Every week, when my maternal grandmother completed an entire recitation of the Qur’an, she petitioned that the reward for her effort be passed to her deceased forefathers. Before the sun goes down on a Thursday, she said, the souls of our departed loved ones perch on the ledge of the family home to see if they’ve been remembered. Since they can no longer earn credits for themselves, it is incumbent on the living to contribute. Although a glass of milk would do, Nani Jee liked to cook something special, perhaps a favourite curry of the relative she was remembering. The food would be laid out on a tray, ready to be donated to someone in need, just as soon as grandma had finished reciting prayers over the offering. She would plead from her prayer mat by including the names of her forefathers, remembering the toddler she lost four years earlier, the mother she grew up without; and always as per Muslim etiquette starting with the Holy Prophet and his family, and finally for the sake of equity remembering all Muslims already settled in their graves.
My grandfather, whom everyone called Babu Jee on account of his literacy, said it was good practice to bank blessings for those in the present world so the rewards await their arrival in the next. ‘Isn’t it enough that I cook for you in this life? You want me to start cooking for you in the next one too?’
Grandma would mock as her husband implored her to offer God’s blessing only with the best possible halwa: wholesome and sweet, a delicate beige in colour, glistening with ghee to the point of being translucent, and so soft and smooth in texture that it melts in the mouth and glides down the throat without so much as a bite. Since his beloved dessert was usually reserved for special occasions, Babu Jee hoped to satisfy his craving in the afterlife.