Fasting and Feasting

Fasting and Feasting

Ramzan,a period of ritualistic cleansing,has become an excuse for feasting

Fasting,in some form,is advocated in most world religions. It is traditionally prescribed as a period of abstinence,self-discipline and introspection. A time to purge one’s body and to expel impure thoughts. Christians,Jews,Hindus,Jains,and Muslims all practise days,weeks,even a month of self-restraint.

During the month of Ramzan,the faithful are expected not to eat or even sip water from dawn to dusk. The evenings are devoted to prayer,contemplation and religious discourse. Observing 30 days of rozas can be hard on the body but,for the devout,it is a period of spiritual renewal and great personal reward.

Unfortunately,some people have forgotten the essence of Ramzan as a period of fasting and instead see it as an excuse for unrestrained feasting. Platters of succulent kebabs,aromatic kormas,melt-in-your-mouth malpuas and other Ramzan specialities are undeniably hard to resist. It is little wonder,therefore,that instead of abstaining,some people find themselves overindulging during the holy month. I read,with some bemusement,about hospital emergency rooms across the Middle East that receive dozens of patients each night who need to have their stomachs pumped after gorging on assorted Ramzan delights. A staggering number suffer from acidity,indigestion and other gastric ailments,a result of sheer gluttony when self-restraint is clearly the call of the hour.

In addition to savouring gastronomic fare,attending an Iftaar party is a sure way to flaunt secular credentials. Politicians of every hue make it a point to partake of the tasty repast and then feast for days on the resultant publicity. I,for one,am always touched when I see a non-Muslim break fast with the brethren. Even if their presence is merely an act of political opportunism,it is still an act that engenders goodwill. Food has no religion. And even the most vociferous critic of Islam will find it hard to pass up a truly exquisite biryani.

Much media attention was showered on the recent bonhomie displayed by our squabbling Bollywood heroes at a recent Iftaar bash in Mumbai. Cynics warn that one shouldn’t read too much into this well-publicised jhappi by the mighty Khans. That they remain rivals,even enemies,and the embrace was merely staged for the cameras. But if,even for a fleeting moment,the spirit of Ramzan engendered forgiveness and reconciliation in the hearts of our superstars,then I believe they are both the richer for it.