Missing home in Ramadan | The Daily Star
12:18 PM, June 29, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:59 PM, June 29, 2016

Missing home in Ramadan

The smell of dates, haleem and fried food is missing in the air; so is the ambience of iftar.

While some of us still prepare ‘chhola’, ‘peyaju’, ‘beguni’ and lemonade to break our fasts, others do not. We drag our drowsy selves from the bed to eat the early morning meal, yet it does not feel the same. Fasting in a foreign country is a different experience altogether. 

Here in Minnesota, the daily fast runs for about 17 long hours, and to make matters worse, an individual does not have the luxury of going to work at 9am or leaving a few hours earlier to make it home before iftar.

Sabina, who works at a McDonald's outlet in Brooklyn, New York, starts her shift at six o'clock in the morning. "I eat a little something for sehri - usually some rice and curry. I say my Fajr prayer and leave home soon after to catch the subway to work," she said.

For hundreds of thousands like Sabina, the story is pretty much the same.

Afsheen Mozammel, who works as a process engineer at Point Medical Corporation in Indiana, faces a more difficult situation. Afsheen skips sehri altogether as she has to drive to work by 7:30am. "I only have one meal in the day during Ramadan, that is, iftar. Other than on weekends, I simply have rice, curry and a glass of lassi to break my fast."

Asked if she used to wake up for sehri back in Dhaka, she said, "Of course I did! But it was a different time and place. I live alone in Indiana now. My husband works in Michigan and visits only on weekends. On weekdays, I do not feel like waking up so early in the morning to eat sehri all by myself," she added.

Communal iftars help strengthen the bond between members of the Muslim community and teaches them the spirit of sharing during Ramadan
Communal iftars help strengthen the bond between members of the Muslim community and teaches them the spirit of sharing during Ramadan. Photo: Collected.

Some are, however, blessed with the communal feeling of sharing a homely iftar. Syed Rashed Zaman, a graduate student at University of Southern Illinois - Edwardsville, shares an apartment with three other students.  He and his friends break their fast at a neighbouring mosque, where some South Asian families provide iftar for the guests every day.

"That is my only proper meal of the day. I cannot cook much, let alone prepare a traditional iftar but the mosque provides enough food for the guests to take home for sehri," Rashed said. 

Others like Mohammad Amin, who is a risk analyst by profession, re-enacting the homely atmosphere surrounding Ramadan is a deliberate attempt.

"I have saved some of my favourite verses of the Qur’an off the Internet to play before iftar time," the Minnesota resident said. "It reminds me of my years in Dhaka when we would turn to BTV and listen to recitations just before the Maghrib adhan."

Iftar parties are however common - it is one way to connect with the people of one's country during this holy month. Such large gatherings help the immigrant population forget the family and the food that they have left behind, even if it is only for a few hours.

"On most days, five to six families go potluck and break our fast together," Ananya Rabeya, a mathematics teacher at Lakeside School in Seattle, Washington shared.

"It feels wonderful to be able to live in a place with a substantial Muslim population. But it was different when I was a student and lived in a city with barely any Muslims. Fasting in those days was often a solitary affair."

Communal iftars help strengthen the bond between members of the American Muslim community and teaches them the spirit of sharing during Ramadan. Yet sometimes, no matter how hard we try, sitting with family at the dining table and waiting for a muezzin's call for Maghrib prayer is something missed in every Bangladeshi-American household.

Then again, life goes on and we adapt ourselves to this foreign land to embrace another Ramadan. 

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