Jamaat- the simple translation would be community. Chicago is my home, and I like to think I’ll always be a part of the Chicago jamaat.
But here, in Bangkok, I belong to a new jamaat, and this one is markedly different from any I’ve been in before. First it’s not Indian. It’s 3 or 4 generations Thai. The first language here is Thai. The people are Thai. The food is Thai. From it’s inception 120 years ago, this jamaat has flowered in seeming isolation from the global community. There is a translation of the majalis in Thai, and they even pay homage to the royal family of Thailand at each function.
It’s very different, but when you walk in the masjid, it’s still unmistakably Bohra. And though it’s like any other Bohra experience I’ve had before, I’ve gotten a sense of community that I feel should be at the heart of any jamaat.
One difference is that the Amil doesn’t sit on a thakat, many feet off the ground, rather only a few inches at the audience’s level. During Vaas, the Amil asks questions, takes jamaat member’s names…talks to rather than at.
I am a new member and am not privy to many of the unspoken obligations and gossip and history and hierarchy that goes along with being a part of any social or cultural organization which is quite possibly just below the surface. From this distance, however, it feels how a community should…like a family (I know this must be a slight exaggeration, but that’s how I feel right now)