Jay Pachchigar | TNN | Updated: May 24, 2020,

VADODARA: If it wouldn’t have been for his benevolent Muslim neighbourhood, 19-year-old driver in Bodeli, Chirag Tadvi, would have faced starvation during the lockdown. But that’s not how the neighbours in Navinagri slums think — here brotherhood thrives above the material wants. And, it was in that community feeling that a kitchen fed 700-odd mouths daily, including 25-odd Hindus like Tadvi.
But the feeling’s mutual. As a gesture of solidarity and gratitude, Tadvi and his friends also decided to share something precious to their benefactors — the 27th day of Ramzan fast — on May 20, considered very auspicious.
“Usually, I observe fast every Saturday from a vow I took several years ago. But this time during Ramzan, we decided to observe fast on the 27th day to mark our gratitude for our neighbours who did not discriminate while feeding the needy during lockdown. We also prayed together to ward-off coronavirus,” said Tadvi.
Children as young as eight to 15 were also among the group to observe the fast.
Arvind Tadvi, a fruit vendor, said that he will remain eternally grateful to his neighbours for feeding them in the critical times. “We wanted to thank them by offering special prayers for them,” said Tadvi, whose 13-year-old daughter Esha and son Bhavesh (15) too joined him in observing a day’s fast along with others.
“Had they not started the community kitchen, my family would have starved as my work was completely shut due to lockdown,” said Shankar Tadvi, an auto-rickshaw driver, from the slums.
The fast observers continued their daily work without even drinking water, but by dusk they were exhausted. “By 4 pm I felt tired so I had to return home and take rest,” said Shankar. Another fast observer Dhaval Bariya too had to lie down for a couple of hours.
Initiated by Mushtaq Khatri, a farmer, and his friends, the community kitchen was an effort from their own pockets during the initial days. Only later, he got help from several people in Bodeli to keep the kitchen fires burning.
“We fed 700-odd people daily without any discrimination. A few traders and influential people also donated money which kept our kitchen running,” said Khatri, who would cook food and distribute in every household in the area with the help of volunteers.
Food for ‘sehri’, a ritual prior to the fast, and ‘iftaar’, a meal taken while breaking the fast were also made by Khatri and his family members. From ‘ras-puri’, fritters, samosas, khaman, fruits among other items, iftaar was always a good sumptuous spread.

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