UAE: Meet Hindu expat who fasts in full spirit every Ramadan

By abstaining from food and drinks during Ramadan, the 26-year-old learnt more about herself, her desires, discipline and determination


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Thu 14 Mar 2024, 10:43 AM

Last updated: Thu 14 Mar 2024, 11:23 PM

For non-Muslim Mauritian expat Neelam Gokulsing, fasting during Ramadan started as a gesture to show solidarity with friends — then it became a path towards self-discovery.

Her fasting journey dates back to her days in Malaysia where she lived as a student and ended up staying back as a working professional.

“Malaysia has a vast Muslim population. I started fasting during Ramadan over there in 2021. I have a lot of Muslim friends in Malaysia, and we used to have suhoor and iftar together. For me, it was all about solidarity and understanding that part of their culture although I am a Hindu," Neelam told Khaleej Times.

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The 26-year-old, who works at a Fintech company, arrived in Dubai two years ago. “I continued fasting here as everyone around me mostly would fast during the holy month."

"This also helped me understand how difficult a task is to go without food and water when you need to work."

Path to self-discovery

Now, fasting has taking on a whole new meaning for Neelam.

"It involves grasping the spiritual aspect of fasting, where individuals cleanse themselves and embrace associated concepts. It’s like teamwork that shows you all the values that you can uncover about yourself,” she said.

"I wake up for suhoor and eat something in the morning to keep me going throughout the day, with whatever is available in the fridge. But iftar is very special. I look forward to the meals with my colleagues at the end of the day. The meals typically consist of dates, juices, fruits, vegetables, and meats that are ordered in, or we go out somewhere."

Fasting has been practised by different cultures and religions throughout history, often with the belief that it promotes discipline, self-control, and a deeper connection with one's inner self.

The discipline required to maintain a fast while managing daily tasks and responsibilities has provided Neelam with valuable insights into her own character.

“By abstaining from certain foods or activities, I experience a heightened awareness of my own habits, desires, and thought patterns.”

And come iftar time, Neelam looks forward to the feeling of "unity" she shares with friends and colleagues.

“It fosters a community feeling. It’s not only the ‘fun’ or the ‘good times’ alone but also waiting for that time of the day when you worked a lot and you’re already tired but at the end of the day you know ‘you did it’.”

Embracing the culture

For a non-Muslim, fasting for 30 long days requires determination.

“Initially, during the first few weeks, the focus is on acclimating your body to the process, which involves a considerable amount of cleansing. Fasting after an entire year can be quite challenging for anyone. There may be moments of slight dizziness in the initial days, but this tends to improve over time. Ultimately, it's the habit and determination to follow through, that makes a significant difference.”

After embracing the Ramadan spirit, Neelam’s next aim is to learn the local language.

“I see myself being a long-term UAE resident, so I now want to learn Arabic which I’ll probably start later this year. It would not only help blend with others socially but it’ll also prove beneficial on the work front,” she added.


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