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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ramzaan and I

I was introduced to the holy month of Ramzaan rather early in life.

I was 11-12 years old when I met Uncle Nafeez. He was a short, stocky man and was a carpenter by trade. My father had engaged his services as a few items of furniture in the household had to be repaired and a few new ones made. He arrived early every morning and worked diligently until sunset for the two weeks or so that it took him to finish his work. The only break he would take was to ride off on his bicycle to pray at a nearby mosque late in the afternoon. Ramzaan coincided with June (usually the hottest month in North India) that year and, being the pious Muslim that he was, he was fasting. All that we could do to help was to ensure that he always worked in the shade and not in the hot sun.

By the time he completed his assignment and left, he had become very friendly with my younger brother, who was 3-4 years of age then, and even gifted him a little replica of a dining chair carved out of a left-over block of wood. My parents were also quite impressed with the quality of his work. We lost touch with him, however, after we left town because of my father having changed jobs.

Many years later, I saw three of my batch-mates at the post-graduate programme in management that I pursued also observe roza religiously, even during the semester examinations, while they studied as well as any of the other students and neither demanded nor got any special concessions from the college authorities. All of them, like me and many others, were boarders and yet fasted regularly for the whole month. They used to put aside some food at dinner time and re-heat and eat it early in the morning for sehri.

Subsequently, I had two colleagues who were just as fastidious about the whole exercise, without letting their work schedules suffer in any way. It has been long since we stopped working together, but I remain in touch with one of them, though not so often as before.

All of the six men that I have mentioned above may not be described as perfect human beings for each had his own faults, including, in at least two cases, egotism, and a tendency to succumb to the charms of women with malicious intentions (such as to use their womanhood to hide their incompetencies at work and to further their careers) in one. Five out of the six were (and, presumably, are) smokers, though none consumed alchohol or other intoxicants.

A commonality that I noticed, though, was that all were respectful towards adherents of religious faiths other than Islam and tolerant of others' religious practices and beliefs, in addition to, obviously, going about following their own without much fanfare.