Kerala: Fast in now a food fiesta

Deccan Chronicle.  | Amiya Meethal

Lifestyle, Food and Recipes

Ramzan, supposed to be an chance to know the plight of the poor, is now marked with pomp and splendour

n Chiken Pottitherichathu, Chicken Cheeripaanjathu, Chicken Maramchutti Fry, Veerappan Chicken Fry, Meenmutta Fry, Swargakozhi… reads Ramzan special menu in a beach restaurant in Kozhikode. Chiken Pottitherichathu, Chicken Cheeripaanjathu, Chicken Maramchutti Fry, Veerappan Chicken Fry, Meenmutta Fry, Swargakozhi… reads a Ramzan special menu in a beach restaurant in Kozhikode.

KOZHIKODE: What is Ramzan for a five or six-year-old child in Kerala? It’s simply not eating food during the day but devouring different varieties of mouth-watering non-veg dishes after breaking the fast in the evening. That apart, it happens to be the month when their elders splash money on a shopping spree. In between, of course, there are prayers and visiting Mosques.

Ramzan, the holy month of Muslims has turned out to be a food fiesta, especially in Malabar. The holy month’s most significant purpose, mental refinement and attainment of spirituality through simple, holistic life have been totally ignored. Leave alone Iftar meets of business enterprises, fast-breaking at households have become a platform to show grandeur through culinary skills and the number of invitees who attend.  

“Ramzan has largely fallen into the trap of a dining extravaganza. It is supposed to be an opportunity to know the plight of the poor who struggle hard to have a single meal a day. That empathy is attained through eating light food. But now simplicity has been replaced by extravaganza. Pomp and splendour marks the month, especially in Malabar,” laments writer and teacher, Myna Umaiban.  She observes that women are being stuck with only two assignments—cooking and shopping. “The high purchasing capacity and the cookery show image being propagated by media lure people to this,” she pointed out.

Dr Kasim Risivi, Pediatrics Assistant Professor at Government Medical College hospital, Kozhikode agrees that rescuing Ramzan from the trap of food is the need of the hour. “It is against the spirit of the month. People are driven by the market trend.” Dr. P.C Anwar, Executive Director of Iqra hospital, Kozhikode was of the opinion that an objective study should be conducted on the shooting up of cholesterol among patients during Ramzan. “Cholesterol does not go up the next day after the intake of heavy oily food. So the effect would come out afterwards,” he says.

Actor Mamukoya calls upon religious organizations and social activists to regain the spirit of Ramzan.  “Increasing comforts have been affecting divinity. In my childhood days, it was Ramzan immersed in poverty. But it evoked the unique simplicity and an amazing camaraderie among a vast section of people,” he recalls.

A middle-aged man working in Saudi Arabia was on the spot when he said that Ramzan was the month which witnessed a threefold increase in expenditure. “It’s the whole month of shopping. Shopping means shelling out money whatever the seller demands without an attempt to bargain. No kith and kin bothers about lavishly spending hard-earned money,” lamented the Chavakad native who requested anonymity.

Iftar lavishness left Prathapan shocked

Former MLA and Congress leader T.N Prathapan had stopped attending iftar parties six years ago. The political leader has been fasting for Ramzan without missing a day for the last 20 years. “An iftar hosted by a minister in Thiruvananthapuram in 2010 prompted me to take the decision. The iftar was a pompous one with prawn fry in the size of a human hand, lamb cooked in Arabian style and several other meat items spending at least Rs 3,000 per head. I was shocked at the lavishness. Since then I attend only small iftar parties hosted by mosques and fast-breaking functions in houses,” Prathapan told DC. 

According to him, only a fasting man has the moral right to participate in the breaking of the fast. “And it should be a simple one,” he adds.  T.N. Prathapan rises at 4.30 am during Ramzan to have tender coconut juice. The fast is broken with dates, juice and fruits. Fruits are eaten at 9 pm and few dates before going to bed.  He asserts that the practice gives him peace both mentally and physically. “It reduces our greed and teaches us patience,” he feels.