Family Iftar: 'Be healthy and wise this month'
Mansoor and Naseela with their kids Faaz and Fadi.
Abu Dhabi - Naseela and Mansoor both have relatives in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah and make it a point to catch up with them during Ramadan
Faaz Muhammad is helpless and restless. The seven-year-old has set himself a task to fast for a day and can't wait for Maghrib. He frequently recces the kitchen to check if the evening spread is ready and keeps track of the clock to see if it's working alright.
"Faaz is a naughty child and ?often fights with his little brother. Both don't need a reason to squabble, they'll just find one. Today Faaz is fasting, so he is a bit low," their father Mansoor Kallan said, as three-year old Fadi Muhammad runs in and hides behind the sofa. In pursuit, Faaz makes a half-hearted search for Fadi and soon returns to kitchen. The scenes remind one of Tom and Jerry toons.
Mansoor is married to Naseela for 10 years now. He's been in the UAE for 18 and works at a private firm. The family has hardly spent a Ramadan back in their home state of Kerala.
Both, however, hold lovely childhood memories of the holy month. "Those were unforgettable days with parents, relatives and friends. Our Malappuram home had a festive atmosphere. Events at home were all about togetherness," ?Mansoor said, asking his tiny twin tornadoes to be quiet.
Naseela and Mansoor both have relatives in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah and make it a point to catch up with them during Ramadan. "Every week, we visit them and they also come over. Ramadan offers an opportunity to see them all again," Mansoor said.
The family members also plan vacations together to meet the rest of their extended family in Kerala for occasions. But Ramadan is not one of them, as Mansoor prefers to spend the holy month in the UAE. "In Kerala, you have to take into ?account many things. Here you have provisions to take a break for prayer. You can follow Ramadan rituals seriously. You can feel the devotion and spirituality around you," Mansoor noted.
"In Kerala, you may end up skipping prayers but after coming to the UAE, I haven't ever missed a single day of fasting or prayers. This is one of the reasons why we don't visit Kerala during Ramadan month."
Naseela, however, said the Ram-adan months with parents remains close to her heart. "You are alone here and got to take care of everything," Naseela said, while her two busy children were now exploring new tricks and traps.
"During childhood, my parents would be my guide through Ramadan. They used to motivate me to fast and made it easy for me."
The family has a favourite spot for worship - the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. "It is quite an experience. The place has a special feeling, which is unmatched anywhere else," they said.
On Iftar preparations, Mansoor said the best thing to do is to eat less while ending the fast. "You will, however, see the opposite with people filling their stomachs with mutton biryani, chicken fry, beef curry, prawns and all in one plate. Ramadan is a month to understand the hunger faced by the poor. It is important that people understand the message of Ramadan than just see this as a month to fast from dawn to dusk, and eat heavily later."
Naseela said there is unnecessary focus on Iftar parties. "Ramadan is not just about fasting and resting. We shouldn't be counting the days of fasting, but make each day count. We should be more ?involved spiritually. Those from Kerala particularly tend to focus more on the food. I do make the customary biryani for family gatherings, but usually keep it light for ending the fast. People need to understand that fasting helps purify body and soul. It will be difficult for the first few days, but our body will get used to it," Naseela said.
For the Iftar, she got dates, avocado juice and two trays of watermelon, and prepared Malappuram pathiri (a soft rice flat bread) and mutton curry rounded off with mixed fruit salad. "It's usually just dates, juice and fruits," she pointed out. However, she didn't need to bother setting the table as Faaz happily shuttles between the kitchen and dining table, transporting all essentials. Little Fadi brings the glasses and table mat. "It's time to finish my fast. Can all of you please settle down?" Faaz instructs, as the clock ticks towards Iftar time.
The family conclude their fast and the little ones have their fill. It was a spiritually enlightening and entertaining evening spent with the family.