With cherry-pink toes and a shade of lipstick just shy of a Hawai’i sunset, Miriam* stands with her arms raised to the heavens and calls on the Lord to help Kiran’s mother clear her cancer test results.
In the slender L-shaped backroom, women and girls uniformly clad in faded blue denim and black t-shirts put their hands together and murmur in response. Some cannot hold back the tears. It is the Sunday morning prayer session for those who have missed obligatory service in church. Outside the day is just beginning with the first orders for manicures, root touch-ups and eyebrow threading coming in at the well-known beauty salon.
In a rapid-fire running appeal, Miriam, who learnt how to hold a prayer session at her church, keeps the pitch high and the tone desperate. “I went to church in the morning and was given the call,” she explains afterwards. “God gave me the sense that I should hold a prayer today.”
The women and girls, a majority of who are Christian at this Clifton salon, work throughout the week but as they get Monday’s off, some of them can miss out on the early Sunday mass in their neighbourhoods. They come from several different denominations and worship across Karachi. The salon’s owner moved their shift time to start later at noon on Sundays but Miriam holds a prayer group for any girls who couldn’t make it in the morning.
“Sometimes someone gets sick and can’t reach church on time or has household work,” says Saba, one of the older hairdressers. “That’s when we do this and it can be as short as five minutes.” According to the women, the salon’s owner has always generously allowed them the time to worship on Sunday mornings. Outside in the reception the discussion is more focused on Ramazan with an elderly woman discussing a dars group as she gets her hair dyed.
The prayer begins with Rose reading from a translation of Deutronomy 30 verses 15-20, her choice for the day. She stands with someone else’s dupatta over her head and reads loud and proud. Miriam follows after the Bible reading. At one point she goes into a rapture and starts speaking in an unfamiliar tongue, which the girls call ‘Pakru’. “It comes from the Lord,” Miriam explains later. “I just keep speaking. He tells me the words.” Towards the end, after prayers have been said for everyone who had a request, they wrap up with The Lord’s Prayer in Urdu.
Rev Shahid Sabir of the Holy Trinity Church said that people, who miss the Sunday service, can offer their prayers at their homes or workplaces. “Anyone can pray at anytime, anywhere,” he said. However, Shah said that individual prayers cannot be compared to the Sunday Mass. “Prayers in groups and led by priests have more blessings and importance as compared to a group of individuals praying at their homes.”
The Sunday service at his Protestant church, starts off at 8am, and lasts an hour, in some instances it takes longer. Another service starts at 9am while the last one is held at 10:30am. The Sunday Mass is important for the Christians, as they leave behind everything and come to the church to pray, placing God as their top priority. Sunday was selected for the special mass as Jesus Christ was resurrected on a Sunday. Parliamentarian Saleem Khokhar says there are over 400 to 500 churches in the city, with the highest number of churches belonging to the Roman Catholic denomination.
*Names have been changed on request
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2012.