Each year Ramazan comes around and everything for the Muslim side of the world changes. With this change comes diversity, because Ramazan does have its own variety – there are different family traditions, different kinds of prayers, different kinds of foods and even different kinds of fasters! Now some of you may think we're about to dive into a discussion on different religious practices but you couldn't be farther from the truth. This is more about people we've all encountered in Ramazan who sometimes drive us crazy and other times make us laugh. You may have scoffed at them, rolled your eyes at them, thought they were amusing – or you could even be one of them…
I always gain weight… not again!
Have you ever noticed how several people start the auspicious month looking towards not just purifying their souls and their system but also towards purging themselves of excess fat? These unfortunate souls start out by planning on losing some pounds during the month but then two things happen, namely: sehri and iftar. To keep up their 'energy' they eat a hefty sehri so that they won't feel weak, after all it's the most important meal of the day. These poor souls then spend a really long day without something to munch on or anything to drink, by the time they end up at the iftar table the only thing that exists in their universe is they themselves and the food! Before you know it, a whole month goes by and the Eid clothes they probably bought long before, fit way better than they did when they bought them. And of course it's then that they realise they never lost any weight at all… they had sehri and iftar a little too enthusiastically.
Of course these people have their own counterparts too. While there are some who always gain weight, some make it their dying wish to lose weight under any and all circumstances (I identified with this group at one point). They skip sehri or only drink a glass of water, they don't just exercise during their fast – they go crazy with the most vigorous regime ever. And of course for iftar, they have one khajoor and a samosa (shudder). I get that it kills two birds with one stone i.e. you pray and fast while you lose weight but people both of these scenarios are far from healthy. Try and give yourself a break and eat healthy, there's no reason to put your body under that kind of torture.
Fast is over… party time
It's not possible for people to not have encountered this species during Ramazan. While they're fasting they'll go on and on and on and ON about how this is haram and that is not allowed. Don't listen to music, don't watch TV, don't talk to a boy, don't don't don't! These are the same people that run towards their favourite Indian soap opera as soon as they break their fast. Why? Well as logic would have it, while they're fasting they abstain from all evil but once the fast is broken they are not bound by anything to remain in that state. So they return to ogling at Shahrukh Khan and listening to their music on their mp3 players. The only issue I have with these people is that they miss the main point of the fast: learn to give up the things that you can't do during your fast and learn it for good. It's easy to be a preacher for half a day and do nothing wrong, it's fairly easy to stay on your best behaviour for a full month but if you switch back to your old self in no time once it's all over then what was the point? So ladies please, if you decide Shahrukh Khan is something you need to avoid during your fast… think of it as a long term commitment (not just for yourself but for the sake of many people who suffer his movies because you force everyone to watch them!).
Quite possible the most hated people during Ramazan are these guys. They come up with some reason or the other to skip the fast but that isn't the bad part. The bad part starts around 15 minutes before iftar when the mothers, sisters, bhabis etc begin setting the table for the people who are fasting. Not only they have the whole day to eat, these food tasters decide that the only time they should really eat is this tiny time before fast is broken. They'll look left and they'll look right and then sneak a bite out of a pakora, kebab, some chaat and what not. And of course like a good rozaydar you'll only notice the food when they slide it into their mouths. It's only fate that you'll notice it right then and there. Most of us have our own brand of younger iftar stealing siblings and cousins.
A whole new world… it won't be
These are naïve people who will go around feeling like the safest creatures on the planet because the devil is locked inside a fiery cage in hell. Oh little ones only if you knew… just because the devil's locked up doesn't mean evil will evaporate during Ramazan. It's a time to be extra careful of your actions and deeds while you fast. These are the guys and girls who think that their obligation to fasting ends with them avoiding food but it does not. Don't lie, steal, cheat, abuse and eat. This is just a tiny list and it gets bigger and better once you really look into all the things you're not supposed to be doing in Ramazan. The devil might be locked up but that won't stop the minions he's left behind and those minions will continue to do bad things while he's away. So, if you're one of these naive people who think the world has transformed into a utopia and then something terrible happens to you during Ramazan please know that it's not your fault. No, God doesn't hate you and yes, some people are terrible. Not everything will go as planned but it is still a blessed month and you may well receive plenty of good tidings.
The unappreciated mazdoors
While many from our generation sleep their fast away to hold up against fatigue and hunger these are the people that do not sleep. They get up long before we do for sehri and are bustling about in the kitchen while we snore away in our room. Yes, I'm talking about the unsung heroes of Ramazan: our mothers. Even when they're pampering us and telling us to lie down or rest for a bit, our mothers don't really stop to wonder whether they need some rest. For them the only thing that changes during Ramazan is more or less the timings on which they consume their food, other than that their duties remain the same, their chores stay the same and their lives are generally the same. They have no short classes because of Ramazan or shorter work hours – they keep toiling and working so that we can have an easier Ramazan. And if you haven't noticed it as yet, then try giving your mothers a day off by stepping in their shoes… for they truly are our unappreciated mazdoors!
The kiddy Roza
Remember how when we were kids our moms would tell us kids faste differently than adults? Well what my mom did was tell us that lunch was the test iftar and the real iftar in the evening was the grand iftar. Before we began real fasts this was how it was done. Most families I know have a similar system for their kids and it's a good one too – only it's a little weird when you find your cousin keeping the kiddy roza and sticking his tongue out at you. Ah the agony of having to sit through watching a fully grown adult gulping down a jug of milk because his mom thinks he's still a baby. I don't get why my mother never thought I was a baby, even when I was a baby! Sure this little character is not all that common because most people with common sense wouldn't eat in front of others but I assure you that he does exist and yes, taunting him or glaring at him will not help you pry the food out of his pudgy hands!
In the month when we're supposed to learn endurance and tolerance we actually do the opposite. Instead of facing things head on and defeating our wants and desires we actually avert our eyes instead. The innocent bystanders are the poor minorities of our country who actually end up fasting with us in our work places, colleges and communities because pretty much all the eateries are closed off till iftar. It doesn't just end there – all around the world whenever it's Christmas or Hanukah, the markets have great sales and prices generally go down because these festivals are a reason for people to come together. In Pakistan the situation is completely opposite, where we sit submerged in price hikes long before Ramazan even begins. So, while we're resisting temptation we won't even face, we're basically forcing other people to resist temptation that wasn't an issue for them to begin with… sigh the irony. Talk about tolerance, patience and endurance!
May Allah the Almighty bless us all (Aameen)