Monday, August 5, 2013

Ramadan as I have known it

There is a profound silence. A far-reaching one. Often interrupted by the murmuring of the Qur'an by my mother as she flips each page of the holy book within seconds. I sit at my study immersed in this silence and then there is a sudden gush of wind on a rather cloudy day, sending the windows and the door flip open and close so hard that it breaks this moment of silence. I now hear the leaves of the trees sway from one direction to another as though dancing uniformly to the tune of music only they can hear. The curtains too want to tap a feet and they do. For once, there is no activity in the kitchen at this time of the day. The silence persists. The clouds hover covering the scarce bright sky, filling the expanse with darkness as the weather braces itself to drizzle. As much as I love the noise of the hustle bustle of the city, I enjoy my moments of solitude too - as though inviting me to make the most of it for it will be gone soon. I delve into this moment mesmerized enough to let my thoughts flow. So while we are at it, I am attempting a post on this holy season - Ramadan.

Growing up, Ramadan was always referred to as Ramzan. Even before I could realize it became 'Ramadan'. The influence of Arab culture and obsession of doing it the Arab way seems to have dawned Bangaloreans; and unknowingly I seem to have made a choice too.

Ramadan is one of the two major religious celebrations for Muslims all over the world. The second one being Eid'ul adha that takes place at the end of the annual pilgrimage season to Mecca (Hajj). Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar - the month when the holy Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, the messenger of Allah. It is also the month when the Muslims are required to observe Fasting (one of the 5 pillars of Islam) - refrain from eating, drinking and smoking from sunrise to sunset. It also includes refraining from any kind of sexual relations. An individual is expected to do his best to practice self-control from the worldly desires, forgive, be empathetic and generous to the needy in form of charity.

Personally, observing fasting helps discover the spiritual me. I am usually lost in the rat race of life all through the year and Ramadan comes as that essential reminder to stop, get a perspective on life, to endure and feel what it is like to be deprived of food, reflect upon the disparity in the society with a reminder to do charity. I find myself to be more calm and peaceful with a strong urge for a self-improvement and introspection. I also find myself drawing inspiration from the practical lessons in the holy Qur'an.

As kids, we used to be thrilled with the onset of the holy month as it also meant we would get new clothes and money on the day of Eid from the elderly. Nothing can hold a candle to the sweet memories of childhood.

It all begins with the sighting of the new moon. In this city, lately we always find ourselves sitting on the fence at the brink of the evening wondering if the moon was sighted, whether we could start fasting the following day or not. And finally as the news is broken by the Imam of the mosque nearby, we look forward to waking up before the sunset to eat (Suhoor) and offer early morning prayers before we go about for the rest of the day. Mother wakes up even before the world to keep fresh and piping hot food ready for us. A thankless effort. A big shout-out to all the super moms and women for this!!

The fasting ends with sunset when we thank God for the peaceful fast and break the fast (Iftar) with a date, fresh fruits, juice and drinking water. South India is also well known for different varieties of porridge - a traditional must-have for Iftar. One of it is called Iftar Aash (made of broken rice, dal, minced meat and coconut). Haleem is another extravagant version of porridge - a mixture of broken wheat, pulses, meat, curd, and spices cooked for hours.

Without any intention to ramble much about the delicacies knowing fully how difficult it is to abstain from thinking of food, I peer at the window. It begins to drizzle, and the deep silence is interrupted by the sound of the droplets falling on the surface of the ground, metal, trees and everything else in the open even as the sweet smell of the rain lingers tempting me to step away from my study out in the open to savor it. Contented as I sign off, the sound of the Azaan recedes in every direction of the wind - loud and clear. A call for the prayer.

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