By Mohd. Salman

I’ve been in Delhi for eight years now, and I daresay the ride has been fantastic. Not just because of the predictable, inevitable awesomeness on offer here, but also because of the surprises the city threw at me.

I spent my first three years living in North Campus, and pretty much all the time I’ve spent here after that only almost matches up to the fun of those years. It’s a gigantic stroke of fortune, when you find yourself in the right place with the right people, though there are dangers: if the succeeding chapters of your life do not give you this, you run the risk of being perpetually disappointed.

Three years later, the Mass Communication Research Center at Jamia Millia Islamia, while a great place to study, wasn’t that much fun. But it brought a very important change. I moved to the crowded, lively and dusty environs of Okhla from the serene, open and uncrowded avenues of North Campus, and there was one thing in my new location that the paradise of my first three years in Delhi could never match.

Ramadan.

The joys of this holiest of months are joys meant to be shared. The getting up for sehri, the congregational prayers, the fasting together, and eventually the collective wait for the end of the fast, where everyone tucks in to a well-earned meal.

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In a place like Okhla, the awesomeness gets magnified. The entire schedule of things gets rewired to suit Ramadan times. The eateries work from sunset to sunrise, making sure there is a delectable array of food all night. The main street of Zakir Nagar, to me Delhi’s official Food Street, is choc-a-bloc with people making a beeline to their choice of feast. Bawarchis turn out dish after dish of piping hot nihari, by far the best edible money can buy {your arteries will disagree}, served with piping hot tandoori rotis. Elsewhere, makeshift stalls hand out little platters of tikkas and kebabs to people crowded around the barbecue. Piles upon piles of chicken lie in wait, for the inevitable devouring to come at sundown.

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And then there’s the fun at home! Living on one’s own, one looks forward to iftari invites from uncles and aunts, friends and cousins. There’s a special switch that comes to life in a rozedaar’s body during Ramadan, and suddenly eating twice as much as you would is not that big a feat any more.

The faithful flock to the neighbourhood mosques for the night tarawi prayers. Many a lifelong friendship has been forged in the rear safs {rows} of worshippers at the mosque, usually reserved for children.

More fun gets added on the way as the month progresses. Every passing day brings closer the festival of Eid, and that entails huge amounts of shopping. Stores alter their timings to match with the eateries, as the streets teem with the faithful out to feast, who follow it up with a march to the stores for the kurtas of their choice. Any person in the business of feeding or draping laughs all the way to the bank.

Darzis work in a frenzy to get suits and whatnot ready in time for Eid. Dry-cleaners and dhobis deal with stack upon stack of people’s best clothes, all needing to be ready for the big day.

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Ramadan has a soul of its own, a festive spirit so loved that the advent of Eid is often a bittersweet experience. It’s a month of austerity and greater discipline, yes, but also one of shared happiness, of the fun of an altered routine. Each week is different from the last, and every day gives you new things to look forward to.

Eid is nearly upon us, folks, and to those of you who participated and shared in the fervour of this month, I hope you had a great time. To those who would like to find out more, mark July next year on your calendars, and make sure you head to Okhla. The Jama Masjid is fantastic at this time of the year, but I assure you Okhla takes the cake.

And as the festive spirit comes to take you in its embrace, Eid Mubarak!

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