Ramadan 2020: Meet non-Muslim who's been fasting for years in UAE
Manoov Valiyaveettil, Indian expat
"It didn't seem appropriate to eat with everyone who had fasted the whole day, without having fasted yourself. "
Manoov Valiyaveettil, a 40-year-old Hindu expat from India, has been fasting during the holy month of Ramadan since 1997.
"I saw my Muslim friends back in the college in Kerala fasting the whole day during Ramadan and then sitting down together in the evening to end their fast. They would invite me to join for Iftar meals."
But sitting down for Iftar, without fasting, didn't feel right to Manoov. "It somehow didn't seem appropriate, sitting down to eat with everyone who had fasted the whole day, without having fasted yourself. So initially, I attempted the Ramadan fast only on the first, third, and 27th days. But gradually the days started increasing till I started fasting for the entire month."
Reinforcing the idea that it is his way of connecting to a billion fasting Muslims across the world, he also tries to keep the spirit of the fast in his words, deeds and thoughts.
When Manoov came to the UAE in 2006, he continued fasting with his Muslim colleagues at the construction company where he works as a document controller. "At Iftar time, my colleagues would ask me to accompany them for community Iftars at the mosques as they are aware that I also fast like them. Several Muslim friends have gifted me the Holy Quran and Zamzam water after visiting Makkah."
After getting married, his wife also joined him in fasting, at least a few days during the holy month. "We get so many Iftar invitations every year, and even in our building complex, in previous years, we've had cultural programmes during this time and the community feeling has been very strong. So, you cannot help but fast if you want to truly participate in the mood and the spirit of Ramadan," said Manoov.
"To me, this holy month and fasting provides an annual training opportunity that is meant to fulfil the character-building needs for the rest of the year."