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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 39 New Delhi September 17, 2016

Becoming Somewhat Islamic in India

Sunday 18 September 2016

by Nidhi Sharma

The Muslim individual has a certain eating habit—during meal times each family is likely to eat from the same plate. During meals the less wealthy Muslim is likely to sit upon the floor and eat from the same plate with her/his family. The rich Muslim also likely partakes food from the same plate but is likely to not sit upon the floor. Instead, the rich Muslim eats while sitting on a chair and served upon the table. The food is served at the centre of the plate by the family member and each Muslim from the same family partakes in the meal by directly drawing their portion of the food from the centre of the plate henceforth referred as directly. It is also likely that Muslim friends eat from the same plate during meals when they eat together. Therefore, it is not only family members who sit together and simultaneously directly eat but also friends, whether close or distant. The poor Muslim sits around the plate in a circle since the plate is usually in the shape of a circle; the rich Muslim may have round tables enabling them to sit in a circle. It is an accepted custom among the Muslims that they sit in such occasions in a circle; if the plate or table is not in the shape of a circle then the practice of the custom of eating together from the centre may be difficult for the Muslim. Usually a group of three or more sit and directly eat the food together with the size of the plate, a large one.

The Muslim argues that eating in this manner reveals camaraderie among them. Further, such practice builds the same behaviour in the concerned group. However, it may be put forth that the Quran that argues against the infidels, namely, non-Muslims and in favour of jihad which is the holy war against non-Muslims appears to lead to a certain wrong notion among non-Muslims. The Muslims claim, and many non-Muslims agree, that there is camaraderie among the Muslims as apparent in such eating behaviour. The Muslim eating food in this manner is seen as unhealthy by the Hindu—however, few Hindus would disagree to the idea that the Muslims claim camaraderie among those with whom they eat together.

The truth appears to be otherwise regarding such eating actions of Muslims. It is likely that the Muslim is actually investigating their fellow-individuals. The question in each Muslim’s behaviour (mind) is likely to be: “In what type delicacies does another Muslim partake privately?” In other words, those Muslim individuals, with whom the concerned Muslim shares food in this manner, are likely to be a target of suspicion. It is to investigate, whether another or other Muslim is partaking in delicacies about which the concerned Muslim may not be aware, that likely leads to meal invitations. Therefore, for the Hindu observer, Iftaar and Eid parties which the Muslim convenes during and immediately after Ramzaan respecti-vely are chiefly for fellow-Muslims with an investigative purpose. For the concerned Muslim, if the fellow Muslims enjoy the delicacies offered with relish, it is likely that socialism is indeed being practised in the religious community with regard to food. By socialism is meant that all individuals in the concerned Muslim community in India have the same as distinct from similar privileges; all individuals in the Muslim community are exactly equal. However, those fellow Muslims who do not relish the delicacies offered during Iftaar and Eid parties are likely to be partaking in better food not known to the concerned Muslim. In such instances, according to the concerned Muslim, such investigation has led to an issue which needs to be addressed. For the concerned Muslim, a solution rather than a resolution has to be found against those individuals of the same religious community who have surreptitiously enjoyed a privilege. The privilege in this instance is a Muslim partaking in high variety and quality food, and possibly more about which little is known to the concerned Muslim. The food in the Muslim’s household is likely to be of high quality and could be considered a privilege. However, if a Muslim were to find an unsatisfied Muslim visitor in terms of food to their house, it may be truly assumed that for the host Muslim their own food would no longer be considered a privilege.

In India, the behaviour of the individual sitting around food in the centre of a plate and directly eating it may be observed in the future by the Hindu. Therefore, it may be analogous that, if the Zoologists continue to perform well and increase the size of food grown, the Hindu will be faced with a similar proposition. Imagine a scenario where the food grown, for example, a tomato is the size of a bed. The Hindu family would in this instance consider sitting around the food grown and partaking in this delicacy directly. After plucking the big tomato from the plant where the big tomato has grown the Hindu would consider options about the manner in which it has to be consumed by the family.

Since wasting the vegetable, namely, big tomato, would be considered an unfeasible option, the Hindu would reject cutting the big tomato while still raw. Therefore, by cutting a big tomato into small portions while still raw with a big knife would lead to juice of the vegetable flowing to the floor. The Hindu after cooking and then cutting the smaller tomato into small portions to be served would again be faced with the same problem. In an attempt to cut while serving the smaller tomato the tomato’s juice would again be wasted if it fell outside the plate. This exercise of potentially wasting food would recur when the individual Hindu cuts the served smaller tomato for eating; the tomato juice would again flow to the top of the individual Hindu’s plate during its intake.

Therefore, the Hindu may consider the Muslim behaviour and act as a solution to the Hindu’s food problem. The Hindu, after rolling the intact food, that is, big tomato, inside or perhaps carrying the big tomato inside by exerting themselves would cook this food to perfection. Each Hindu family member would bring her/his silverware and utensils consisting of forks and small bowls, namely, ‘katori’ respectively and carve out a portion of tomato simultaneously for themselves from the large-sized tomato. This would prevent wastage of the food since the tomato’s juice would flow down only once, namely, while eating the big tomato.

Therefore, the Hindu while observing the Muslim’s eating habit would protect themselves from wasting the food and conserving its taste. If the big tomato’s juice were to flow down each time, that is, while cutting it when raw and serving it besides eating it, the tomato would become relatively dry and less tasty. The concerned solution that the Muslim inadver-tently offers would appear practical to the Hindu. In being practical, that is, the implemen-tation of an idea being convenient to the Hindu, the Hindu would gain an advantage.

It may be, therefore, concluded that, after all, the Muslim may have ideas for the Hindu to learn. Muslim influence would be pervasive in this instance in the Hindu society that holds certain practices of the Muslim as unhealthy.

At this point it is necessary to explain the implications of the above-mentioned satire. It is important that the word pervasive be used to describe this likely Muslim influence upon the Hindu in India rather than the word pervading. Both pervasive and pervading have similar meaning in the dictionary, that is, of spreading or having an influence. However, pervasive is a negative term which the dictionary describes as insidious (stealthy, hidden) implying ulterior objective as distinct from the neutral term such as pervading. The Muslim influence is insidious for the Hindu because the former proselytises, whether overtly or covertly. The Muslim’s proselytising is not offered to the Hindu as a solution to the Hindu’s problems and, therefore, may be referred as an inadvertent solution that the Muslim offers to the Hindu. It may be recalled that it is un-Hindu to proselytise, whether by financial inducement and/or manipulation.

In the above-mentioned example of potential influence of the Muslim upon the Hindu, the situation is medically unhealthy while being practically useful. It may be rare to find a situation where a practice is practically useful while leading to medical problems for the individuals who indulge in the concerned practice. An idea and practice of the same which are convenient to the individual may not necessarily be medically safe is one conclusion which can be drawn in this article. Further, the Hindu’s illness is likely to worsen if she/he too like the Muslim directly partakes in the food.

The author, an M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, is a free-lance journalist who has written for several publications—World Focus, The Times of India, The Pioneer, The Himachal Times—over the years.