Last time I was in Bangladesh during Roza, it was 1995. A decade has passed; I’ve regularly visited Bangladesh, but never during Roza.
Over the last twelve years, in this bidesh bivui, ‘roza’ has been replaced by ‘ramadan’. Typical conversations like “roza dhora” is now “Ramadan Mobarak”. Back in Desh never heard anyone wishing Ramadan Mubarak (Mubarak was reserved for eid only). Jommin deshe jodachar.
Although on a religious point of view the month of Ramadan/ Roza is meant to be a month of austerity, prayer, meditation and sacrifice, Roza comes to Bangladesh carrying a big bag of festivity in its back. The funfair begins with pre-roza food shopping spree. The preparation for a month long improved diets as well a daily variety of Iftar!
My early childhood memory of Roza is in fact memory of waking up at shesh rat ( late night) and eat vat with sagor kola and dudh. Then oaw! The pride, the self proclamation of being able to or being allowed to fast. Also those horrible mornings, when you wake up to see the day light through the window. What a heart break, unconsolable anger and sadness! The Goddamn parents didn’t call you at shesh rat to eat sehri. Immense depression engulfs the whole morning.
And then Iftar. The whole country, irrespective of religion, race, resource, creed, suddenly will get spiritually bonded together. Every smallest of the streets will turn into a makeshift iftar marketplace. Young people will sell Chhola in an aluminum bowl. Fried dried chili will be half dipped into those chhola vertically. Hot fresh peazu/ Beguni (Yeah, those days beguni was beguni not pepeni) will be fried on street sides. The whole city would suddenly become crazy to return home.
All in the family would sit together to have iftar together. The pre-iftar planet-eating hunger, the excitement to find what is in iftar today was incredible. Then one or two neighbors come everyday, carrying a tray full of iftar. Explore quickly what is in their tray. Do they still do this iftar exchange between neighbors?
At iftar time, all the maddening chaos will suddenly come to a dead halt. Azaan, Siren will pierce and fly through the sky. Traffic will come to a standstill. All including traffic police, shopkeeper, vagabond, beggar, will sit together in front of a store or in some market’s porch, to share whatever they can have for iftar. In mosques, musullis will sit in an oval shaped pattern. All the iftar donated from the house holds of Moholla will be mixed and smashed together and served on a huge size dish. All will take handful from the iftar cocktail.
Little slum kids will wait impatiently outside. Immediately after iftar, they would start raiding house to house in search of iftar. Everybody will keep something for them. What do they do these days when Dhakaites have imprisoned themselves in grilled, gated and guarded flats?
Khatame tarabi is another Bangali Muslim extravaganza. Not too many muslims around are too enthusiastic in performing khatame tarabi. This is an interesting part of roza in Bangladesh. Mosques in every para moholla get ready for it well in advance. Two teenage frail looking long white shirt and tupi wearing Quran e Hafiz are rented for the month. The will recite the whole of memorized Quran with tarabi prayer throughout the month. During their 30 days stay, 30 families will host their dinner. So 30 days of polao -korma. Is it too tempting? The Tarabi will be a good exercise of endurance and religious devotion. Young kids will be creating a lot of noise in the back rows and older murubbis will yell at them during each prayer break. Occasionally those kids will be effected by a laughing disease. One will start laughing during Namaaj and the rest of the row will be effected by the highly contagious laughing syndrome.
Sheshrat also begin with a big bang. Some very conscientious people in para moholla will take a challenge not to let anyone sleep during this time. All kind of noise making strategy will be improvised. An old man will walk by dinging his tin container. The next bearded man then will come asking all the broters and sisters to wake up and reminding the divine importance of Roza. Then young Muhalla boys will come in a group, singing song,….. mafi kalmi zallallla, Nur Mohammad sallalah… Nice tune. I was part of the choir once.
Middle class kids will eat dudh kola in half sleepy eyes, slum people will eat rice and chili fry. All will gallop glass full of water until the first of a dozen fazr azan will shatter the pre dawn silence. Only during these 30 days people will get the opportunity to listen to the musical lines from the muazzin… assalatu Khairum Minan Naum…. Imam Shahib at the mosque will lead the prayer with very long sura in a kirat mode. People will finally go to bed looking for another day and ultimately the end of these days, the Eid.
Darkness will give way for dawn.