Month of piety, charity, faith — and the family dining together
New Delhi: Mukhtar Ahmed and his wife, Farhat Jahan, have just roused themselves after hearing the sehriwalas waking them from their sleep. It’s 2am and their century-old Liaquat Ali Hussian Haveli near Turkman Gate in old Delhi stirs to life. The three daughters and daughter-in-law lay out the pre-dawn fare. “We avoid heavy meals at Sehri and only have rotis or rice with gravy cooked earlier,” says Farhat Jahan. A family favourite is pheni, the many-stranded, rice-flour concoction that is eaten dunked in warm milk.
Farhat Jahan sleeps later than usual but wakes up before her daughters leave for work. The eldest, Farheen (33), gets up earlier than the others because she has to reach her coaching institute on time. “I return home by Iftar time and have a few minutes to freshen up before the meal with the family," Farheen says.
We keep the Iftar meal light and have fruits, kachaloo or fruit chat, milkshakes and dates. It is for dinner that we have more elaborate meals SAIMA |
daughter. With her husband tending the toddler, Saima helps Farha make pakodas. Her hands covered in besan batter, the daughter-in-law smiles, “I am freer now because if Fatima is around, I can get no work done.”
The dastarkhwan, the food mat, is laid out. The rosered Rooh Afza is poured into person reaches out for a date, the food suggested by the Sharia to break the day’s fast. Then, as in every other Muslim family in the “sheher”, as old residents like to call Old Delhi, the essence of Ramzan — of a devout family praying and dining together — is completed in the Ahmed household.
There is no indolence after the repast. Ahmed and Arshan hurry to the mosque for the Maghrib prayers. “This namaz has to be completed in a limited time as soon as we are through with the Iftar meal,” Farheen says. Saba adds, “Women pray at home as the mosque has no space to accommodate all of us.”
Alittle later, the family readies for Taraweeh, which takes place with the nightly Isha prayers. “Of course, before that, we will have a sumptuous meal,” says Arshan with a wink. “The qorma or nihari will keep us going because Taraweeh prayers sometimes continue for an hour.”
The sobriety of the day disappears as the lanes in the ancient city burst with activity. Visitors throng the streets and enjoy the merriment. At Ahmed’s house, it is more subdued, the focus being on prayers. Some hours later, the Sehriwala bellows outside their haveli, and the cycle begins anew.