Month of piety, char­ity, faith — and the fam­ily din­ing to­gether

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES CITY - @times­group.com

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.

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