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Community kitchen gives Bohra women more freedom

jaipur Updated: Jul 13, 2015 01:05 IST
Aabshar H Quazi
Aabshar H Quazi
Hindustan Times

Women group member, Rehana Shabbir Bandookwala, whose group is sharing responsibility of the Community Dinner during Ramadan month. (HT Photo)

No one in the Dawoodi Shia Bohra Muslim community in Kota goes to bed hungry. Thanks to the ‘community kitchen’, a concept floated by the community’s late religious head more than four years ago.

The community high priest Dr Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin promoted the concept to unshackle Bohra women from the hearth. They were encouraged to serve the community, devote more time to religious activities and focus on their children’s education or even start small businesses.

The entire community, irrespective of their social or financial status is served meals from a common kitchen and the food is sent to each Bohra home by ‘tiffin or lunch boxes’.

During the Holy Month of Ramzan, the entire community sits for ‘common feast’ after the day’s fasting.

In the narrow bylanes of Tipta neighbourhood of Kota, more than 1,500 community members including men, women and children sit together for a community feat at the Jamaat Khaana (community dining hall) after the evening namaaz.

The community feasts are organised for the entire Holy month of Ramzan.

Eight people sit on the floor of the air-conditioned 'Jamaat Khana' around a large steel plate of 2.5 ft in diameter to share dinner. The food is prepared in the common kitchen called 'Fezul Muwaid Burhania' inside the Jamaat Khana premises.

Dawoodi Shia Muslim Bohra community people sharing Community Dinner at Jamaat Khana. (HT Photo)

Hussain Bhai 'Kanta Baantwaale', the treasurer of the 'Jamaat', told HT: “The community dinner was started by the community in Kota and elsewhere some 4 years back on the directions of our late religious head Dr Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin."

"The motto was that no one sleeps hungry in the community. The idea is to provide nutritious food to all and promote the practice worldwide."

Mustansir Bhai, the community’s spokesperson says members share their experiences and discuss the problems of their families at these dinners.

"Community members shares each others’ views and feelings about their families at the community dinner and feel pleased about it," he says.

“There is no discrimination during the community feast.”

Khuzema Ali, who is not as financially sound as the other community members, says both the rich and poor eat together at the feast and interact with each other.

The dinners during the Holy Month is financed in rotation by groups of wealthy businessmen and prosperous families of the community. This year, the dinners are being financed by a group of 134 women of the community, says Rehana Moosabhai.

"Our group was intimated about the assignment (to finance the 2015 Ramzan month dinners) about three years ago. Each member of the group started collecting Rs 500 every month for the last three years.

"The expense for this year's Ramzan community dinner is around Rs 25 lakh which we have arranged through collection from the group’s members."

She says that her group has hired a caterer from Mumbai to run the community kitchen during the Ramadan month.