The lunch bell rang spreading a feeling of relief all around. I opened my lunch box. Cold upma loaded in the early morning stared at me reminding me that today is Sankashta Chaturthi*, my monthly fasting day. I glanced at my class 5 ‘E’ .Those bundles of energy were hurriedly emptying the lunch boxes. They wanted to make use of the golden time to just run around in the corridor, meet their bus friends from other classes, secretly exchange tattoos, talk about video-games, or plead the teacher for permission to go to the canteen- oh… what not? A colourful world with wonderful pleasures. Lucky souls, I thought.
Suddenly I noticed Abdul sitting in the third bench looking lost.
I called to him and asked, “Abdul did you have your lunch?” .
“No ma’am, I am fasting . It is Ramzan now”
“Oh yes! But Ramzan fasting is for elders. You are too young.”
“Ma’am , Ramzan fasting is for all. My mother says we will understand the pain of the poor people only when we observe Roza. I eat only at dusk and at dawn for one month.” He spoke with beaming eyes and firm conviction.
As I continued with eating my upma, Abdul asked me “Ma’am, do you observe fast?”
I said “Yes, why not? I am fasting today. Today is Sankashta Chaturthi according to the Indian calendar. For the whole day, I observe fast. I mean.. I should not eat rice today. I eat dinner only after visiting the temple you know… and…” .
Abdul interrupted, “But Ma’am, you are eating lunch now. This is not fasting.”
He soon disappeared. The 6th period started and I moved to 7 C.
But his accusative eyes started following me all the time- in the bus, at home, at the dining table, and even in my dreams at times with a loud laugh. “Ma’am, are you joking? I think you don’t know the meaning of fasting”. I brushed him aside from my thoughts. “Shut up! Fasting is about the change of food. It is my culture. Who cares, my idea of fasting is different anyway…”
However, by the next Sankashta Chaturthi, I was tired of justifying myself. I decided to accept the challenge and make a difference in my lifestyle. It started with fruits and water. From dawn to night I managed with two bananas and plenty of water. I never felt tired. Next day morning when I woke up, I felt as if I were flying. With a holiday to my digestive system, it got toned up and there was pure pleasure in my mind. Now with each passing month, I eagerly wait for Sankashta Chaturthi my fasting day.
Thank you , Abdul, my teacher who taught me how to fast, who showed me the road to the precious wealth called HEALTH.
Every child is ‘special’ and each day in a teacher’s life is ‘extra special’ because it is full of countless number of Abduls armed with unique lessons.
*Sankashta Chaturthi is a day dedicated to Lord Ganesha. It is the 4th day after the full moon day of each lunar month . Hindus offer prayers to the lord and observe fast during the day, and will have dinner after seeing the moon at night.