There are many things associated with Ramadan. And there are many many things associated with Ramadan for children. As kids, fasting apparently, was the type of activity that would put us in the visible league of ‘grown-ups’. Did we even pray then? No. Did we know why we are fasting? No. But fasting was something that you wanted to do as a child. It was almost thrilling. So much so, that when our parents would not wake us up for suhoor (because we were too young & weren’t obligated to fast), we would get upset & threaten to fast without eating if they do that ever again!
Some interesting Ramadan anecdotes come to mind:
- Getting up for Suhoor was the toughest part of fasting. No amount of begging or trying to explain to the parents that we have eaten enough at dinner would work. They would use it as a condition to allow us to fast. That meant a bunch of really CRANKY swollen-faced kids at the table. What made it worst was that the parents were always amazingly cheery during that ‘middle-of-the-night’ meal. The kids would have that ‘don’t-talk-to-me’ & ‘i’m-doin-you-a-favor-by-getting-up-to-eat’ expression & avoid eye contact with others. In fact, they would keep their eyes shut all the while. This was to supposedly prevent light from entering the eyes so they can go back to bed as soon as they manage to throat down the food. That used to make a very strange (& in retrospect, funny) family Suhoor scene at the table!
- Suhoor Food. As kids, it was unfathomable why one had to get up in the middle of the night to stuff those oily and difficult-to-eat parathas! Why not a slice of bread? Because ‘you’ll feel hungry in school’, the mums would explain. Was it too much to ask for something soft (like cereals with milk) so we wouldn’t have had to expend so much energy on sleepily chewing those greasy breads like regurgitating cows! We were allowed once to try the ‘soft’ food of our choice. The result: We learnt that moms always know better. It was back to that traditional fare the next day.
- School. The first day of Ramadan in school would bring with it gasps & giggles at the sight of our teachers. We would get to see their ‘real’ faces minus the makeup. For some reason, the usually ‘painted’ teachers, would come with scrubbed faces during the month. They just looked – different. One teacher in particular would cause us to stare at her wide-eyed, every time she wasn’t looking. We are accustomed to seeing her face with dark red or brown lips – always. Suddenly it would seem like a face without lips!
- The kids at school taught you their strange practices & beliefs about Ramadan. The most common practice was of spitting frequently. (By the way, this was only done by boys.) Their belief stemmed from their warped understanding of ‘having nothing in the mouth while fasting’. I wondered how they survived the day with a resultant dry tongue & throat. Or the others who were frantic about wiping their tongues with towel or tissues after rinsing their mouths. With time, of course, they learned to let go of these strange habits.
- Iftaar preparation. Fruit salad was (& still is) a must. This is something that requires at least 3-4 people of the household to participate in preparation i.e. cutting various fruits. Whoever entered the kitchen first would be able to pick the easiest fruit – bananas. The late comer would get stuck with the laborious oranges that required peeling, deseeding, segmenting & de-veining all the white fibrous stuff before chopping can even begin. The smart brother would pick grapes & throw them in whole saying, ‘they are too small to be sliced’.
- Iftaar Time. In those days, almost everywhere in the city, one would know the Iftaar time by the popular & traditional firing of the cannon outside the Sheikh’s majlis. We would excitedly hold our dates in our hands & would be all ears waiting for the familiar ‘DHUSH’ sound. Of course, that gave some of the naughty kids in the neighborhood ideas. Just a minute or two before the Iftaar, they would play with their firecracker- bombs or fire shots in the air with their toy guns. Needless to say, they succeeded in confusing us at times, before they were rebuked by an angry neighborhood auntie.
There are many a number of amusing Ramadan memories as children. Perhaps we would, one day, relate them to the next generation &, also, be able to observe the new ‘memories’ they will create, which will color our lives & theirs. InshaAllah.