By Novid Shaid, 1997
Rumbling bellies, parched mouths,
Searing scents wafting from our breaths,
Empty lunch trays, dizzy spells.
These familiar images appeared in our heads
as our Maulvi announced the good news
the sighting of the moon
and the beginning of a blessed month.
We braced ourselves
and prepared our minds, envisaging
Thirty days of fasting,
our stomachs hollow from dawn to dusk.
We knew the feeling,
our Mothers’ gentle nudges before dawn,
our early cups of tea and large breakfasts,
And that solemn utterance of signing our fast,
“And I intend to fast tomorrow”.
We could see ahead,
The anticipation for the setting sun,
The heavenly feeling
of mango juice coating our abandoned throats,
The community united in the mosque for Taraweeh prayer,
The rowdy lot sniggering in the back rows,
The marathon rakats on Layla Tul Qadr,
Oh and of course our prize at the finish line
Eid Ul Fitr, a time of money, new clothes,
ladoo, gulab jarman, rass melie
And for the boys,
A trip to the Broadway, in shining, hired cars.
We thought this as we listened to our Maulvi
Announcing the eve of Ramadan,
We readied ourselves for the eventualities,
And performing the same set pieces as previous years .
But this year was different,
the mosque had an altered face,
The Maulvi seemed new,
his eyes shone clearer,
A hidden twinkle sparkled from his eyes,
And his talk had a different effect;
The words seemed to fly across the hall
And land hard on our chests.
Today he ceased to lecture us
In a language that hardly aroused old men from their naps,
But in speech that lowered him level to us,
It seemed, as if pearls floated forth from his tongue
Settling on our unsettled minds.
And he said:
“The time of Ramadan has arrived again
It seems as though yesterday,
And now we will prepare ourselves
For early mornings,
And reforming lazy ways.
Our Masjid will be full at night Masha Allah,
The taraweh prayer our saving grace,
And our fridges will be happily filled,
The dates our traditional yearly taste,
We look forward to Eid Ul Fitr
Handing out presents and eating cakes,”
And here he paused a while,
Suddenly the dome awoke and tilted,
A reflection shone from up above,
The dome became a giant mirror,
And we saw the real state of ourselves,
“Brothers and sisters fasting has arrived
But this month is not only of food,
Our hunger may be a virtuous thing
But is really a minor obstacle.
This is the month when Shaitan is weak
The chains surround his cursed domain,
The mercies shower down in abundance
But still our egos haunt our days.
So, while fasting from our copious food
We must also fast from anger and lies,
While thirsting from our ice cold drinks
We must also thirst from arrogance and pride.
Our stomachs may be short of food
But for this we will compensate.
In this month of Ramadan we will feast together:
With sandwiches of patience and kindness,
And coat our throats with mercy syrup,
We will drink glasses of forbearance and smiles,
And suck on grapes of charity,
Our bowls will be full with apples of cleanliness,
And our bottles topped with juices of sincerity.
How Merciful is our Lord!
He always does provide,
Our fridge may be closed all day,
But still we’re satisfied.
For if we live on foods as these
No hunger will we feel,
Our month will pass in remembrance
And who can say of our state next year,
All namazees, beaming with pride!”
The Maulvis words faded far in the distance,
And the month proceeded on,
We awoke and signed our Ramadan fasts,
And went to work and school as usual;
But this year we dined all day.
Not with the foods prohibited to enter mouths,
But with foods designed to feed our hearts.
Together, we fed our hearts every day,
The swearing man was cautioned,
The prayer room was filled and encouraged,
We smiled and caged our tempers,
Our actions began matching our words.
Many days passed before us,
And still those pearls lay softly on our heads.
And still our mothers woke us early,
And we ate and drank our tea,
We brushed our early teeth,
The fasts were signed in sincerity,
The new days began with buses to school,
and joining the rush hour to work
And then began our feasts.