Observing Ramadan month in true Kozhikode style
Fysal Abdul Karatt, Rajina and their three children
Abu Dhabi - "We love to treat our guests. The dining table should always be full"
"Every sulaimani must have a pinch of mohabat (love). When one drinks it, the world should slowly come to a standstill," restaurateur Kareem (essayed by actor Thilakan) tells his grandson Faizal Abdul Razak (played by Dulquer Salman) in the 2012 Indian National Film Award winner 'Ustad Hotel'. The movie projected Kozhikode hospitality in its majestic grandeur.
Cut to an Abu Dhabi flat of Fysal Abdul Karatt, who is also from Kozhikode, welcomed this reporter with the same warmth one is accustomed to in the Malabar coastal city of Kerala.
"We love to treat our guests. The dining table should always be full. It is easy to fill someone's stomach but important thing is to fill their minds. When they leave our home, they should return with happy memories. A good food sets good mood," Karatt, who runs Rajab Cargo Services, said.
Cooking is an art and Rajina Fysal has mastered it well. During this Ramadan month, she is a busy body from afternoon.
"Kitchen is my world from 2 pm. However, we don't have a lavish iftar. We just stick to dates, juice and few snacks," Rajina said.
So what are the few snacks?
"We have typical Malabar snacks of samosa, cutlet, chatti pathiri, unnakkaya, muttamaala muttasurka and others. It depends on how many guests are there for iftar. If we have many guests then I will have 5-6 snacks otherwise I will keep it down to 2-3," Rajina said listing the few snacks she makes almost every day.
Karatt has been working here for 23 years and running his business for 13 years. This sort of work experience means he has a vast number of friends and someone does turn up daily to enjoy Malabar snacks.
"We will have the main course after the tarawih prayers. The main items will have variants of pathiri (pancake made of rice flour) including podi pathiri, tyre pathiri, ney pathiri, nice pathiri, irachi pathiri among others. I will prepare at least two variants. The combination for this is mostly chicken and mutton curry. There are so many variety of non-vegetarian food," Rajina said.
She also gets help from her two daughters - Alhan and Kadeeja and son Afshan.
Karatt family is very closely knit to relatives in Kozhikode. Karatt and Rajina are also very particular about the way they bring up their children. When they found disconnect between children and joint family back in Kozhikode, they did the unthinkable. Karatt packed his wife and children to stay with in Kozhikode for two years. All of them have resumed schooling in the Capital from this year.
"We felt residential flat life had a negative effect on children. I am sure children have had gained valuable experience in last two years," Karatt said.
For 12-year-old Afshan, Ramadan is a month when the Holy Quran is believed to have been revealed.
"This makes it very important. I learned a lot during my two years stay back in Kozhikode. I fast during this month to seek Allah's blessings. I miss my friends back in Kozhikode," Afshan said.
Kadeeja said there was a marked difference in the norms followed by schools in Abu Dhabi and Kozhikode. "It was understandable. I love to observe fast in the UAE. In schools here we have senior students advise juniors of the importance of this holy month and how we should observe fasting among other things," the 15-year-old said. "Here you also have friends from multiple nationalities - Europe, Asia, the US, Australia and others. And most of them love our Indian food.
Earlier, I had friends visiting us during this month," Kadeeja said. Nine-year-old Alhan likes the Ramadan month as it means more family and friends time. The family said the month is an opportunity to devote oneself to Allah.
And despite all relatives being in Kozhikode, this family prefers to observe Ramadan month in Abu Dhabi.
"The work timings here make it easy to observe all practices in the best possible way without any hindrances. Usually all would want to spend Ramadan time in our native place but once you are there the thrill of observing fast and rest of the norms will fizzle out in few days," Karatt said.
"The nightlife and activity gives a feel of something special. The air here is filled with the true spirit of the holy month. This month also brings the family together. Everyone gets to spend more time with one another," Rajina said.
Now, the family is eagerly awaiting Eid celebrations.
"There are so many offers across all malls. The festive atmosphere here, hectic traffic, buzzing malls, busy shopping counters, all this are add to the festive atmosphere. The children are waiting to enjoy the weekend," Karatt added.