My earliest memory of Ramzan is of my father, sitting across the dining table with all the seasonal fruits washed and placed neatly in a basket as he would diligently cut perfectly sized cubes of each fruit one by one. The fruit chaat has always been a quintessential part of the dastarkhwaan which has lip smacking assortments like palak, aloo and pyaaz ke pakode. My mother especially added her special to this fritter variety which was not so common in the other households back then, the ande ke pakodi.
Ramazan is a serious month in a Muslim household. It is the pious month to pray and ask for forgiveness. The thirty days of fasting signifies abstinence. I have vivid memories of our rigid routine during this period. My mother would wind up all house chores by mid-day and sit down to recite the holy Quran in her designated corner of the house. Around 4 p.m. she would set about preparing for iftaar which was a carefully planned meal laid out for the next thirty days. My father would return from office around five and don the most comfortable yet his classic set of starched kurta pajama and get down to his share of iftaari preparations.
As a kid our parents never had to make conscious efforts to teach us the value of our rich culture. However, as a first time parent residing in metro cities away from our parents, my partner and I see this as a challenge. We are more successful professionally, our lifestyle is better than our growing up years. We have helps and maids for majority of our house work, easing our life so that we concentrate on professional progress. We sit and swipe our fingers and order the favorite biryani weighed by kilos not realizing our kids are being deprived of the basics.
I remember when I was in grade five, one of my Muslim classmates used to fast almost all days. Her parents told her that it was the duty of a good Muslim to observe fasts during ramazan. As a young kid I was embarrassed of eating before her. My parents were however not so rigid and asked me to wait it out for another year until they hosted a rozakushai function for my first roza and I could then begin fasting. However that year, that month; I did not take lunch to school and ate only once I returned home. My mother taught us ehteram, an Urdu term which meant respect. As a mother I often wonder how these inherent qualities can be passed on to our kids.
Last year on Dussehra I bumped into my neighbor in the lift. Her young daughter was nicely dressed in a fancy little frock while she donned a silk saree with a neat puja thali in one hand. After the initial pleasantries, I expressed to her how I missed home and celebrating festivals with friends and families. She responded even though she lived by herself, she made sure that slight changes like adorning new dresses and doing puja at specific time of the day taught her daughter about their culture.
There is something special about every festival that we celebrate. To our little ones we want to impart the same meaningful experiences. The stories behind each of these festivals connect us to our roots. It is important to know about them. Our customs and age old traditions help us identify ourselves in the society. Just like every individual has a personality, our society, the people we live with hold values and beliefs and that give them an identity.
Today the world is changing at a very rapid pace. Technology is facilitating our lifestyles. It is easy to get carried away by the wave of modernization which works primarily by tagging our traditions obsolete. It is only if we give time to our young ones and teach them why we follow a certain tradition, will they then understand the significance of these auspicious days.
The idea is simple – to generate curiosity and liking for our culture just as our parents did for us.
The festivals are time for celebration across all households. There is a warmth in the house when you are with your loved ones, the aromas of home cooked delicacies fills the air, exchanging these food items with neighbors gives joy, laying out new clothes to wear the next morning is a different kind of excitement . To the kids these simple activities leave an ever lasting impression and this is precisely how we teach them to value their culture.
I continue to prepare the fruit chaat in my own house after marriage just like the way my father taught me. My daughter rushes to me with a khajoor (date) clasped in her tiny palms and says, “Mamma ye roza mai khalu”. I smile at her innocence and get back to making sure the apples are perfectly sliced.