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Being born in one religion and married to another was part of my destiny. Diwali became a part of my existence at birth; Karma gifted Ramadan to me.
Eons ago, my affiliation with Karma was established. I believe I was chosen to unearth a practice/belief, and it drove its way through deserts and mountains to find me.
Being part of one religion and married to another was part of my destiny. I was under the impression ‘I’ designed it that way. But the fact is someone above you provides that nudge, before every decision you make.
Ramadan’s birth in my life happened in August 2010, as a result of being married in December 2009. I remember how vulnerable, naïve, and nervous I was at its arrival. After all, I was plebeian to the whole idea.
“So you will fast till the sun makes its peace with the earth, for a month?” I questioned Shahzeel, my husband. I knew how it rolled but when you start living with someone who observes this month- it’s a whole other experience. Your perception and thinking patterns broaden and you acclimate and accept the changes in your life. If not accept, you understand that what’s unreal for you may be living life for the other.
Not that my intention was wrong but I foresaw Ramadan as additional work. It is eccentric and I couldn’t gauge how his schedule will modify.
There are a dozen adjustments that I make in this month. The foremost is the smell of tea. As the month starts, I start dodging guilt – the guilt of sipping that tea when he is fasting. It is difficult to share a house when I can entertain food as he refrains.
So today, like every Ramadan, I woke up a bit early to make tea so that the smell of chai patti in boiling water doesn’t find his smell buds. He might be okay with that but even after 11 years, I struggle to deal with that guilt. Over the years I have learned to have my breakfast and lunch in seclusion, away from his eyes.
“I am fine, Summy,” He always says.
“But I am not,” I always respond.
Even while making tea in the morning, I placed two cups on the kitchen slab, only to realise it won’t be until May end that we will share tea. But like I said, gradually it gets easier and you adapt. I know what Ramadan means to him.
What’s eccentric to me is an innate and most desirable period of the year for him. It is a month of gratitude, giving, and living a life different than our routine life. You switch off the world and tune into your inner consciousness.
I know my husband does it all year long as he is rare “Allah ka banda” but then the design and fabric of this month is surreal for millions of souls. Ramadan brings alive a higher sense of morality and your responsibility to your community, the human race, and your creator.
I know how I feel when Diwali is around the corner and so a decade later I do understand, partially if not completely, what Ramadan is for him!
The first and the last time I observed a fast was August 10, 2010. I wanted to accompany Shahzeel for his first roza as a married couple. As food met my mouth at 8:30 PM, Beaverton, USA time, tears rolled from my cheeks to add more salt to the gravy on the plate.
Kinta bhi sympathise kar lo, bhook (and gareebi in a bigger picture) aise cheez hai jab aan padti hai tabhi pata chalti hai. (No matter how much you empathise, hunger (and poverty in a bigger picture) are things that you understand only when it comes upon you.
In these 11 years, I have seen Shahzeel hold his fast under different circumstances as we sailed in different boats in different years. When, in 2011 we were moving from Chicago to Hyderabad this month. And last year we were making a move to Kanpur from Melbourne. As the lunch hour progressed, the cabin was filled with the aroma of ‘chicken or fish’ and airline meals were passed under his nose.
“Tum khao abhi. Thodi der mein main bhi kha lunga. (You start eating; I’ll have after some time)” he said handing over a meal. As I ate with my fellow passengers, he kept resting with eyes closed.
Lufthansa was kind enough to provide him food at the time of iftar. My eyes watered as I saw him eat with patience. I can’t control hunger so it was hard for me to witness his gumption and strength.
Ramadan is not about those elaborate iftar parties, of women being in the kitchen cooking, of converting nights into the day as you wake for your prayers at night. It is about striking a balance – between deen and duniya, between function and submission. And about being simple – in terms of food and appearance and if not all, then at least being open to the idea of being respectful and humble.
This Ramadan is different as Mosques are closed and Tarawih will be performed at home (ritual prayers performed by Muslims at night). But then dua toh niyat se ki jaati hai. HE will find you no matter you call for him from your home or a religious gathering. The power of collectively is divine but then the power of isolation is exquisite. Different times call for different exploration.
I explored the goodness in khajoor and he explored the power-puff balls, i.e., sabudana.
It is hard to attain a balance but like COVID – 19 taught us how staying at home is the new normal. And we understood a decade ago, how culture difference and amalgamation is the new normal for our household. It is about words I can’t emphasise enough on – perception, co-existence, and acceptance.
A version of this was first published here.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Raazi
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