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A ex-AMU student narrates her experience of celebrating Ramzan in hostel

Sadia Quadir 

College days are memorable, and full of experiences that stay with you all your life. The experience of observing Ramzan in Aligarh Muslim University where I studied is one such abiding memory.

AMU, a Central University, is known for many things: its history, academic excellence, qualitative course options, and general reputation as one of the top universities in the country but what makes it stand out is its distinctive culture. Here, besides good education, the students also get an opportunity to balance their religious callings and academics. 

During Ramzan the hostlers get a memorable experience of spiritual cleansing.  Friends at the hostel encourage each other to get you out of bed to start their day early. They knock on your door at around 03:45 a.m. to wake you up for Sehri (the first meal before sunrise). Then it’s about everyone rushing towards two electric heaters kept on every floor of the hallway for cooking food. One has to be lucky to be able to get the turn to boil the milk that came in pouches on the heater. 

And the day one woke up late, one had to stand in a queue or run from one wing of the hostel to another in the hope of finding an unused heater. 

Most of us had to be content with three bread slices, an egg, and a half cup of milk. It’s another matter that everyone would crib about the tasteless and monotonous pre-fast meal every morning. 

One of the AMU hostels

On some days, some of us would go for a walk after the fajr prayer. On the other day, one would try to catch some sleep before attending the first class at 8 am. 

In between living with the sweltering heat and the day that seemed too long during Ramzan one had to attend regular classes, write tests, and do self-study in the reading halls. 

On a good day when the weather was kind and balmy, we all friends sat in the lawns and discussed plans for the celebration of Eid. We would sit in a big circle with everyone taking turns to speak of the dresses they wished or planned to buy for the festival. We also discussed cuisines and dishes to be prepared for the big occasion. 

Ramzan in the hostels is also about managing time to go to the ever-bustling Amir Nishan Market, which is full of fragrances and colourful dresses of all kinds. We bought fruits within the budgetary constraints that most students face and rushed back to be in the hostel before 6:30 pm. 

For Iftar one had to join a queue inside the hostel mess for a platter of custard, chips, chole (chickpeas), dates, and potato sticks. A few hostlers added special dishes to this platter to make it more enjoyable.

Iftar platters are ready for AMU hostlers

We also organised congregational prayers and invited friends over for iftar parties. Iftar parties were also organised by different college departments and hostel authorities to inculcate a sense of unity among the residents. Plates filled with colourful foods, and glasses with sharbats are placed across the ground on long pieces of fabric for everyone to assemble and break their fast together. Meanwhile, some days are also about praying in solitude, gulping down bland, oily dinners, and waiting to catch the train back home for Eid. 

The holy month of Ramzan marks the revelation of the holy book of Muslims, i.e. The Qur’an. 

For this students are advised to read as much of it in the auspicious month as possible and do good deeds to strengthen their bond with their provider. 

Muslims around the world abstain from food from dusk to dawn for 30 days and try to purify their body and soul by avoiding improper behavior and thoughts to commemorate the event.

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Ramzan is also time for one to empathize with the less fortunate ones, and show gratefulness for all the things one has been blessed with. People welcome Ramzan with open arms and celebrate it with what they have, but the hostelers in AMU, get the experience that they cherish all their lives.

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