The ethos of Cinnamon Stays, Unhotel’s Urban Pad in Gurgaon has been to be a place where strangers become friends. On 10th June, we saw an evening where strangers from different faiths, communities came together to spread the message of love, trust and humanity.
Iftars are most commonly known as the ‘breaking of the roza’ during Ramzan. Every evening during this time, Iftar signifies a time for family, prayer and reflection. And of course, the delectable fare.
But what if they were known for more than just that? What if it would span communities and people?
It is exactly with this thought that entrepreneur, author and TEDx speaker Nazia Erum planted the seed for Interfaith Iftars across the country.
The idea came to her last year while she was researching for her book Mothering a Muslim. She was baffled by a study that said only 33% Hindus in the country actually have Muslim friends.
“I came across many articles which spoke of how young kids are channeling hatred towards their Muslim counterparts. As a mother, it was really important for me to bridge the gap.”
And now a year later, there are Interfaith Iftars all across different cities with various hosts – guests from previous such Iftars have turned hosts, says Erum.
We too had been honoured to host one just a week before Ramzan at our very own Cinnamon Stays in Gurgaon. And of course Nazia was co host. In fact we had a group of 20 hosts.
The response was overwhelming. A crowd of people from different walks of life, religious affiliations, ideologies and age groups got together under one roof – some strangers, some friends – to revel in the spirit of Iftar.
At first we were all in our shells but by the end of the night, no one was a stranger anymore. The idea was to break bread while breaking stereotypes at the same time.
The ‘bread’ was potluck, a mix of different dishes brought by the guests not restricted to the traditional Iftar fare – biryani, kebabs, chole, kheer, jalebis and lots more.
But food, although the binding force, was not the only objective of the Iftar. We wanted to start a difficult conversation, talk about the myths and common misunderstandings about Islam, Muslims as well as other faiths and communities.
Myths and preconceived notions were written down on a slip of paper so as to maintain anonymity and then discussed.
“The conversations are often tough. But if we don’t address them, society is forever going to believe what is false. They will often disturb you but will also make you laugh. Like there was this preposterous one- Muslims spit in their own food,” says Erum.
Hosting this Interfaith Iftar was challenging since we didn’t know most of the guests, how they would react but it was equally satisfying to know that we can come together as different communities under one roof, have serious conversations and bust stereotypes.
And like Nazia said, “it is a small initiative to bring India together”.0