A Hindu woman in Ahmedabad, India, has been observing fasts during Ramzan for the past 34 years. Pooriben Leuwa, 85, says that she and her Muslim friends ‘share a faith called love’.
She began fasting during the holy month after making a vow to a saint in Ahmedabad’s Jamalpur area, Bala Pir Bawa. After her husband’s death, she and her daughters moved some 2.5km from their old Tajpur Mominwad neighbourhood in Jamalpur. But her fasting tradition carries on unbroken.
“For the past two years, I have not been keeping well,” Pooriben said. “My family and my doctor have allowed me just three fasts this year – 27th, 28th and 29th. But I argue with them every day to allow me to observe the entire 30 days.”
She said her family had been involved in a property dispute with her brother-in-law in 1982. “I had vowed at the Bala Pir Bawa dargah that if I win the legal battle I would observe rozas,” she said. “We won the civil case in a year and I kept my vow.”
Pooriben’s bond with her old neighbours was forged in terrifying circumstances.
“During the 1969 riots, our Muslim neighbours formed a human shield to protect my family against riotous mobs,” she said. “I had six girls and each of them was kept safe by our Muslim friends. My husband and I and our children were given food by our Muslim neighbours for more than a month during the curfew.” In her new neighbourhood, Saujanyawas in Danilimda, she is often referred to as ‘Pooriben khala’.
“Mominwad families send kheer-sevaiyan for our entire society when Pooriben breaks her fast,” said Pooriben’s daughter Sarla Leuwa, 58. She said that Firdousben, Sugra aapa and Shireenben or their families from Mominwad still visit them.
Pooriben’s eldest daughter, Manjula Leuwa, said: “We remember as children that our parents never stopped us from taking part in Muharram observances.” Manjula said her family helped their Muslim neighbours handle guests during Eid. “We also got our Eid presents,” she said.