As I watch my children and grandchildren waiting expectantly on the dining table for the iftar announcement on television, I am taken back in time to the sehris and iftaris in Lahore during the late forties and early fifties. Ramazan formally commenced with the sighting of the moon, which was an elaborate family ritual. Young and old, males and females, crowded the mamties of the old city and rooftops of suburban bungalows in a bid to outdo the others in spotting the thin sliver of a crescent. Once this was accomplished, youngsters walked up to their elders to wish them and obtain their blessings and dear ones in places far away were rung up to complete this ritual. It was customary for my mother to prepare the sehr and iftar herself, leaving the cook to look to his own family. She would set herself up on the traditional low stool called a peeri and prepare roghni roti before going to bed. Since refrigerators were far and few in those days, the rotis were put in paper bags and placed in a contraption called a ganjeena. This was a wooden cabinet covered with wire gauze, which enabled air to circulate through it to keep the food from going bad and securing it from pests. In the old city, bands of people moving from street to street would announce that it was time for the faithful to rise from their slumber and take sehri. The same message would be repeated from mosques through loudspeakers. In our case, our old alarm clock would announce that it was time to awaken and we would soon find ourselves sitting cross-legged around a dastar khwan spread on the carpet, while the tantalising aroma of frying shami kebabs, alternating with eggs in different forms, wafted out of the pantry. The roghni roti and kebabs were usually topped off by large bowls of jalebis or 'rusks soaked in milk. This was a time when television was a distant fantasy and everyone relied, for ending the sehri and commencing the iftar, on the call to prayer, the siren or the sound of large crackers being set off. This last was a legacy, perhaps, of the time when these timings were announced by the firing of a cannon placed on the city ramparts. Preparations for iftar began early and one found the entire female part of the family in the kitchen preparing something or the other. Pakoras, samosas and spiced chickpeas were a standard part of the menu, without which, no iftar was complete. There was, however, one item that was the family favourite. This was a recipe handed down by my paternal grandmother, consisting of boiled chana lentils salted and laced with ground red chillies and flavoured with crushed mint and lime juice. A portion of the iftar was set aside for sending next door, to the mausoleum of Hazrat Shah Inayat Qadri, the great saint who was the mentor and murshad of Hazrat Baba Bulleh Shah. Another generous portion was then dispatched for the families and children of our domestic help. This done, my mother would once more spread the dastar khwan, this time in my grandmothers room, and set up all the goodies that she and her 'assistants had spent the entire afternoon preparing. While all this was happening, the children of the family would run next door to the Saints last resting place, for a ritual that has now all but, disappeared. This was the beating of the shutri or kettle drum made from the hide of a camel. At a signal from Baba Meene Shah, the head keeper of the shrine, each of us would beat an ear splitting tattoo on the ancient drum. Back at the house, the family would begin the iftar with my grandfather saying a little prayer of thanks to the Almighty. With parched throats we would, without exception go for the drinks - fresh lime, sherbets made from faalsa or plums and occasionally satoos (a drink made from ground roasted barley, mixed in water and sweetened with brown sugar). Iftar would be immediately followed by dinner, which was generally a very light affair consisting of boiled rice and spicy lentils. It was rare that we did not have guests for iftar at our house. These could be family friends or my aunts and uncles from the Walled City, who would join us, turning each evening into an unforgettable get together. These gatherings also provided an opportunity for family issues and problems that could be raised, discussed and resolved amicably. This was then, the Ramazan of yore - a time when the pace and pressures of modern life had yet to destroy joint family units and when sehr and iftar were private family affairs and not vulgar public displays of affluence. The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.