This year’s Ramadhan was completely different than all the ones I’ve had before. I observed the sacred month abroad, in a place where the Muslim community is a minority. Where Islam is practiced without the influence of the Malay culture. Where daylight is longer during the summer.
Back in Malaysia, the last few nights of Ramadhan running up to Aidilfitri had always meant lots of rendang, ketupat, lemang and lontong to the point of excessive consumption. I would be eating so much at night I end up lethargic during the day. Before the lontong- rendang-ketupat-lemang marathon would be the Ramadhan bazaar syndrome.
Ayam percik, ayam golek, gulai lemak cili api, ikan bakar, karipap, kuih lapis, dodol, bergedel, cendol. You name it, they have it. When you go to buy food when you haven’t eaten for a day, you will end up buying what your eyes lust. Most of the time about half of the food goes to waste (most Malay dishes don’t last very long even refrigerated, besides, the hygiene levels during preparation isn’t very stellar either).
In Bath, the total Muslim population is around 400 and consist mostly of Pakistanis, Indians and Arabs. So served at the mosque for breaking fast was dates with cream as starters, nasi minyak (but they call it pilau rice, I think) and lamb/chicken curry, vegetable curry, raita, naan, the occasional rice pudding and yoghurt for dessert. To top that, the imam’s wife insist that bring back the left overs and lovingly packed a weeks worth of dinner to carry home.
I miss the lamb curry now. Heheh.
At the beginning of August, the fasting period was 18 hours. That’s five hours longer than the standard fasting duration in Malaysia. I attended the nightly Terawih prayers and stayed up to read the Quran. Between dusk and dawn I tried to eat moderately and most importantly rehydrate myself by drinking at least half a mug of water at hourly intervals. I would sleep for a few hours after my morning prayers, wake up before noon, ran errands, prayed and then a few hours nap. Wake up again, take a walk around town if the sun isn’t too ferocious, prayed and prepared for breaking fast. After breaking fast I attended to my prayers.
I consider myself lucky to be free this summer. I have the freedom to adjust my daily sleeping patterns without having to worry of being late to work or class. Midway through Ramadhan proved a challenge. I had to pause, reflect and re-strategise my daily schedule to enable myself to sustain my energy levels throughout the day. The weather progressively cooled towards the end of Ramadhan which helped greatly. You feel less like dried squid when the sun isn’t blazing on you while you’re about getting things done outside.
Retail outlets in UK were pumping out R&B and pop music while shopping malls in Malaysia would put on the Aidilfitri songs on replay. I didn’t have the Aidilfitri mood at all during the last week of Ramadhan. Only during the eve of Aidilfitri when I had dinner at a fellow Malaysian’s place where we had rendang and all sorts of Malay fares and had fun playing sparklers afterwards, that I felt like celebrating.
In a way, the lack of “Selamat Hari Raya!” atmosphere encouraged myself to be consistent in the last few nights of Terawih prayers and Quran reading. That was the only way I could not succumb to homesickness all the while.
In solitude, I seek God.
Wishing everyone a blessed Syawal!