After nearly five years living in the UAE, June 6 marks my first real taste of an Indian Iftar. But beyond just food, my host family tells me Ramadan is all about seeing everyone as equal.
As India-born Sadaf Jamal Khan welcomes me into her home for Iftar with her family, my nose is immediately hit with an array of warm, spiced fragrances.
It’s about 5.45pm when we arrive and Sadaf tells me preparation for Iftar is well underway. As she leads me into the kitchen, the fragrance intensifies and it’s all hands on deck.
With bowls of food dotted about the worktops and pots and pans bubbling on the hob, I’m greeted by her mother, Farhana and sister-in-law Huda. Farhana is busy deep-frying spiced dumplings, which will later be added to a yoghurt mixture – a dish they call dahi phulki.
And sitting at the kitchen table, Huda – dressed in a beautifully vibrant, Indian dress – is chopping away at a number of ingredients that will soon adorn the table come Iftar.
When I ask Sadaf if the dishes remain the same, every Iftar, she tells me there are some that “have to be there every day”, like the fruit chaat and cholay (a chick pea, onion, and Indian masala mix). But because they are a family of seven, each day they create someone’s “special dish”.
“For my mom, and most Indian mums, it’s the fruit chaat. Today, we have mango from India which my father actually brought back from India with him.”
But of course, samosas and pakoras always make an appearance too.
The real meaning of Ramadan
For Muslims the world over, Ramadan is noted as a special time of the year. It’s a month where people take a step back from their daily routines to focus even more on community, charity, and fasting. But for Sadaf, her father has instilled one important value in all her siblings.
“Yes, food is a big part of Iftar but this one month observance is actually about remembering that we are all the same. He says we came from dust and eventually we will all go back to it,” she said.
And although they are a family that strives to give back throughout the year, this act is heightened during the holy month.
“Ramadan is a lot about learning from the teachings, so we try to do as much as we can for others.”
With a mosque close by, some days the family prepares separate meals for the mosque goers, and depending on the day, they can feed anywhere between 50 to 100 people.
“With God’s grace we have all we need so as a family it is important that we give back,” Sadaf said.
And no matter how much or how little you have, this is something everyone should strive to do, she said.
As Iftar approaches
As the clock nears the call for prayer (which is 7.09pm on this day), the pitter patter of feet speeds up in the kitchen as the final preparation is underway.
But at that moment, Sadaf takes a minute to recall one of her first memories of seeing a family member fast. They were living in Saudi at the time and she was just 4-years-old.
“My brother was about six at the time and I remember he was playing a game on his computer. At that age some children make their first attempt to observe a half fast, and he was one of them.”
As she sat their eating a piece of fruit, she said she naturally extended out her hand to his mouth for him to share her food, and as he took a bite, he soon realised his error.
“He panicked a little and quickly wiped the taste from his mouth. Being so young, he didn’t do it intentionally, so it was understandable. He went straight back to fasting after that. For me though, I can’t recall my first fast but it was probably a few years later.”
As 7.09pm approaches, Sadaf, Farhana and Huda begin transferring the food to the dining table, and as each family member takes their seat, the prayer call rings out from the nearby mosque.
As the silence at the prayer’s-end marks their que to end fast, with that, each family member takes a sip of water followed by a date, before sharing out the lovingly prepared dishes which sit in front of them.
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