As someone who has been raised in a Hindu household with an urban upbringing, I am quite well versed in most Hindu traditions, but have not really had much exposure to the traditions of other religions. Therefore, when the opportunity of going to an interfaith iftar party arose, I jumped at the idea without a second thought, since I had never been to one, and had always been curious about the customs of other religions. The event had been organised by a group of women, all accomplished in different fields. The invitation to us had been extended by my mother’s friend who was helping the organisers in ensuring that this unique Hindu-Muslim connect initiative was successful.
Unlike my mother, I hadn’t actually researched what happens at an iftar party and was going with a blank mind. We reached the venue only to discover that my mother’s friend who had invited us, was still half an hour away from the venue! That immediately made both of us a bit unsure as we did not know anyone else there. Nonetheless, we went inside and were pleasantly surprised as we were welcomed warmly by the hosts and other guests. We both took our seats, a bit unsure of what was going to happen next. The first thing I felt as soon as we sat down was that I was a tad underdressed for the occasion!
The initial awkward silence, which was a result of being in a room full of strangers, was soon replaced by the sound of bubbling chatter as people started to mingle with each other. Introductions began and we realised that the room had a diverse group of people, practising different religions. All the hostesses were Muslim ladies and achievers in their own way, including a pilot, a biker, a lawyer, a TEDxSpeaker, a historian, an author, journalists and entrepreneurs. It was amazing to see so many of them come together, something that I had not seen before.
Then at 7.15 pm sharp, all members of the Muslim community gathered to break their fast. We were told about the significance of Ramadan and the interesting difference between a ‘roza’ and a ‘phaaka’. As was explained by a lady, just staying hungry and thirsty during the day was considered phaaka whereas doing that along with maintaining the purity of one’s thoughts and actions was roza. Thereafter they read their prayers and also translated and explained them to us in detail, after which they broke their fast with a date each.
What followed was a lot of intermingling of the guests. Even though most guests and hosts were older and I was one of the few teenagers there, I really enjoyed meeting the people. It was interesting to see how quickly everyone mingled and it was difficult to believe that most people were meeting for the first time. I got to know that there were some people in their middle age who were attending an iftar party for the first time and realised how lucky I was to participate in such an unusual and interesting event at such a young age.
Soon after, a lavish spread was laid out, which was all lovingly cooked by the hosts in their respective kitchens. We really enjoyed the food, only to realise later that they were just the starters! Unfortunately, my mother and I had to leave soon after due to a prior commitment. Just as we were saying our goodbyes, one of the co-hosts absolutely insisted that we taste the main course as well. In fact, she took us to the kitchen and gave us some biryani even before it was laid on the table! Now that speaks volumes about the love and affection showered by the hosts on people they had never met before. As we left the party, our hearts were brimming with joy and gratitude. Every bit of the experience was extremely heartwarming and I am just so glad that we went to the iftar party that day.