I’m sitting here today, waiting for Iftar time, break-fast at dusk, and as I look at the feast of a few people in front of me, I’m taken back to my childhood. Ma and dad never let me fast when I was young, but I couldn’t wait to start fasting at the age of 12. I’d wake up at about 3 or 4 am in the morning to hear clings of plates and spoon and see my mom and dad take their Seheri, a meal before starting to fast before daybreak. Sometimes, my dad would pick me up and show me the peaceful dawn as he read the Koran, finished prayer and quickly hopped into bed.
Breakfast or lunch during Ramadan wasn’t much fun. I used to sit alone eating away, or sometimes accompanied by my grandmom, who also did not fast due to old age and health issues. Early in the afternoon, I’d wake up from my nap, with the aromatic smell of mom’s delicious Iftar preparation. Before everyone in the house would join together to pray and break-fast, dad would take me for a drive around the neighbourhood’s “Iftar Market”.
Dhaka’s tradition of Iftar selling dates back when…I have no idea, but there are specific areas well known for such Iftar markets. Baily Road and Old Dhaka would host some of the biggest Iftar Markets, selling Halim, a thick lentil and beef curry, Jilapi, crispy sugar syrup bites, looking pretty in orange, and yellow kaleidoscope, Shahi kebabs, Mutha Kebabs, Keema chop- a miniature potato pie with minced meat filling, Nargisi Kofta- a spicy hot potato pie with egg in it’s core, and the famous Noorani, a specialty of Old Dhaka, a chilled custardy beverage, the flavour of which I will never be able to write in words.
We would return home with special items from the Iftar Market, as mom would organise Iftar dishes for the whole family. Entire family members and guests, would gather together, about half an hour before the sunset.We would engage in religious story-telling and conversations as we waited for the Maghrib Azaan, a call for prayer at sunset. Dad would turn on the radio that read The Koran in Arabic, as we’d discuss religious and old family stories relating to Ramadan. Minutes before the sunset, everyone would settle down and wait for the Azaan, when we can begin eating. I’d close my eyes, and yet peep with one eye open looking at everyone raising hands in prayer together before the feast, each devoting their day to Allah and asking for their wishes. As Azaan would begin, first through the radio, then slowly live Azaan calls from nearby mosques, the feast would begin, usually with a first bite of Qurma (a piece of date fruit).
Dad pulled me to reality, as he raise his hands for prayers. Mom organised three iftar dishes for me, dad and my sister. We waited in unison, as the clock hand read 6:06 pm, and began iftar. Years have gone by, I am no longer the little girl peeping from dad’s lap, my grandmom is probably watching us from Heaven now, and it’s a complete new lifestyle, yet Ramadan every year brings in a flood of memories and traditions as I adapt new ways which will become traditions tomorrow.