Living in West London, guests were a regular occurrence as people would come to stay and we would take cars and coaches to reach the site. We now live ten minutes away from Islamabad, thirty minutes from Hadeeqat-ul-Mahdi, so we are on the doorstep of Jalsa. As you can imagine, guests are always expected.
Several months before Jalsa, my parents start receiving phone calls from family members in the North asking if there will be space for them during the Jalsa time. Family members living abroad will also call to check. Thus, by July, we have a pretty good idea of who will be receiving.
This year, we are fortunate to be receiving guests from Manchester, UK and Canada. We will find space for them all, with our immediate family vacating their rooms. Without a doubt, my father will be sleeping downstairs on the treadmill again!
After many years of receiving guests, we are well stocked with bedding. We vacate our rooms several days before they arrive, and we fill the rooms with foam mattresses, pillows, quilts and new bedding. The women and small children sleep upstairs, and the men and boys sleep on a row of mattresses downstairs. This allows more space for people to sleep, and a real feeling of the Jalsa spirit surrounds the whole house.
During the week of Jalsa Salana, my mum will make boxes of namak paray (savoury crispy bites) and she bakes trays of cake rusk. These rusks are joined with eggs, toast, jam and yoghurt ready for a buffet breakfast as everyone hurries to dress, eat and leave in time for the sessions.
During the Jalsa weekend itself, mornings are a rush of waking, eating and leaving; at night all the showering and ironing is done to save time the next morning. Those evenings are also the time for catching up with family over a late cup of tea and cake (my mum bakes cakes for Jalsa as well!). We’ve also enjoyed many years of listening to stories from the elders about Jalsas of the past, including how homes in Rabwah would be full of family and how they were accommodated on thick quilt type mattresses placed over layers of hay.
If there are any elderly relatives staying who cannot attend Jalsa physically, we create a Jalsa atmosphere for them with MTA playing and just the buzz of lots of people means they can join the Jalsa spirit.
After all the planning and preparing, the Jalsa weekend passes with such speed that before we know it, we are bidding farewell to our guests until the next Jalsa Salana.