Guest blogger: Saanya
Nani and I have always had a special relationship. I was writing her a thank you card today that started out being for her graduation present, but ended up being for the past 18 years: “Dear Nani, Thank you so much for everything – for your visits when I know how hard it is to take the train; thank you for your love and support unconditionally when you know I’m not always right; thank you for your phone calls and hugs and prayers, and for always being there for me … Most of all, thank you for always seeing the best in me. For thinking that I’m #1, even after I show you my B- in Calculus. I love you so much.”
Ramadan isn’t Ramadan without Nani’s samosas. When perfectly handcrafted by Nani’s Lubriderm soft hands into immaculately stuffed triangular pockets, samosas are more than just a break fast snack, they are a memory that my brother and I will carry with us. My friends know my grandmother as ‘Samosa Nani’. They ask for her samosas in college care packages, they hope to have them every time they come over, and they steal mine when I sometimes bring them for lunch. Making samosas during Ramadan makes me happy; top 40 playing in the background, sweatpants covered in flour, Zayd’s and my creations being less than perfect, and Nani’s lighthearted complaints about our not taking it seriously and threats to redo them, are all part of the process. These afternoons are my Ramadan tradition; they are my memory that I will take with me to NYU and beyond.
Day 3, Tradition 3: Nani’s Samosas
-1 packet TYJ spring roll pastry, 25 sheets (available at Korean or Chinese grocery)
– 1 1/4 pound ground beef or ground chicken (can substitute green peas/potatoes for vegetarian)
– 1 large onion, thinly sliced or chopped
– 1/4 ts garlic powder
– 1/4 ts ginger powder
– 1/4 ts cumin powder
– a pinch of red pepper
– salt to tast
– lemon juice
– Lightly brown onion in 1 1/2 TS of veg oil; add garlic, ginger, cumin, red pepper, salt, and stir with 2 TS water; cook for 2 minutes. Add beef or chicken, cook with spices; add some water and let cook on medium heat until meat is well cooked and the water is absorbed. Take out the filling in a bowl, make sure to drain any fat or oil. Sprinkle filling with 3-4 drops of lemon juice.
– Cut the pastry sheets vertically into three equal sized portions; use one portion and cover the others with damp paper towel so they don’t dry. Peel off two sheets and fold it like a cone, point at the bottom and top open. Place 3/4 TS of filling in each samosa, fold the top over the filling and paste it down (2 TS of flour mixed with water to make paste).
– Heat 1 cup of veg oil over medium meat and deep fry samosas 4-5 at a time until light brown; drain samosas on paper towel; and enjoy!
My father is an amazing storyteller. Especially vibrant are his stories that take place in his hometown of Calcutta. I’ve heard them over and over again – we all have; but he tells them with such excitement and gusto each time, it’s impossible not to be captivated.
My father’s mother passed away when he was very young; “I hardly remember her face,” he tells me. His father, forever faithful to his wife, never remarried. Each of the five kids had their roles in the household, and during Ramadan my dad’s job was to buy the fruit for iftaar and prepare the kachaloo (fruit salad). They lived on Zakariya Street near Nakhoda Mosque. “From our house all the way to the masjid, the farmers would set up their carts and sell their products.” My dad would buy bananas – a dozen for 2 rupees – apples, mangoes, and whatever fruit was in season. They would have iftaar and dinner and walk to Nakhoda mosque for Tarawih prayers. The best night was the night before Eid, my dad tells me. “That was a very very long night.” The streets would be alive with vendors selling mitahi and chooris and garlands. They would buy buttons for their kurtas and Eid cards. My dad’s favorite Eid tradition was to buy a tram pass, which on Eid was a set price of one rupee. He and his brothers would ride the tram for hours and hours on Eid, going wherever the tram would go.
Four years ago, I had the chance to take my Dad home – to Zakariya Street in Calcutta. And Dad’s stories came to life. We walked down those same streets bustling with fruit sellers; heard the azan from Nakhoda Mosque; went to 25 Zakariya street where dad spent his childhood Ramadans; and saw the blue tram that made his Eids so special. And for a brief moment, I got a glimpse of my dad as a young boy living the experiences that would make his future stories so enchanting.
Day 2, Tradition 2: Riding a blue tram on Eid
Dad and his brother, Zakariya Street, Calcutta
the blue tram
As we’re thinking about traditions to share on this year’s blog, I thought why not start with the blog itself – now in it’s fourth year, it has certainly become a tradition in our home, with our extended family and friends, and happily, with readers around the world. Thank you so much to all of you for reading and sharing.
The initial idea grew out of a desire to find a way to make Ramadan meaningful for our kids, to help them understand the true essence of the month. We thought that by intentionally practicing the spirit of Ramadan each day – from doing good deeds, to expressing gratitude, to praying sincerely for ourselves and others – and then sharing our reflections, might be a good place to start. Keeping a daily blog would help us stay focused and mindful, invite family and friends to join in the journey, and share the spirit of the month with other Muslims and non-Muslims. That’s how “30days30deeds.com” came about.
One of the most wonderful parts of the blog has been hearing from people around the world for whom the blog has some meaning – new friends who are following the blog and have been moved to contribute; families who have started similar Ramadan projects of their own; and people of different faiths who feel they have developed a better understanding of Islam and what all faiths have in common. The blog even made it to the United Nations.
While it’s not always easy to write each day, or to share deeply personal duas and gratitudes, I sincerely believe that it’s the personal that helps us connect with each other, to understand one another better, to build compassion and empathy, and ultimately love. And that too is the essence of Ramadan.
Day 1, Tradition 1: 30days30deeds.com
Each family has its own particular traditions around Ramadan – from special foods and family recipes to ways in which we celebrate the month with our children and our neighbors. This year, let’s share our stories and traditions, our recipes and recollections. What are our memories of Ramadan growing up; what stories do we remember from our parents and grandparents; what are our family’s special rituals and recipes; how are we developing new traditions that help bridge old and new. By sharing our stories, we can reveal the magic of Ramadan to our children, and help build a foundation on which they can forge their own sense of identity, community and confidence. 30 Days. 30 Traditions. InshAllah.