Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast, is a joyous occasion celebrated by Muslims worldwide. In India, the excitement of Eid begins weeks before the actual day. Preparations for Eid start with the month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food and drink. It is a time of reflection, spiritual purification, and self-discipline. I was born Hindu although personally, I do not follow any particular religion. Being brought up in India with typical middle class parents, I was raised with secular values and a certain respect for all religions. My experiences of Eid as a child brings back fond memories of visiting my father's friend's home and hogging on delicious food. However, as I grew up and started working abroad, I found that the festival in those parts of the world were mostly celebrated within the communities and I never got invited to one. So, it's been years since I experienced this festival. This year, although I am back to India but in a new city and I realised I was at the same place, the enthusiastic but uninvited Eid celebrator. Being uninvited did not deter me though and I decided to explore the right parts Bengaluru where I could make myself feel the festival and taste some delicious delicacies.
During the month of Ramadan, many areas in Bangalore, such as Johnson Market, Frazer Town, Shivajinagar, and Mosque Road, become popular destinations for food lovers. These areas are known for their vibrant street food scenes and have numerous food stalls and restaurants that offer delicious Ramadan specialties like haleem, kebabs, biryani, and more. As I stepped into Frazer town, I was greeted by the sweet aroma of biryani and kebabs wafting through the air. The hustle and bustle of the street added to the festive atmosphere, as people from all walks of life walked past me, making their way to the numerous food stalls that had popped up along the street. It was Ramadan, and Frazer Town was buzzing with activity. The street was lined with food vendors, all vying for the attention of the hungry crowd. Some were grilling meat on skewers, while others were cooking up large pots of biryani and haleem. I could see people eagerly queuing up at the stalls, waiting patiently for their turn to get a taste of the delicious food. I decided to try the haleem first, as it's one of the most popular Ramadan specialties in Frazer Town. The vendor ladled a generous amount of the thick, creamy porridge into a bowl and garnished it with crispy onions and fresh coriander. The first bite was pure bliss, as the combination of lentils, meat, and spices burst into my mouth. It was rich, creamy, and full of flavor. As I explored the food stalls, I noticed something unusual - a vendor selling camel meat. It's not a common sight in Bangalore, and I was intrigued. The vendor explained to me that camel meat is a popular delicacy during Ramadan, and many people come to the stalls specifically to try it. I decided to give it a try, and I must say, it was an experience like no other. The meat was tender, juicy, and had a unique flavor that I had never tasted before. It was an unexpected treat that added to the already amazing food experience.
But Eid is not just about food and gifts; it's a time to reflect on one's faith and values. It's a time to appreciate the blessings we have and help those in need. Indian Muslims have a rich history of contributing to society and serving the community, and Eid is a reminder to continue doing so. So what exactly made this apparently run-of-the-mill experience special to me and why was it a learning experience? As I sat down to eat, I struck up a conversation with the vendor. He told me that he had been running this stall for over 10 years and that he had seen people from all walks of life come and go. "But you know what?" he said with a smile. "Everyone leaves with a smile on their face and a full stomach. That's all that matters to me." And this is what every religion truly teaches: to serve and to find happiness beyond one's selfish desires. When I looked around what struck me more than the food was the unity in diversity of the crowd. People from all religions were present, enjoying the food and the festive atmosphere. There were Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and more, all mingling together without a care in the world. The spirit of togetherness was palpable, as people from different communities came together to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. The air was filled with laughter, chatter, and the clinking of plates, making it a truly unique experience. And that's the beauty of India. No matter what religion, caste, or creed, we all come together in the end. It's in the food we eat, the festivals we celebrate, and the way we live our lives. We may have our differences, but we also have our similarities. And that's what makes us truly unique. As I finished my meal, I knew that I had experienced something special. It wasn't just the food or the festive atmosphere, but the sense of belonging and unity that came with it. I left the street with a full stomach and a happy heart, grateful for the diversity and richness of my country. As we move forward, let's learn from the lessons of Eid and continue to spread love, kindness, and compassion. Eid Mubarak once again!
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