So this is how it goes down.
KPR management does not question whether or not KPR volunteers are fasting. Fasting or not, iftar is for everyone. Before we head out on the daily iftar-purchasing trip, we take requests from the volunteer-public. At the beginning everyone sort of looks down or up and mumbles something politely about how they don’t need anything/will eat anything. I point out that it is simply their loss if they don’t tell us about a particular item they like best. At this point, someone will bravely say something like “dim chop” or “halim” and others will nod enthusiastically.
We head out. It’s always 2 out of 3 of the regular supervision group; so it’s me and Rozy, or me and Lata, or Rozy and Lata. We walk down the street to where the iftar bazaar is set up. This is on most street corners in Dhaka during Ramadan. A long brightly colored tent covers the tables piled high with the standard iftar items, safely behind sheets of transparent plastic. The guys behind the tables have come to know us in the 4 or 5 days that we’ve shopped there, and grin cheerfully as we come over and work our way through the layers of people in front of the food. They’re extremely prompt, and pack the food up in paper bags quicker than you can say “eight chicken pakoras.”
The halim (a stew of lentils and beef, one of the most popular iftar items) is in a giant cauldron at one end of the tent. You pick a size (we typically go with the medium) of clay bowl which is then filled with halim from the cauldron. The top is covered with a sheet of plastic, upon which the bits of lemon, onion, coriander, etc. are piled. The whole thing is wrapped in newspaper, tied with string, and put in a little netted bag for carrying.
We bring the food back to the office, and spread it all out on the kitchen table. Some things we have stocked up in the kitchen already – muri (puffed rice), dates, juice. We don’t quite have enough plates for everyone, so we have to share, but everyone gets does get a mug for their halim, and we make sure everyone has juice and dates to break the fast with.
I haven’t been in Dhaka for Ramadan for years, and I’ve always missed the iftar culture. The food itself, and the friendliness and kindness that comes along with making sure everyone around you is fed when the time comes. It’s good to be back, and even better to be having iftar with KPR people.