'I respect my wife's beliefs': How inter-religious couples navigate Ramadan
Kalai says that although she has a different religious background, she observes the 30 days of fasting and celebrates Eid al-Fitr at the end. She likens Thai Pongal, the Tamil harvest festival, to Ramadan and says she celebrates both occasions with a lot of enthusiasm.
Ilamaran and Kalai Meeran with their children. Credit: Kalai
'A time to forgive and forget'Another inter-religious couple, Elangovan and Sabira, both observe Ramadan even though Elangovan is a Hindu.
They say they only differ on minor things like the best way to break the daily fasts - Elangovan says he puts two or three small pieces of rock salt on his tongue and takes two or three sips of water. By contrast, Sabira says she prefers eating dates and sipping water to break the daily fast.
The fasting month of Ramadan is a time to forgive and forget. It is also a time to share our excess belongings with the needy people around us.Elangovan"As I respect my wife, I respect her beliefs and practices," says Elangovan."Although we both follow different religions, we do not impose any restrictions on each other."I celebrate Ramadan and my wife Sabira comes to Hindu temple with me."Elangovan, a vegetarian, says that on the day of Eid, which is celebrated at the end of the fasting month, they start with a different kind of rich payasam made with lots of nuts and then mutton biryani, but Sabira makes vegetarian biryani for him.
Elangovan says he helps his wife during Ramadan by reminding her to get ready for prayers and about other important events.
Shared passion, love for foodAseesa, who follows Islam, says she and her Christian husband, Myrvin, observe Ramadan and have bonded over a shared love of delicious food.In their homeland of Singapore, she says Ramadan is commonly known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which is a festive celebration with friends. Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Eid al-Fitr is a celebration after a month of fasting.
Aseesa says they cook mutton biryani as the main course for Hari Raya Aidilfitri with vermicelli payasam as the starter dish.
Aseesa and Myrvin with their children Credit: AseesaAt the end of Ramadan, there is a big, three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr, or festival of breaking the fast. It is celebrated with fervour where they eat meals with family and friends and exchange gifts.It's also common for elders give money to children and younger members of the family.Myrvin says a delicious dish called dalcha is made in addition to biryani and gifts are shared on Eid al-Fitr.Myrvin and Aseesa say that their children wait to receive cash gifts from friends and relatives who come to celebrate Ramadan.
Aseesa says that before receiving the gifts, children should greet their elders and ask them to forgive the mistakes they have made so far.
On Eid morning children, should greet their elders and ask them to forgive the mistakes they have made so far.Aseesa
Similarly, Kalai says that biryani is a favourite dish in her house during Eid but that there weren't any gifts exchanged.
Kalai and Meeran serving briyani. Credit: Kalai
Ramadan spills into the workplaceThe celebration of Ramadan does not end at home, often continuing at work, the couples say.Aseesa and Sabira say that they take biryani and dalcha to celebrate Eid with their colleagues. Their non-Muslim colleagues enjoy the food and get involved in their Eid celebration, they say.The whole month is a celebration says Aseesa. "We get ready by cleaning and decorating the house before Ramadan and during fasting month, we invite friends and family most of the days in the evening to enjoy the sunset meal together."Sabira says that her workplace friends and colleagues are "...crazy for Indian food" so she always takes food into the office during Eid.To wish someone well at Eid, you can say "Eid Mubarak".
"As I celebrate Eid by hugging and wishing Eid Mubarak at home, I will do so at work as well," Sabira says.
Myrvin and Asessa with their children. Credit: Myrvin and Asessa
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