GUWAHATI: This is the holy month of Ramzan. I was asked me to share my reflections, my memories of Ramzan. I had been unconsciously delaying the piece, not because I found it difficult to recollect my experiences or record my reflections, but chiefly because I had a very detached, distant association with the subject. In school, I had a couple of Muslim friends but I remotely knew about the significance of the month, the piety associated with it and the eagerness with which moon would be looked at, which would determine the day of Eid, of festivities, of celebration.

The locality in which I stayed, had the same moon telling us about different festivals. My father’s close friend, whom we called Khwaja uncle, would often visit us, and uncle and Aunty would get some sweets, which invariably included different kinds of sewaiyan (sweetened vermicelli). Even though my father was a regular visitor to their home, in a different locality, I remember having visited them only once or twice. Their home was in the older part of Kanpur, which was much more densely populated, and had a different feel, with narrower streets and a more vibrant market. There were shops of all kind near Khwaja uncle’s house, most of which sold delectable sweets. And respecting our being strict vegetarians, we were scrupulously served fruits, dates and sewaiyan, with the reassurance that they had that they had been cooked separately, as Aunty herself largely eschewed meat.

With little hesitation, the little child in me would pick my bowl of sewaiyan, and forget when my hesitation would fast melt into the delightful sweetness in the bowl and the affectionate smiles around me. I would leave their house, often with some gifts, some colourful pencils carefully chosen by Aunty and handed over to me by the tender hands of their son, Adil, whose bright warm eyes and gentle smile often subsumed my reservations. I remember how pale, lifeless and cold the moon was when Adil died few years later, as both of us were in college, preparing for our respective chosen careers. Eid was never the same again for his parents. I only saw sad loneliness in the eyes of uncle and Aunty thereafter, and I did not have a chance to visit them anytime after that!

Now, I know what Ramzan is. I do not have my childhood inhibitions anymore. I have many friends, who have a faith different from mine. I know about their customs, their traditions, their beliefs and practices. Ramzan is a holy month, marked by fast and prayers. I am sure that the countless hands that join in prayers shall pray for a world, which has more love, peace and compassion than what we see around us, especially in times, when a small section of fanatics, of hardened criminals with sick minds and no hearts, can spill blood and snatch dreams even in the holy month.

The blood in Dhaka is still fresh. Tarishi will never smile again. There are many whose names I do not know, but who bore the most important names in the world for their parents, and who would never be able to visit their friend, another Adil, to embrace him and share his joy, his smile, his sweets.

(An IAS officer of 1999 batch, Ashutosh Agnihotri hails from Kanpur. He is interested in Literature, both English and Hindi, Cricket and astrology. He is presently the Commissioner and Secretary, Planning and Development, Science and Technology, Tourism, Government of Assam.)