Young Dawoodi Bohra students between the age of 13 – 19 living in the Far East and Australasia, arrived in India on 9th December 2022 for a three week educational tour visiting important cultural and religious sites of the community in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Denmal, Galiyakot and Surat. They also experienced campus life at Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, the community’s premier educational institute in Surat through a specialised two-week course covering subjects including history, culture and sciences of the home among other lessons.
‘Given that this was such a diverse group, we were a little anxious to see how they would interact with each other, however, it was satisfying to see them mingle and get along from the start,’ said Taher Khandwawala, the on-field coordinator of the trip.
‘This program was conceptualised to provide the students with a window into the culture their ancestors were brought up in before migrating to new homelands and to show them that their community, irrespective of its widespread geography, is united by a set of shared values and practices,’ said Huzefa Husami, the program lead.
Jumana Bhavnagarwala from Singapore fondly remarks on her culinary experience saying, ‘I always looked forward to the meals at Aljamea. I used to long to sit at the thaal (large steel platter) to be treated with scrumptious dishes and local drinks such as lassi (a beverage made of Yogurt or Buttermilk). I was particularly surprised to learn that students at Aljamea took turns to cook breakfast for 60-70 residents of the hostel floor on a daily basis.’ In addition to enjoying the meals, students also took cooking lessons where they learnt about Dawoodi Bohra culinary traditions and made Dal Chawal Palidu, a delectable classic for community members worldwide.
The trip was organised by the community’s Department of Education which operates schools offering a K-12 educational program, 46 of which are located in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Additionally, the department runs several educational centres that cater to smaller communities offering courses on religious studies on select days of the week.