During the one month period of Ramzan, determined by the Islamic lunar calendar, those who are able fast during the day. This excludes pregnant or nursing women and the very elderly. Those young men that run the shops on Bandra west’s Hill road in Mumbai, however, are not exempt.
Ramzan is a time to go back to the heart of Islam, and focus on offering additional prayers, silence, humility. It’s also a moment to recognize family and community, through the communal evening feast called the Iftar.
Because of this communal feast, it is well known that gastronomic pleasure reaches its peak during the month of Ramzan. From Mohammad Ali Road to Bhendi Bazaar, vegetarian and nonvegetarian dishes as well as sweets can be enjoyed, and at any hour of the night.
In Bandra west, Iftar along Hill road in is a sight to behold. All day, shop boys in white prayer caps called taqiyahs lean against counters and count the hours. They haggle with customers with less vigour than usual over cheap clothes, handbags and shoes.
As soon as the sun starts to set, impromptu fruit and meat stalls spring up between the other shops. A dazzling array of beautifully cut pineapple, papaya and watermelon teases passerby. Burqa-clad ladies of all ages haggle with the fruitwalas, talking with their eyes more than their body language. They head home together, grocery bags dangling from forearms that jingle with bangles over their black sleeves, complaining about the high prices of vegetables.
At about 7PM, all of Hill Road’s Muslim shopkeepers are offered respite. Every shop closes down for a half hour, and customers are encouraged to come back later. All of Hill Road becomes one communal Iftar. Under the bright fluorescent bulbs of streetlamps and the glowing moon, tarps are spread on the ground and a prayer is offered. Then, all of the men sit down to enjoy the breaking of the fast. Lavish spreads of cut fruit, barbequed meat and vegetables are spread out and served. Everyone eats and celebrates and laughs together under the moon: a prayer in itself.
Bronwyn McBride is a student from Vancouver, BC, and now lives between India and Canada. After quitting her intensive study of circus arts and dance in Quebec, Bronwyn flew across the globe alone to see if she could live in a very different way. It wasn’t her first visit to India, and wouldn’t be her last!
Wherever she is, Bronwyn explores different ways to volunteer and get involved with local communities. She’s worked with severely disabled kids in a Mother Teresa orphanage in Kolkata, crossed the country with a social change performance tour, and has spent long months through the boiling summer in Varanasi, working in a school for girls. Next up: enjoying volunteerism and a foray into Bollywood in India’s cosmopolitan metropolis, Mumbai.
More of Bronwyn’s writing can be found at: www.bronwyngrace.wordpress.com