Farah Khatoon
The month of Ramadan is commonly associated with abstaining from food but sehri and iftar are the two buzz words of this holy month. Sehri is a low key affair but iftar is a different story altogether. After going without food and water from dawn to dusk, the pious break their fast with iftar. Indonesians call it buka puasa, it is berbuka puasa in Malaysia and sungkai in Brunei. Iftar is quite a feast and is a favourite with all.
The fast is broken by having khajoor (dates) and drinking water after hearing the evening azaan, a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of Islam. Once this traditional fast-breaking is complete people can eat any food. Different regions include different foods in their iftar fare. In Southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, nonbu kanji, a rich filling rice dish is eaten for iftar. The dish is quite like  porridge and is cooked for hours with meat and vegetables. In the Kolkata and the northern states, the plate is full of fruits and fritters.
Everyday is like a festival of food and the markets come alive with different stalls selling delectables. From small road side stalls to restaurants, iftar food is available everywhere. While fruits form a significant part of iftar, fritters made from potato, brinjal, onion and other vegetables fill the platter. A delicious attraction for iftar is haleem, a dish that is made from different kind of pulses and meat. This high calorie dish has also high nutritional value and is everyone’s favourite, Muslims, non-Muslims alike. Served in every eatery this popular dish is made with chicken, mutton or beef.
Sweet dishes also find a place in Ramadan. While sewai is exclusively for Eid, firni finds a place in the platter during Ramadan. Made from milk and rice powder this dessert is served in small earthen bowls and remains a hot favourite throughout the year. Being a community affair, iftar parties are organised to build better bonds.
The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It teaches Muslims to feel for those who are less fortunate and also encourages actions of generosity and charity. The biggest attraction in an iftar party is that everyone is welcome to the spread no matter who you are, rich or poor, friend or foe. So, join this feast before the month gets over.