This Muslim dholak player’s heart beats for the cows

via http://www.indianexpress.com/story/330007.html published on July 3, 2008

Sixty-two-year-old Haji Mir Qasim is no ordinary folk musician. With a dholak as his accompaniment, Qasim has travelled to the US, the UK, West Asia and South Africa, besides sharing the stage with many a stalwart of Gujarati folk music across the state and throughout the country. But what makes this Muslim folk artiste from Junagadh stand out is his love for cows. Since his childhood, Qasim has been fond of the gentle animal and till date has performed in countless programmes to raise funds for both fodder and shelter for the cow.

Travelling through the countryside of his state, with his dholak in his hands, Qasim has staged numerous performances for the cow. Only three weeks ago, along with other Gujarati folk artistes, he performed in two programmes at a temple in Sattadhar village of Junagadh and helped raise Rs 1 lakh for fodder of 90 cows belonging to the temple.

“Cows need fodder and shelter or gau-shalas (cow pens). All this requires money. The only way I can help is with my dholak. It’s difficult to count the number of times I have performed for the cows. I never charge fees for such performances and also request my fellow artistes to cut their fees by half,” says Qasim.

“I’ve done three to four shows each in almost all the villages of Junagadh to help set up gau-shalas. I perform whenever people tell me that they have run out of money for fodder.” He recently performed for Bapa Sitaram Gau-Shala in Chorwad.

“We badly needed funds for fodder, and Hajibhai came to us offering to do a show. It helped us raise Rs 25,000,” says Babu Tamboli, who heads the trust that runs the gau-shala.

Qasim is better known by a nickname conferred on him, Ramakadu, literarily meaning a toy in Gujarati and actually denoting his extraordinary talent as a dholak player.

While Qasim has been winning hearts and plaudits from one and all, he considers it a big moment when religious leader Morari Bapu felicitated him in Junagadh a few years ago.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Morari Bapu said: “Qasim is a great artiste, and he is using his art to bridge the gap between two communities. I salute him. A dholak can be played only if you use both the hands and that itself is a fitting symbol of the need for Hindu-Muslim unity.”

Apolitical and unbound by ideologies, Qasim, is being taken note of in some unlikely quarters too. “It’s good that he is doing his shows for the cause of the cows. Those who slaughter cows should take inspiration from him,” was how VHP general secretary Kaushik Mehta put it.

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