Monday, October 15, 2007

Eid with Indian Orphans

5-year old Fatima at Darul Yatama, girls' orphanage

Malegaon: As Indian Muslims celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr, the festival that crowns the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, with usual euphoria and fervor, a strange calm envelopes Darul Yatama, a Muslim girls’ orphanage located at a stone’s throw from Mumbai-Agra national highway.

"Till last year, `Eid signified darkness but at Darul Yatama `Eid is all about light," Fahmeeda Mohammed Yusuf, a 13-year-old-blind girl said.

Fahmeeda has memorized eight parts of the Holy Qur’an.

Darul Yatama is Maharashtra state’s only Muslim girls’ orphanage with state of the art facilities where religious as well as the modern education is being imparted.

Orphan girls have been provided with new clothes and sandals on the occasion of `Eid.

"Since `Eid means day of happiness, I have played the entire day with other girls in the sprawling garden of the orphanage," said Fatima Hakeemuddin, 5.

An adorable Fatima, originally from the north-eastern state of Assam, wore new bright dress with a pink scarf.

She does not remember her father who died in an accident.

"Today we have been pampered so much that I could not think of my family."

"Since we have girls from all across the country, we had made enough arrangement for `Eid," said Maulana Abdul Khalique Faarkaleet, the head of Darul Yatama.

"We prepared a variety of delicacies keeping in mind the different traditional tastes," he said.

"Celebrating `Eid with orphans gives you a sense of joy which cannot be descried in words," he said with a smile.

"All 103 girls in the orphanage are part of my extended family."

For some of the orphaned girls `Eid Al-Fitr is a chance of family reunions.

"On this holy day of `Eid, I am waiting for my mother," said Rukhshana Aslam, 10, sobbing uncontrollably.

Her long wait for her mother has been quite painful because she is the only one who visits her on `Eid.

Rukshana stays at the orphanage with her 5-year old younger sister who is mentally-challenged.

"I am really happy that my mother has come to meet me on `Eid day from my hometown in the state of Madhya Pradesh," said a jubilant Nida Mirza, 12.

"We had a fantastic time since morning. My mother made amazing sheer khorma (a popular Indian sweet dish Muslims make for `Eid) for all of us on the occasion of `Eid."

"It’s the reunion time for our family," her mother said.

Nida's father was a mechanic who passed away in an accident when she was barely six year old.

Earlier her uncles used to support her mother but now that the family has been partitioned there is no one to look after her mother.

"There are times that I really can’t sleep thinking about my mother. She works as a maid to support herself," said a concerned Nida.

Nida’s empty eyes moisten when asked about how people generally treat her. She tried to contain her tears before breaking down.

"People think that orphans are helpless. The other day somebody wrote in a newspaper that I came to this orphanage because I was helpless," she said with her trembling voice.

"I deeply resent that. Orphans are not helpless," her voice choked off.

Nida wants to become an Aalima (Islamic scholar).

Friends Qurratulain, 7, and Shabana, 5, celebrated `Eid with a commitment.

They have both decided to permanently give up their old "profession" of begging.

"We together used to beg in streets for days. Now that we have found this orphanage which supports us, there is no need to beg," they said.

"Begging was such an abhorring practice," Qurratulain said.

For 6-year old Noor Jahan Abdus Sattar, who lost her mother in Malegaon bomb blasts on September 8, 2006, while she was begging outside India’s largest Muslim cemetery, `Eid is all about coping up with reality.

"I don’t have anybody in this world apart from this orphanage," she said with a stream of tears tickling down her face.

"`Eid conveys that we must accept reality as it is and live with it," she added wisely.

"Don’t judge me by these tears. They are natural. I am really happy this `Eid."

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