This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Zehra Kazmi. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘How People Who Don’t Necessarily Belong To A Background Similar To Mine Celebrate Ramzan’

More from Zehra Kazmi

By Zehra Kazmi

Ramzan is obviously an important month for me but it’s true that I have been thinking about it more since I am writing a column on it. At this time last year, I was more concerned about the DU cut offs than what it means to be a Muslim. If I didn’t have to write a piece every 2-3 days, I would have probably just gone about this month the way I had been going about it all my life.

I grew up in a town far away from my extended family in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. My parents’ social circle mostly included fellow government servants – almost none of them are Muslims. I had Muslim classmates growing up in school but I am close to very few of them. Ramzan is a quiet affair in my house. We pray, we fast, buy new clothes before Eid and try to do our bit. As I was mulling over what I should talk about next in my article, a suggestion by my brother made me wonder about how people who do not necessarily belong to a background similar to mine celebrate Ramzan.

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Image source: Wikimedia commons


Iftekhar Ali co-owns the R. Ali and Sons Bakery with his brother. The shop is situated in the most important shopping area of Ranchi, unimaginatively called Main Road. The bakery has been around for almost a century and like most of Ranchi’s Muslims, is my mother’s preferred destination for the family’s iftaar shopping. I talk to him before he leaves for tarawih (extra prayers performed by Muslims at night in the month of Ramzan).
For him, Ramzan is a month of “discipline and prayer.

Not watching useless TV“, he repeats with a mildly annoyed expression on his face. His eyes light up as he explains to me the different culinary traditions of the month, “We focus a lot on baked goods this month. There is sheermal and baakharkhani. We have different types of baakharkhaani-khoya, keema and banana are always popular. We import dates from the Middle East. Some customers demand for ajwa dates which cost approximately Rs 3000 per kilo. We import them from Medina in Saudi Arabia. They have been recommended by The Prophet himself in the hadith. Honey and chocolate dipped dates have also become quite popular. Of course, sewai is the most important food item of the month. Banarsi, qimami and sheer sewai are some of the different preparations.” When I ask him if people’s tastes have changed in the past few decades, he muses, “Yes, people want something new every few years. Things have changed from our father’s time.

He must leave for his prayers now.

I catch up with Yasir Rizvi, who is in his early thirties and working for a large multinational bank in Gurgaon. I ask him about how his Ramzan has been like this year. “I didn’t keep the first three rozas this time but it doesn’t feel like Ramzan if I don’t fast, so I won’t miss anymore. I look forward to meeting my family and celebrating Eid together and also the food. Lots of food,” he grins widely.

I am trying to organize an iftaar at Shah-e-Mardan Dargah and feed as many people as I can this year but the dates are all booked. Let’s see, I hope this works out.” What are his impressions of the month? He tells me, “I like how the anticipation builds up to Eid. I miss the atmosphere of places like Aligarh where the excitement is so palpable. I am sure it is the same for certain areas in Delhi as well. I don’t really see much of it around me because of the kind of lifestyle people like us lead,” he rues.

He goes on to add, “What really touches me is how my non-Muslim friends go out of their way to be considerate towards me during this time – my boss might let me off early and they don’t let me do any heavy work. Some of them are surprised that I fast during the month, they don’t expect me to. They are all very inquisitive to know what Ramzan is all about and they try to correlate it to their religious festivals like Navratra. I invite them over to my place for iftaar. The cultural exchange is what makes living in a multi-religious society truly fascinating. For me, Ramzan and Moharram are both spiritual and socio-religious markers of my year.” I could see that he felt strongly about the idea of community. A sense of nostalgia pervades his words.

Mir Wasim Raja is a twenty year old medical student in Guwahati Medical College and Hospital. He sheepishly admits to me about not being particularly religious. When I ask him how he approaches Ramzan, he says after some thought, “Ramzan gives people like my parents the power to exercise self restraint, deny temptations. That it would strengthen their faith, and anything that strengthens faith for people to believe in something greater than themselves, I can respect that. God knows the world needs more of faith and less of cynicism. Well, Ramzan’s roza is well and good. But the fanatical may seek to fast or impose it on people whose faculties may not be able to keep up with it. Religion was meant to provide people with a medium to believe in something in moments of despair, to never feel alone, to provide peace of mind, bring people together. The world needs it no doubt. Provided it is adapted.” For Mir, both cynicism and faith overlap in the way they do for a lot of us.

I decide to meet Shagufi and ask her what Ramzan means for her. She neatly pins her dupatta around her shoulder to ensure that it covers her long black hair. She lives in Hindpiri, a predominantly Muslim locality of Ranchi. Her father works as a driver for the Forest Department in the city. Her earnest face radiates with pride as she informs me how she hasn’t missed a single roza this month. “The month of Ramzan feels special. I just pray that everyone is healthy and happy and I do well in life,” is her response when I ask her what she likes about Ramzan. After much prodding to tell me what she wants this Eid, she replies, “I want to feed a poor child in my neighbourhood and buy her clothes. I can feed her but it’s not possible to buy clothes because we can’t.” I was pleasantly surprised by how a little girl didn’t demand an Eid present for herself but wished to feed someone less fortunate that day.

Inequality and disparity are the realities of modern-day India that we all live with. The way ‘an average Muslim’ chooses to understand something like religion differs not just across classes but also individuals. It’s interesting how all these diverse identities and opinions seem to converge at this time of the year to give some semblance of a community. I hate to generalize and quote universal truths but I guess, despite everything, everyone looks forward to a happy Eid and good food. Whatever our definition of happiness is or means are, festivals like Diwali or Eid should remind us to give and think about others. Their purpose is achieved.

This article is part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s special coverage of Ramzan this month. Follow Ramzan With Zehra for more.

You must be to comment.

More from Zehra Kazmi

Similar Posts

By Ali Qalandar

By Raju Murmu

By Yash C

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below