The noons are lazy, the midnights joyful. It is Ramzan, the holy month in which the Quran was sent down from heaven. To purify their inner and outer selves, Muslims abstain from bad thoughts, speech and actions. And also from food and water during the day. The fast, or roza as it is called, ends every evening after the Maghrib prayers when friends and families sit together in homes, mosques and dargahs to have iftari, the day’s first meal. It usually consists of dates, fruits, sherbets and rose water. More elaborate meals are taken later in the night; both at home and at restaurants and stalls.
During this period, Muslim neighbourhoods become prime culinary destinations. In Mumbai, there’s Mohammed Ali Road, in Kolkata, Park Circus, in Hyderabad, Charminar, and in Bangalore, Shivaji Nagar.
Ramzan nights in Old Delhi, or the Walled City, have been idealized for their anarchic grandeur, both in photographs and poetic renditions. Strung with fairy lights, sevai (vermicelli) stalls, kebab shacks, shahi tukda kiosks and biryani joints compete for customers, along with denim showrooms and burqa boutiques. Jama Masjid, built by Shahjahan in 1650, is possibly the best background prop one can have, adding much to the aesthetic of the various kinds of food and drink.
But to sample the simplicity of this season of reflection and revelry, we visited Zakir Nagar in south Delhi, close to the Yamuna river. Situated near Jamia Millia Islamia and now home to many who used to live in the Walled City, it is a little different from Old Delhi. The streets are wider, there is less traffic, and less chaos. The area’s jama masjid (a wide term for Friday mosque) is austere. Fortunately, the essentials are the same.
Compiled by Mayank Austen Soofi.