At 24 claysquare, Sadar Bazaar, the Ahmad girls sit together with their grandmother waiting for the Azaan. Twelve year old Saher and twenty year old Bushra Ahmad have washed up and are about to offer namaaz. Their young brother Aamir rushes out of the house with his white cap and a casserole full of pakoris his mother made, he is off to the masjid and will contribute the piping hot pakoris to the piles of snacks that other namaazis will open their fast with. His mother
The nine days and nights of Navratra are observed in most Hindu families across
In Nazirabad, the crowd gathers in the masjid and those who are left, stand outside, together they bow their heads to one call, in praise of one. Soon after they open their rozaa with the many snacks available on thelaas or in the masjid. Pakoris, dahi baddas, dates, water, biryani, a special channa dal ‘kichdaa’ which is served in kulaads is all available for the rozdaars. “When we were little children at Alambagh, my brothers and sisters and friends would all run to the masjid at Seheri and Aftaar, the maulvi ji used to give us a little of everything, papads, pakoras, dahi-phulki…everything!” remembers sixty year Hamida Bano. It is common for families to contribute food for those who keep rozaas at the masjid or to serve them water, dates and other delicious fare from small thelaas or at their own houses. Every morning in Sardari kheda, little boys rise early to run through the street beckoning the rozdaars to wake up as its time for sehri.
“We don’t expect our children or any other member of the family to observe navratas, personally my husband and I have been observing fasts for all nine days since the past 27 years. My bahus share the responsibilities of making the special food on these days,” says Varun’s dadima, Gyandevi. Her daughter Neelam remembers having she read an article that said abstaining from cereal for a short period is good for the digestive system, “Navratas can be a time for detoxifying your mind and body, but only if you abstain from the rich stuff!!” she laughs.
Aamir returns from the masjid, fortunately with the casserole. He sits down with the family waiting for his father to return from work before they tuck into an elaborately prepared meal of kababs, biryani, sheer mal, mixed sabzi, dahi baddas and Aamir’s favourite ‘ Pink city’ Kashmiri tea. Saher and Bushra help their mother with the rotis and Aamir serves his dadima. The Ahmad children look forward to Eid when they can invite all their friends over, “Ammi makes six types of saviyaan! And special pulao for my friends that don’t eat biryaani, everyone loves coming home for Eid,” says Bushra. Aamir is looking forward to Diwali, “ Firecrackers! I’ll keep some for Eid too, it’s a lot of fun on both days and especially since there are holidays in school!!”
The Agarwals and Ahmads finally settle down to their evening meals and Nazirabad, is still abuzz. The chicken biryani and tunde kababs are selling faster than they can be made, “This is the best season for us!!” laughs Jamil who is frying kababs at Aminabad’s tunde kabab. “A lot of people pack food and take it home for their families who are also observing rozaas, so we need to be extra fast in cooking, and feeding anyone who’s keeping rozaas is a blessing in itself!” says Sameer who’s kulfi is already sold out. The shops are being re-fuelled with extra clothes as people are busy shopping off the shelves, “I need to change the clothes on my mannequins everyday, what could be better!” says Nabi who has observed the rise in the number of little girls who want to buy lehengas. “Either for Diwali or Eid, everyone wants fancy but traditional clothes, we have to prepare ourselves with extra stocks around this season!”
Families come together in celebrations and festive fasting. Every year the two festivals bring colour, warmth and happiness in the lives of the lakhs of Lucknavis, keeping the spirit of Awadh and it’s beautiful culture alive.