Roza in California

iftar 4

Justice Markenday Katju-

Although I am an atheist, I have been keeping one day Roza ( fast ) in the month of Ramzan (usually on the last Friday ) for the last 20 years or so, and have appealed to all non-Muslims to do so as a mark of solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters ( I also appeal to non-Hindus to keep one day fast during Navratri ).

Once when I was in California, USA the month of Ramzan happened to fall in that period. So I appealed to all non-Muslims everywhere to observe one-day Roza on a certain day. Many of my Hindu friends settled in California agreed to do so, and Mrs. Shaista Ali, wife of the highly successful entrepreneur Mr. Syed Ali ( who is originally from Andhra Pradesh ) agreed to host an Iftaar and dinner at their huge mansion.

Justice Markandey Katju

I told my wife to keep some boiled eggs, bread and milk in the fridge for me to have as Sehri ( the early morning meal, after which one cannot have anything to eat or drink till the time of Iftaar, the evening meal ).

In America, the times of Sehri and Iftaar are published on the internet. The problem for me was that the times are different for Sunnis and Shias, and I was neither. For Shias, the time of Sehri on that day (so far as I can recollect ) was 4.05 a.m. while for Sunnis it was 4.26 a.m. What was I to do? I am neither Shia nor Sunni. So I decided to play it safe and did my Sehri before 4.05 a.m. That way I could observe both timings. So I got up at about 3.45 a.m. and quickly swallowed some eggs, milk, and bread, and thereafter fasted the whole day without food or water.

In the evening I traveled to Shaistaji’s house with some friends in a car. Her house is on a hill, about 40 miles from where I was staying. I reached there well before the time of Iftaar, but announced to the people there that I will break my fast not a moment before the time of Iftaar.

I learned that there are two meals. The Iftaar is a light meal with dates, fruits etc. Thereafter the Muslims gathered there said their prayers, and only then we had the splendid regular dinner with delicious dishes ( vegetarian and non-vegetarian ) prepared by Shaistaji.

[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own]

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