Arju Moni is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in Railway Colony, an impoverished neighborhood right next to the busy railway line of Chittagong University, in the port city of Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Arju lives in a small house made out of tin sheets with her parents and her siblings. Modesty is important to Arju and she always keeps her head covered with a scarf, as requested by her parents. Arju leads a very regimented life which consists of school, homework and household chores.
It is Ramadan, the ritual fasting month of Muslims worldwide, and so there is a slight change to her daily routine. Every morning she wakes up at 2.30 am for Sehri – the pre-dawn meal eaten before the morning prayer of Fajar Ajan. Whilst having her food, she reads the Quran and waits for her dawn prayer. After this, she will fast the whole day.
After praying, Arju goes to sleep for a little while and wakes up again at 8.30 am at morning. Waking up slowly, she starts doing household chores for her mother. She sweeps the rooms, folds clothes, makes the bed, and waters the plants. It is not how she would like to spend her days, but she helps her mother out of respect as that is what a good daughter does.
At around 10.30 am her friends come to her house and they spend some precious time together. Sometimes they play Ludu, a strategy game with four players on a paper board. Arju likes this game very much even if she does not always win.
At 12.00 pm she goes to fetch water from the public tap beside her house and cleans herself in a communal shower hut which she shares with many other neighbors. Then she starts reading the Quran again – to prepare herself for the Zohor (afternoon) prayer. Whereas the men of her family go to the mosque, she prays right there, on the blue mat in her living room.
After praying she takes a nap, tired from fasting, and wakes up again at 3.30 pm to help her mother prepare Iftar, the traditional food to break the fast, which will be served after the sun has gone down. She peels cucumbers and carrots for a salad and squeezes orange juice for Iftar.
During Ramadan Arju goes to bed at 10.30 pm as she has to wake up for Sehri early in the morning. She doesn’t get any time to study for school during Ramadan as she is busy with her religious duties all day long. Only during her menstruation can she study. Tradition prevents her from doing any sort of religious task – she can’t even fast at that time.
Arju is in class six of secondary school now. She likes her school very much – it is here that she meets her friends. She doesn’t like it when school is off for Ramadan “vacation” and in fact she is busiest during this time of the year, helping her mother with all her duties. She likes to study Bengali and loves her Bengali teacher very much. It is her dream to be a teacher in the future and to take care of her family.