With the start of the month of July in London, the Jamaat’s atmosphere begins to buzz with the same excitement that could once be seen in Qadian and later in Rabwah in December. The passion of Jalsa preparations comes into full swing. On 1 July, as I sought guidance over a certain matter to do with the Jalsa Special Number of Al Hakam, Huzoor mentioned something in relation to Jalsa Duties. This clicked, and I presented a question to Huzoor:
“Huzoor, you have had the opportunity of serving in Jalsa Salana. Is there anything that you recall in relation to your Jalsa duties?”
The reply I received is hereby presented as a gift from Al Hakam to Ahmadis around the world on the momentous occasion of Jalsa Salana 2018:
“I started performing Jalsa duties from a very young age. As far as I can remember, I do not recall any Jalsa when I was not on duty. Abba [Hazrat Mirza Mansoor Ahmad Sahib] was the Nazim of Langar Khana Number 1 – the Langar Khana situated behind Nusrat Girls School in Rabwah. His days and nights were spent there. As a very young child, I would accompany him. I remember walking to the Jalsa duty, holding his finger. I must have been six, seven or maybe eight because it is quite unusual for a child older than that to walk while holding someone’s finger.
“I recall how amazing the Jalsa Salana atmosphere used to be. The atmosphere of Jalsa was very exciting. Most of my time was spent in the Langar Khana [kitchen], and that too thrived with the buzz of Jalsa. On one side would be many queues of hundreds of degs [cauldrons] on stoves in an orderly fashion while there would be lines of hundreds of clay-ovens on the other where bakers would be baking rotis. The clay-ovens would also be placed in a well-organised manner. Abba would walk between both lines, constantly inspecting the work.
“Wood was used for fire in the stoves and clay-ovens and thus, the whole Langar Khana would be filled with smoke. Our eyes would be exposed to this smoke and we would also inhale it, but we loved this atmosphere so much that it never put us off and I would carry on going with Abba to assist him. I, along with other children of my age, would also assist in counting rotis.
“Abba had his own way in that if work needed to be sped up or if rotis were running short, he would hold a competition among the bakers; whoever baked a hundred or two-hundred rotis would win two rupees in prize. Back then, two rupees was quite a decent reward. If more rotis were required in the given time, he would set the prize money at five rupees. With this, every baker would try to exceed the other in an attempt to win more money in reward. The bakers would chant slogans to keep up their motivation, and the winners would especially chant slogans in celebration as they received their prize money. What a wonderful atmosphere it was!
“Cooks had to be called from other towns to prepare food for Jalsa Salana in the Langar Khana. There were those who would cook food in the degs, some who would knead the dough, others to make dough-balls and, of course, bakers; all these people would be hired on contract. Such contracts were in place for most tasks and agreeing and signing them would be a major step.
“Once, the bakers called a strike saying that they wouldn’t bake rotis. Their demand was probably an increment in wages or some other demand of such nature. They knew that they were desperately needed in Jalsa days, so they must have thought it the best way to have their demands met. With their strike, the situation was that roti could not be baked to feed the thousands of thousands of guests as there were no bakers. Even if there were a few Ahmadi bakers, they seemed next to none in that situation.
“The administration informed Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh about the situation and requested his guidance. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIIrh, in his opening address, instructed the attendees of Jalsa to consume one roti instead of two so that there were sufficient rotis for everyone. He also instructed that local Ahmadi households of Rabwah should bake rotis and send them to the Langar Khana so that there was no shortage. The Jalsa Salana administration also arranged for flour to be sent to contributing households. Now, guests would stick to having only one roti in a meal while rotis started pouring in from houses. The result was that rotis, instead of the supposed shortage, were more than sufficient and plenty without any problem.
“The bakers also understood that it was pointless to call strikes there. They simply asked to be pardoned and got back to work.
“The Langar Khana would remain functional day and night. Most of the workers would stay there overnight where there was a parali [paddy stems] laid as loose matting. The labourers and bakers would sleep by their clay-ovens as that was probably the most comfortable place for them in the bitterly cold weather. The little wink of sleep that one could manage to catch was done so there. When I grew up and was in my college-going age, I too would stay there for night-shifts and would catch a bit of sleep on the parali. I would sometimes come home. We would wake up the workers, labourers and the bakers at around half-past-one or two o’clock in the morning, and work for the day would start from then on.
“As the days of Jalsa drew closer, stacks of parali could be seen in various parts of Rabwah, from where it was distributed to various departments and accommodation areas. Almost every household of Rabwah would host Jalsa guests, so local residents were also given parali [to use as bedding].
“I always offered my duty in Langar Khana, even when I was a tifl. Then at every stage, I was blessed to serve in the Langar Khana of the Promised Messiahas. I was a khadim [servant] even as a tifl; I was a khadim as a khadim; a khadim in Ansarullah and, to this day, I remain a khadim.”
May Allah bless our humble Imam with a large number of khadims. Amin