IT is that time of year when Muslims focus on fasting, self-improvement and getting together with loved ones. I won’t elaborate on the meanings and blessings of it as I am sure there are many better-informed and more qualified to talk about those things.
Rather, I thought it would be more interesting to narrate an honest, average-girl’s perspective of a day out of this month for your reading pleasure.
Fortunately, I’ve never really had much trouble when it comes to adapting to the changes during the fasting month. For one, I don’t drink coffee or smoke, so that is already a large craving hurdle out the window.
Giving up sweet drinks years ago also proved to be well worth it as I don’t experience strange hypnotic pulls when passing by stalls selling icy, sugar-laden, neon-coloured drinks. However, I wouldn’t lie and say that there weren’t moments when I fantasised about bathing in a large tub filled with gallons of cold Coke!
A FASTING DAY BEGINS
The mornings start exceptionally early. You would never see me wake up this early for anything else in my life. I convince myself that most successful people wake up as early as 4am, and so perhaps having breakfast before sunrise is not such a strange thing after all.
My choice for sahur would be a big portion of a normal breakfast, consisting of some carbs, a lot of protein and fibre. But if I’m at my parents’ house, this will include a full-course rice meal fit for a whole day of working at a farm.
As the day begins I’ll observe two different groups of people at the office. There is the group who is genuinely unfazed by the fast, happy and upbeat throughout the day. And then there is the group who would begin the day resembling a zombie, after being stripped off their dose of morning caffeine.
If you’re smart you’ll stay away from this latter group for a couple of hours, while comforting them that there are worse things in life than not drinking coffee.
As the day progresses, the initial temperament will ease itself; the following weeks are a lot easier than the first few days of fasting. For me, it eventually feels like another day of skipping lunch, but for others it may be slightly harder, especially if work requires a lot of physical activity. I take none of my fortunate circumstances for granted in this regard.
At around 3pm my mind would start to wander towards the direction of its current deepest desires. What shall we have for dinner? It will depict itself through random food googling or a discussion over a recipe with a fellow colleague.
This is when an internal battle would begin, between staying on the healthy route and eating modestly, or going all out and making a five course meal of a roast chicken set, and then maybe some fried rice, satay and a few different “kuih” or desserts for good measure.
And what about exercise? It makes sense to tone it down, but most of us would not even bother. Whatever your choice, I find that giving up entirely is rather unfitting, so I would usually opt for lighter exercise, like yoga or a brisk walk around the neighbourhood. I tried to go for a morning run the other day but came back home feeling like a dried guava. Never again.
DON’T FORGET THE WHOLE PURPOSE
As the day comes to a close, I find myself sitting on a chair after dinner and having a staring contest with a couple of “tepung pelita” seductively wobbling in their cold, coconut cream saltiness. I wonder if I should go for that sweet binge at 10pm.
The point of the fasting month is to learn to be moderate, to appreciate the hardships faced by the less fortunate and, most of all, to self-improve. Surely eating after sunset like I had been starving since 1994 is no way to be moderate?
If there is anything Ramadan has taught me, it is that remembering your goal will always make the whole journey more enjoyable. If you treat Ramadan as an opportunity to detox, be gentle with your body and enjoy the spiritual significance of it, and you’ll do fine.
Otherwise, you’ll end up fasting furiously, feasting on half the food at the Ramadan bazaar, and that defeats the whole point.
A GEOSCIENTIST BY DAY AND ASPIRING WRITER BY NIGHT, AMAL GHAZALI
PONDERS ON EVERYTHING, FROM PERPLEXING, MODERN-DAY RELATIONSHIP DILEMMAS TO THE FASCINATING WORLD OF WOMEN’S HEALTH AND WELLBEING. ALL DONE OF COURSE , WHILE HAVING A GOOD LAUGH. READ MORE OF HER STORIES AT BOOTSOVERBOOKS.COM