On one of the days this Ramzan, 57 year old Prakashc Gidwani will wake well before dawn, in sync with Muslims across the city.
After a light breakfast of fruits and a glass of water, he plans to fast strictly all day, and at sunset, will eat at the local durgah in Versova only after his Muslim friends have finished their namaz.
For this Sindhi social activist, fasting at least once every Ramzan is a tradition he created for himself more than thirty years ago, to express his respect and love for Islam.
As Muslims prepare for a month of abstinence starting this week, there is also a small tribe of non Muslims that will keep them company through thirst and hunger.
Their reasons are various, from friendship to experimentation to genuine devotion. “Anything that is good must be respected, and I fast as a mark of respect to Islam.
Like all religions, it teaches you the path to God,” said Gidwani, a Versova resident who claims to be one of the rare Hindus allowed to serve in the local Sayed Sakurula Shah Durgah for 27 years.
Fasting, he says, gives him a sense of achievement and happiness. “It maintains good health, and the food saved goes to charity.”
Law student Niyati Davawala took to fasting a couple of times during Ramzan six years ago, for the sake of her first Muslim friend in junior college, Madniya Mozawalla.
“She wouldn’t eat in the canteen on those days, so I wanted to accompany her. It was also a test for my own body,” said the 24 year old, who finds her Gujarati community fasts a cakewalk.
At the time of sunset, Mozawalla would eat iftar with her family only after making sure her friend had eaten first. “Since I am vegetarian, I’d go straight for sev puri outside,” said Davawala, who hasn’t fasted for the past few Ramzans and hopes to revive it this year.
For Parag Joshi (49), fasting occasionally along with his long time Muslim family friend comes more from a secular impulse.
“Abstinence is common to most religions, and when you have close friends from another religion, taking part in each others’ culture is a way of showing brotherhood,” said the Khar based businessman.