By Hamza Wadiwala
This Ramadan will be a bit different, not just because it’s our second one during the pandemic. It’s also my first as a parent and with that, I feel a huge sense of responsibility.
Growing up in the subcontinent in India, there was a big sense of family and community.
Ramadan was a big part of that since I can remember. Leading up to Ramadan, I remember my parents getting prepared, buying dates and fresh fruits and getting the freezer filled with samosas. Our family also participated in a lot of charity as this is a big part of the spirit of Ramadan and a means of refreshing your faith.
Most people focus on the fasting; I always highlight the charity. It’s all about learning to be grateful for what you have and helping the less fortunate.
During the month, every day we would be up early to have Sehri or Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) before fasting for the day. During the day, there would always be a focus on increased prayers as Muslims try to recite the Quran multiple times during the month. Before you knew it (some days felt longer than others), it would be time for Iftaar; families and friends got together to break their fast.
There would be kids running around delivering care packages as neighbours shared delicious food and drinks with each other. After everyone ate (I often ate far too much), the community would get together at the mosque for the nightly Taraweeh (additional nightly for Ramadan) prayers.
This is what Ramadan was all about; community, family, charity and hitting the reset button from a religious perspective.
Moving to Canada was a big change for us when I was only 10 years old. As with most immigrant stories, my parents put in the hard work, working multiple jobs giving my siblings and I the opportunity to focus on a better future.
Due to this effort, I was able to graduate from Ryerson University and joined Walmart Canada shortly after. Within a few years, I found myself with the opportunity to drive a better experience for our ethnic customer as a Category Manager leading Ethnic Fresh Foods. I thought to myself, how do I help deliver a similar experience for our customers that are going through the same thing we went through with the transition to Canada.
We struggled to find the sweets, fruits, snacks and the clothing that we enjoyed back home. So I set out with the team to bring a variety of dates, juices, halal meats, etc. to our stores; making it easy for our customers to put together the Ramadan experience for their families.
One of these items I look back fondly on is the spring roll or samosa wrappers.
My mom would always tell me she has to go to another supermarket to buy these, so I worked with our category manager on the grocery side to bring it into our stores. Simple solutions with real impact that I know made not just my mom, but lots of other customers happy as well. A few years ago, I got married - my wife and I have had similar experiences. Many times, we’ll be walking through the aisle (or scrolling the app nowadays) and I’ll hear, “Hey! I didn’t know Walmart has this”, the hot and fresh samosas in the deli section for example or finding the decorative banners for Ramadan or Eid!
I have also broadened my knowledge of how other cultures, like people from the Middle East and Africa, celebrate Ramadan and what the foods they enjoy.
As I look forward to this Ramadan, our first with my son Lesa, I think about how we will teach him about the values of Ramadan, the family, the community, the prayers and charity. The pandemic has certainly impacted how my family will observe Ramadan this year. I think efforts like those made by Walmart to make it easier for families and more inviting of all cultures will have a great impact on our ability to do so as parents.
Whether it’s the foods, the clothes or the Ramadan themed decorations we can buy, it will help us make such an important part of our religion relatable to the next generation!
P.S. A special thanks for the team I worked with to deliver the experience for our customers’. Stew Chang, Aman Bhatia, Sourabh Malik, Evelyn Chau, Abdelkadir Adar, Farhaana Yusuf, Swetha Priya S V, Chris Na, Kate Mahli and many more that were part of the committee.