By Sandhya D’Mello
The holy month of Ramadan has set the tone for every resident in the UAE as most of us begin to adapt to fasting and feasting, new work schedules and so on.
I received my first encounter of ‘Ramadan Kareem’ in true sense from a second grade school going boy Adnan Chittalwala also known as Burhanuddin Chittalwala, resident of Al Nahda, Sharjah and student of a Dubai-based school, Pace International. I prefer addressing him as Burhan.
Burhan made me realise of what future is going to unfold in the UAE which is all about acceptance and extending the tolerance limits within the nation.
So one fine morning as I hurried to work, some kids were pushing their tricycle in building corridor on my floor. Burhan, along with other kids, was busy playing and pushed tricycle fast towards me and my instant reaction was to scream out of fear.
“Why did you scream? asked Burhan in innocence packed voice and yet defensive about his attitude which implied ‘don’t you trust me?’
I questioned, “What if your cycle would have hurt me? Burhan said: “I would have stopped my tricycle and would not have let hurt you”.
I stressed, “What if I was hurt?”. Finally Burhan gives me a look of assurance that he knew his limits and was not ever wanting or willing to intentionally hurt me.
This encounter brought me and Burhan close from our ‘morning hello’ to waving good bye till he would boards the school bus. Me, my kids and Burhan would spend rich quality time almost 10 minutes before their respective school buses would arrive.
Our chat sessions now evolved into a strong bond of friendship. Sounds weird? I also felt the same way a seven-year-old child and me in my late 40s.
When Ramadan arrived, I asked Burhan, “Do you fast?” and he replied, “Yes”. To which I said “Oh God, if you do not eat I will feel bad.”
Burhan pauses to check on me and said: “I am a Bohra Muslim and you are also a Muslim, right?”
I did not answer, just paused, looked at him and smiled.
Burhan seemed to feel a sense of dejection that despite striking a chord of friendship with me, I am not following his faith.
His school bus came and before he boarded, I asked him, “Will you meet me tomorrow?”. He nodded yes and as I pushed for a promise, he replied, “I don’t want to promise, anything can happen tomorrow.”
I wonder if that answer was a reaction to the surprising new fact or he was trying to grapple with the reality that the very person he was getting attached to is not a Muslim.
The following day, as I anxiously waited for my little Burhan, a thought kept bothering me as I could never get over Burhan’s dejected reaction when he discovered I was not a Muslim.
My wait came to end when he leaped forward innocently to say ‘Good morning’ with the same affection and chirpiness.
I politely enquired with Burhan, “Are we still friends?” He nodded, “Yes!”. I was thrilled at Burhan’s unconditional acceptance.
The fact that he put his dejection aside indicates a fundamental truth that the biggest religion is humanity and that should engulf every human being – as it did with Burhan and me.
So many kids in the UAE will be proud to show off to the future generations that our nation has the Ministry of Tolerance and acceptance of people from every religion to dwell in peace.
Is this not what Ramadan is all about? Spreading the message of love and peace. Burhan is a classic example to prove how the leadership here has extended a hand of acceptance to everyone.
I personally know about people who are not Muslims and yet fast to show solidarity towards their colleagues who are fasting.
The UAE boasts of 200 nationalities residing in total peace and stability in the region with multi-layers of baby-boomers, generation X, Y and Z.
I am reminded of this famous track from the movie ‘Prince of Egypt’ from 1998. “A single thread in a tapestry, though its colour brightly shines, can never see its purpose in the pattern of the grand design.” The lyrics have been penned by Stephen Schwartz.
It compels me to imagine that the UAE is the nation that is weaving a blanket of tolerance and love for all the nationalities which comfort every citizen beneath this quilt of humanity. Each of these layers will make the blanket of UAE’s society shine brighter.
Ain’t it Ramadan Kareem indeed in the UAE as it celebrates spiritual generosity.