'Being in a joint family made Ramadan truly special'
The mother of two from Sharjah was brought up in a huge, joint family in Kerala.
Ramadan away from home is only half as fun for Shimi Kallivalappil, a housewife from Kerala, India. The mother of two from Sharjah was brought up in a huge, joint family in the Palakkad district, where Ramadan was a celebration of togetherness.
"My father had 12 siblings and six of them, along with their wives and children, lived together in the same house. My memories of Ramadan are all connected to the family bonding and togetherness we shared," said Shimi, who has been living in the UAE for the last 20 years.
She is married to Rafeeq Thon, a businessman, also from Kerala. Their two children, Fahim, 20, and Tenaaz, 8, were born and brought up in the UAE.
Being in a joint family made Ramadan "truly special", Shimi said. "There were enough children in the family and the fun was unlimited. Even kids as young as seven or eight used to keep the fast. In fact, we used to compete with each other on how many fasts we could keep.
"The elders would promise us our favourite delicacies if we kept our fasts and we used to wait for Iftar to devour those sweet rewards."
Shimi said she vividly remembers how all the women in the house used to cook together till late in the night. "I think they seldom slept during Ramadan. The whole family would sit together and have the first meal early in the morning before the fast began."
Back home, Iftar meals were also a simple affair, unlike in the UAE, said Shimi. "It mostly consisted of some fresh juice and snacks. The dinner favourites were always pathiri (pancake made of rice) and chicken curry."
In the UAE, the family's Iftars are mostly at hotels. "We do have some extended family here. But most get-togethers are organised in hotels," said Rafeeq. "We take the children out for shopping and celebration. Back home, Ramadan was more focused on spirituality. I miss Ramadan in Kerala, which was more of a simple, family affair."
The couple said they try to give the best Ramadan experience to their children. "Family bonding, spirituality and celebration all have to go hand in hand for a perfect Ramadan," said Rafeeq.
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