It is 9.30pm, bedtime for most Muslim families who observe fast during the holy month of Ramzan. But Mohammad Shaikh is up and meticulously carves an idol of lord Ganesha with an artistic abnegation at home in a nondescript neighbourhood, Bhayander. This is his way of celebrating Ramzan, he says.
Armoured with a rasp, a chistle and other sculpting tools, the 36-year-old spends the time to make Ganesha idols in the makeshift workshop in his house.
“Every year, I make about 200 ganpati idols in my ‘karkhana’ (workshop). This is not for earning money, but purely because I love doing this. Ramzan is the holy month for us to reflect on our deeds; what can be better than sculpting the lord?” says Shaikh.
The father of two earns his living by carving stones in the locality which produces large Durga and Ganesh sculptures in the city.
A former farmer, Shaikh had sold his land in Odisha and came to erstwhile Bombay (Mumbai) to make a living in 1991. “I didn’t know anything but farming when I came here. Then one day, I stumbled upon some idol-makers. I joined a shop and learned bit-by-bit by observing others,” recalls Shaikh.
Initially, a few people would get perplexed about whether to buy an idol from a non-hindu. “Most customers never bother about where they buy the idol from as long as the idols look perfect. But I remember a person who criticised me,” Shaikh adds. About six years ago, the customer told Shaikh that it was wrong to do this work because he was from a different community, “I explained to him that the lord is one. The guy was so convinced that ever since then, he has been buying the idols only from me.”
A small but noticeable section of non-Muslims also believe in keeping roza (fast).
Homemaker Anita Salunke from Vikhroli has been observing the month-long fast for 12 years. “I often felt unwell, and doctors had no clue about it.” Salunke says the ailment vanished after she started observing the holy fast on a neighbour’s advice. “By Allah’s grace, I am fit,” says the 45-year-old.
The month of Ramzan is one of the most sacred month for Muslims. It marks the beginning of Eid-ul-fitr, a three day festival. In India, the festivities will begin on Thursday.