Two Souls & My Passing Ramadan

Ramadan is a month of memoirs of bereavement, paths to healing reconnections and reconciliations.

Hashim Muhammed, the writer and mystic.

Hashim Muhammed, the writer and mystic.

When Ramadan essentially bids adieu, something deeply strikes my mind. I dearly miss two intimate souls, who have been with me, for many years, through the days and nights of this month. They, in different ways, connected me to the holiness and sacred meanings of this month. One is Ummacchi, my grandmother, who initiated me to fasting, when I was a child. Next is Hashimka, who brought my spiritual attention back to the mysteries of this month, with his obsessive philosophical engagements with it. Both have returned to Almighty in the last year. This is the first Ramadan without them.

When somebody close to you dies, part of you also dies. I remembered people saying this when I went for iftar at my ancestral home, a couple of weeks back. I scanned the rooms my grandma once used. Before and after she fell ill. The absence and loss, in spite of the differences and disagreements you have had with her, is deep and irredeemable; it forces you with a certain amount of unshared grief. A macabre silence. Our family is yet to fully reconcile with the suspense and shock she had stored for us when she accidentally fell down in her bedroom, bleeding from the head. It went beyond the tragedy of a typical geriatric fall, unfortunately. Long months, having lingered in coma, painful to those close to her – how did she took it herself you never know – she went back to the place where everyone returns. More than her death and ailment, her life is something I want to write about, now, at least. Ramadan reminds me of all sad demises. A month of memoirs of bereavement, paths to healing reconnections and reconciliations. It was in a Muharam month, probably when I was six or seven, that my grandmother made me and my cousin fast from dawn to dusk. We went through it valiantly, without much struggle. From next Ramadan onwards, she kept encouraging us to fast regularly, with permitted intervals. With her religiosity, piety, authoritativeness, command and compassion, she convinced us about the significance of this month, its difference and sacredness. She put me on this track, however feeble, ignorant and inconsistent it is. I have many reasons to miss her in this month.

In Ooty, with Hashimka. Photo by KM Rasheed.

In Ooty, with Hashimka. Photo by KM Rasheed.

Through karma, you often find yourself more deeply connected to certain souls, than through blood. Hashimka is such a figure; he was in constant love with the mysteries of Ramadan. The kind of mystic and wanderer he was, Ramadan perfected his spiritual sojourns and philosophical acumen. In the conventional sense, he was not “pious” or “religious”. He had loudly mocked and ridiculed many a practice, for losing the essence of rites. Perhaps, he was the most honest fiction writer who went on satirising the funny paradoxes of Muslim life in Kerala, including its ceaseless, pointless sectarian skirmishes. He took Ramadan as a boundless source of his untiring creative energy. With his own idiosyncratic, unpredictable sense of humour and amazing enthusiasm, he discovered metaphors from each and everything about Ramadan. And made sense with interpretations – spiritual and metaphysical. His vision was micro, minute, unique. And the same Hashimka would shock you by doing something quite antithetical to the spirit of Ramadan. I thought Allah and His prophets, angels and jinns gave him a peculiar companionship, and hence some special discount. It was as if there was a secret pact between him and His Beloved. A true Sufi is the one who is not, Schimmel wrote. I have missed him a hundred times, to give a call, to listen to his quintessential laughter at the other end, to be mocked at and ridiculed, to be scolded generously, to receive wise insights. To hug tight and to be loved fully. I am sure I am not alone in this privilege; many of his friends must have felt the same. Once you know him, he invades you; even the police officer who came to interrogate him for translating Syed Qutub’s Milestones – it’s not a banned book, by the by – returned as his friend.

I haven’t ever seen anyone who was so passionately obsessed with the bounties and graces of Ramadan. Whenever Ramadan came, he got excited. The second phase of his writing career saw its creative peak here, with the characters and contexts he created for celebrating this month, atypically. Everything close to Ramadan – from the revelation of Quran to the Night of Power – was significantly different for him. He would keep on talking for hours, even on telephone. His famous coinages like “Nombulance” a portmanteau word combined with the Malayalam word “nombu”, which means fasting, and ‘ambulance’ was a result of such indulgence he had. I realise it’s impossible to be fair to his charisma; you are missed, dear Hashimka.


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