By Mohammed Wajihudin
Jul 12, 2015
Sujata Patil, senior police Inspector at Kherwadi police station, Bandra East, liberally uses terms like Mureed (disciple), Ziyarat (visits to holy shrines) and Wazu (ablutions before prayers) when she interacts with a Muslim. But it is not only terms associated with Islam that she is familiar with; this Maharashtrian Hindu police officer reveals she has fasted every Ramzan in the last 25 years.
Waking up at around 4 in the morning for sehri, the pre-dawn light meal, and breaking the fast with Iftar in the evening, Patil follows a routine in this Ramzan too, which is ending on July 18. "This has become a routine for me now. Like any other Muslim, I eagerly await the holy month's arrival," says Patil, seated at her ground floor office where a visitor confirms to TOI about the officer's fast.
Patil is certainly not the first non-Muslim who fasts in Ramzan. But what makes her story different from that of other non-Muslim practitioners of the customary month-long fast is a controversial episode in her three decade-old career. Her poem condemning the vandals of Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial during the Azad Maidan riots of 2012 had put her in a soup. Suggesting chopping off the limbs of the vandals, the poem, published in the police journal Samvad, was panned for allegedly fanning communalism. An embarrassed police establishment published an apology in the next issue. "I was wrongly attacked as I condemned the vandals who desecrated the memorial which is dedicated to the sepoys martyred in the 1857 mutiny.
Not many know that the martyrs included Muslim sepoys too," says Patil, who insists her interest in Muslim culture goes back to her childhood days in Kolhapur. "As a child, I would accompany my father to the shrine of Sufi Saint Babu Jamal in Kolhapur. I have imbibed the spirit of tolerance and inclusiveness of Sufism," explains Patil, who offers a Chadar to Mahim Dargah every Thursday and visits the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Dargah in Ajmer.
But what does she get from fasting for a month every year, a custom her religion doesn't mandate? "It gives me peace of mind. It trains me to be honest and resist temptations," she says. She adds that her observance of roza (fasts) has earned her respect among Muslims. "Recently there occurred a riot-like situation in my area. Once I reached the spot and told the mob that I was fasting, tempers cooled down and normalcy returned," she claims.
That she observes Ramzan fasts is also corroborated by many Muslims who have known her for years. "I have seen her fast and am aware of her devotion to Sufi saints. I was touched by her devotion and eagerness to understand Islam that I gifted a copy of the Quran (in Marathi)," says Dharavi-based social worker Shaikh Fakhr ul Islam, who has known Patil ever since she was inspector of traffic police in Matunga a couple of years ago.