Among Other Things.
Quite recently, a Muslim friend of mine had invited me over for Iftar. The idea of what it is to be like in a non-Hindu home amused me. I readily accepted her invitation.
Like other kids, I had formed images of Muslims as being the ‘other’ and different from us. Thanks to the media and our course books which constantly tag Muslims differently, by the process of ‘othering’. And pathetically generalising it to all. But I hadn’t known the irony of these statements until I grew up and began to think for myself.
Back in school days, I did have Muslim friends but my affinity towards them had remained limited to everyday salutations only. And here was the opportunity to explore the unknown, disregard the stereotypes. And my friend Aamina welcomed me aboard. I seized the opportunity.
Aamina was based in Mazgaon, a Muslim-dominated area. As I entered her 2-BHK apartment, the place seemed comforting; all women in her house were busy cooking delicacies in the kitchen while her father and brothers just returned from the mosque.
As per the ritual Tarabi during Ramadan,all men go to the mosque and recite the Quran along with the maulvi while women pray in their houses.
Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان) is the most auspicious and pious month in Islam. The word derives its meaning from the Arabic root ‘ramida’ or ‘ar-ramad’ which literally means scorching heat.
Chapter 2, Revelation 185 of the Quran states:
The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.
And Iftar is a tradition followed in the month of Ramadan as a sign of breaking fast post-sunset.
With food ready to be served, all of us sat around the dining table. The family prayed in silence, thanking the lord for all that he had bestowed on them. I sat their questioning its presence, God’s presence. Soon followed the family bonding. Yes, Iftar was not an everyday chore. It was an opportune moment where the entire family would sit together, talk, discuss and deliberate over issues. Something I had constantly missed in these nineteen years of my life.
Dinner timings at our place had never been fixed. My father often came home late from work; my brother and I would be done with dinner till then. And we never had the opportunity to eat together; a family bonding in form of a ritual. It was rare.
But here I was, with strangers in a strange land who asked me how my day was. The sheer sense of belonging to someone was something I dearly cherished after staying in hostel for three years. I was very much a part of their family. Aamina’s family.
So many things remain unobserved, I pondered as I stepped into the hostel. The next thing was to talk to my fellow Muslim hostellers. A friend of mine Askeya told me “Ramadan is not only limited to fasting. It is a fair lesson for us to be humane and patient. If you speak ill about anyone, the purpose of the fast is dissolved.”
Until now, I had never observed that my fellow Muslim hostellers had their Iftar together; they cooked, they prayed, they ate.
Another friend, Samreen Salehjee said “The month of Ramzan is to cherish and feel privileged with what we have. Every family, depending on their income has to spend an amount for charity; Zakat, to an impoverished individual. That helps us become responsible people.”
This was the opportunity to know them, their rituals and to know individuals. Something I couldn’t let go of. Hence, I joined them for the next Iftar and all those which followed.