Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Holiday season, pt 1: Muslim celebrations

Posted by Chris on October 15, 2007

The host, me, Tina, Shantu, and community members
Well I did not go to the Muslim restaurant as planned last night, but, nevertheless, did bear witness to the excitement of Eid, Muslim New Year. But first, rewind. And I did eat biryana today at a different restaurant, a rice dish that I would’ve had on Eid night.

Ramadan (Ramzan) just ended. This did not effect me too much but I do have one friend here at IITD who is Muslim, so he was fasting. According to him, you fast from all substances that enter the body. Therefore, he did not drink water or even use eye drops. Once I asked if that was the universal belief and that I thought I had met or heard of more lax standards, but he was very staunch in saying it must be done that way. I’m thinking that is a product of conservative upbringing in India, correct me if I’m wrong but not all would have the same fasting requirements.

I also did participate in one Ramzan event. The meal that breaks the fast each evening is the Iftaar. The fasting person must eat it at a precise time, sundown I guess, each day. So Rizwan, my friend at IITD, would always have some kind of food ready to eat at exactly that moment. But the Iftaar can also be a larger, more social event. I read in the newspaper a few weeks ago that some Muslims in the Middle East go to big buffets every night and actually gain weight during Ramzan. The Iftaar I attended was hosted by Ahmadulla, who works at IITD Kakdwip with the Water to Development project. He invited all the staff, us visitors, prominent members of the community, and some of the members of IITD development target groups. All in all, there were maybe 40 people there? You can see in the pictures all of us eating. At the table where I’m sitting are Tina and Shantu our private taxi driver, as well as Amdullah standing next to the table.

It was not your basic Bengali meal, with rice and ‘the fixins’. The main dish was puri bread and a kind of chickpeas soup that is always served with it and you eat this together. There were also a fair share of sweets and fruits which are not as common; I ate dates for the first time, and my first apple in India. It was good. We estimated that it may have cost him around 10-15% of his monthly salary although that could be way off.

Eid was on Sunday. Rizwan left IITD and went home to celebrate with his family, however, the rest of my locale is Hindu-dominated and life went on as usual. In fact, I’m almost certain there are more Christians around IITD than Muslims. But on Sunday morning, during my long trek to church, I saw many Muslims conspicuously dressed for and celebrating the New Year. Many of the teenagers were wearing shiny, new shirts and the men wearing spotless white garments (the long shirts, I believe they are called dhoti). I don’t think the area I was walking is Muslim-dominated, just that they were all out being social, eating food, etc… 40 minutes is a long time to walk but watching this helped to pass the time.

This is a good transition to part 2, on the Hindu holidays, which is also precipitated by excitement and shopping for new clothes, but also much more extensive preparations. I’ll post on that sometime before it all starts on Thursday.

Line of people eating

other end of the line

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