the Indian Consulate. The arrangements were very good. But I wondered about the piles of rubbish out on the streets. The Saudi government must do something to address this problem,” she said.
Jalil’s new book on the progressive writers movement is being published by Oxford University Press. She recently finished a biography about Rashid Jahan, a feminist and Urdu writer and is currently writing a history of Wynberg Allen, a 125-year-old school in Mussoorie, and the contribution of Anglo-Indian schools to the Indian education system.