Monday, September 15, 2008

Ramadan Woes...

In case you people haven't noticed yet, I'm a Muslim. And this is the holy month of Ramadan (or Ramzan) for us. Since a lot of people have been asking me about it (understandably since there are only about 25 Muslims on this campus), here's quick blog post to inform everyone.

During Ramadan, a healthy, able Muslim must compulsorily fast for the Month of Ramadan in the Islamic Calendar (this year it's from 2nd Sept - 2nd October). That means no food, water, sex etc. from Sunrise to Sunset. We break the fast at sunset (which is calculated scientifically nowadays), traditionally with a few dates and water, and then a huge feast! Here's what a typical 'break'-fast looks like:

Being brought up in the Middle-East was an amazing experience during the holy month. The moment Ramadan started, the entire place would change. Mornings and Afternoons would be lazy, most shops would down their shutters, schools and offices will get at least 1-2 hours off. Everyone suddenly becomes pious and good-hearted.

Our neighbors (all arab, btw), will send huge parcels of food that they have prepared at home (Kebabs, Haleem, Biryani, Cutlets etc), and that too every single day! Needless to say, Ramadan was a time when everyone used to double in size in spite of starving all day long. After the evening prayers, the entire city used to bear a festive look. Shopping Malls, small stores, Footpath vendors will all be open till the wee hours of the night, the aroma of freshly cooked delicacies will be everywhere. Ramazan was also a time of roaming around and eating, since everyone wants to host an Iftar (break-fast) party at their homes. Mosques run by influential sheiks would set up a huge tent and host a public buffet every night, for everyone, come and eat as you like! Ramadan is treated like a month-long festival there, with a delicious spread served for all 30 days. Check out one such iftar feast:

It’s been about 5 years since I’ve been with my family at home for Ramadan and year after year it’s been getting worse. Given the small number of students who are fasting (~25) we cannot make elaborate arrangements for our food. And we are forced to rely on the canteen to feed our only meals for the day – the Iftar (sunset) and Saher (sunrise) meals. The first week was extremely bad: Food was coming in Late, and one day our canteen-wallah tried to make Biriyani, but ended up like Pongal. (I wish I clicked a snap of it then to convince you people). The two UG1 Muslim students have opted out of the ramzan mess arrangements after falling sick and are now fending for themselves.

There is pretty much nothing that can be done about this situation. We all know that our canteen is in a deplorable state, but it is our only option to get food during this month. It’s pretty ironic that Hyderabad is one of the best places to be in India during the month of Ramadan, but inside the Institute, it’s a real downer. One silver lining is that we believe that during this month, we are expected to suffer and work as usual, and not take it easy. Going by that, we are sure to receive extra ‘credits’ from the God Almighty for this month.

I would like to mention however the goodwill and support extended by our faculty in letting us make all the arrangements for this month – from the prayer areas to finance and mess arrangements. Compared to other institutes with Muslim minorities in the student body, we have been treated very well. I’ve heard stories from friends in institutes like IIT-M about how much they have to bear with the indifferent attitude of the administration to get their Ramadan-related issues sorted out, year after year. I’m not sure if this is the case with other institutes but it doesn’t really sound too farfetched.

Bottom-line, I’m ranting about not being with my family during this month!


pkj said...

A couple of years ago, arrangements were made for Ramadan to be conducted in Canteen. I guess that hasn't changed yet. Which is a good thing.

However if the current canteen in-charge is not making arrangements upto your expectations, you should do this.

Get hold of a caterer who can supply good food at reasonable prices and at your expected times. Convince the fellow fasting students about getting food from him and then convince the faculty that this is a good alternative and then arrange for a premises.

I can assure you each of those steps can be done. We had Panjabi Rasoi delivering parathas everyday for almost a month in one of our messes. So there is a precedent as well.

Fasting reminds me of the Jain fasting week which was recently concluded. Though I have not observed it in IIIT, Piyush Jain, of 2k-4 batch, had made arrangemetns for Yuktahaar mess to serve Jain food before sunset everyday.

Ramadan Mubarak !

Anonymous said...

Nicely written and very informative.
And yeah.. I agree with pkj. You can try and get a caterer serving you in the campus. That should be very much possible.

Halley said...

i dont intend to be harsh .. but generally curious
wat is the funda of fasting :D ..
ppl in maharashtra .. guys and gals alike .. fast very regularly [not the ramzan kind general hindu kind .. my husband shud do well so i fast .. i shud do well so i fast] ..
but everytime they fast .. they have a special menu every day they fast ... upvaas aalo .. upvaas paratha .. upvaas khichdi this that :D
and i guess it is the same on ur end too :) ..
So i argue with them always .. So why fast then :).

asr said...

Which is why Aziz rocks! (Aziz was a mess-comm sometime back)

mythalez said...

aah .. i miss the haleem and iftar parties in hyd :(

Suhail said...

Thanks guys for your comments,

@pkj, we consume a lot of non-veg during Ramadan, I'm pretty sure that that will not be allowed to enter any of the existing mess halls.

Also our timings are odd. Iftar is fine, but who can we get to serve us food everyday at 4 am?

We did threaten to stop the entire mess proceedings at canteen, after which the canteen wallah brought in a new cook and food's been better.

@halley, During Ramadan, muslims do not eat or drink anything during daylight - sunrise to sunset. Also, doing bad things like lying, stealing, etc, are also considered to break the fast.

One of the objectives of Ramadan fasting is to experience hunger and starvation like the less fortunate people, and thank god for our health and well being. Ramadan is also an opportunity for prayer and studying the Quran, gives people a chance to be good for a month and try to carry that forward in their lives.

aniket said...

Must say that I'm impressed by the idea behind Ramadan. It's good to take a one month break every year, get away from the world and try to reach within yourself, keeping your mind free of pollutants like lying.

Ramadan Mubarak to you!

Harshil said...

ur sound very nice daaa,
Ramadan Mubarak../