by Shahid Iqbal
This is the first day of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan this year and one hour remains before the sun set (time to break-fast) in the historical city of Berlin. Exhausted after another extremely busy day at Recrear.beta, I am using the internet on the computers placed in the lobby of the hotel mostly to check for the timing of sunset. Rest of the participants are already having dinner in the dining hall located at an angle from where people in the lobby are not in the line of sight. Suddenly, one of the participants of Recrear Komal, a Sikh by religion born and raised in Canada, comes and says to me politely. “Shahid how much time remains when you can have dinner”. Upon my reply that it is about 45 minutes more, she remarks, I have almost finished my dinner but I will join you as well at the dinner so that you do not feel lonely. She leaves; I pause, think a bit and get busy again. Few minutes later, Kevin, my room mate hailing from USA and Gioel, an Italian, one of the organizers and pioneers of Recrear come and suggest me to grab and set aside some dinner stuff lest it finishes before the fasting time is over. I like the idea and go to the dining hall where some of the participants having finished dinner are busy in organizational discussion while some are still in the middle of their dinner, exclusively prepared for Recrear participants. I stuff a plate with vegetarian food, cover it with another plate and sit on a table while about 10 minutes still remaining before I can start eating.
Lisa, a German, Maya, a Jew from Israel, Suhani, an Indian, Michael, from USA, Kwabena, hailing from Ghana, Zarie, a Muslim from Kosovo and one of the organizers, Cecilia and Jocelyn, both Mexicans and Dara, an American come one by one to my table and ask almost the similar questions- how much time remains? Are you not too hungry or thirsty? I am touched by these remarks. I feel I am not alone. Although I am away from my home but do not feel lonely, I do not feel alien. I feel at home. Then the next day, Kristen breaks the news that Qasim, a Muslim friend of her from UK is going to join Recrear participants couple of days later saying that with his inclusion, I will have a companion for fasting. On the other hand, Christian, a German and one of the masterminds behind the idea of Recrear is concerned since the fall of Ramadan that I get ample food and well in time. It is amazing. Before the start of Ramadan, I was bit worried as how would it look like? Would not I be treated as an alien? Would I be able to get food in time on both timings (Sehr and Iftar). But to my surprise, I am so comfortable with fasting, my prayers. Moreover, this awesome group of youngsters not only understands but also respects that I do not take alcoholic drinks and that I cannot take all kind of meat except Halal. Suhani Jain, a vegetarian has been my consultant and nutritionist in selection of vegetarian food since the beginning of Recrear. This is the spirit of tolerance and the message of peaceful coexistence Recrear intends to spread out. This is the kind of respect for one another’s creeds, preferences and beliefs; we are experiencing and practicing at Recrear. If we have respect for one another, we will respect humanity; we will be able to work for nobler and greater causes directed towards human well being irrespective of religious, racial, linguistic concerns. Seven days of fasting have gone past already and I have not felt even for a single time that I am alone in the process. The height of this wonderful spirit is the declaration by some of the participants that they would do one day of fasting with me on the coming Friday.