The Muslim month of Ramadan is looked upon by Muslims as the month of spiritual journey towards attaining God’s blessing. Regarded as a sacred ritual in compliance with God’s message to His human creations the endurance of abstaining oneself from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. To many it is the month of seeking pristine purity, seeking God’s mercy and blessing, cleansing oneself from the many months of corrosive thoughts and endeavours but to some others, it is an uphill battle that grows more daunting everyday.
Muslim parents of my growing years encouraged their young ones to fast at an early age in preparation to be more committed as they grew older and my grandparents were no exception. I was trained to fast at an early age of seven and I must admit it was no easy feat. It was the most torturous moment in my life and although I managed to pass with ‘flying colours’ on my first day of fasting, the remaining days were more painful that could even cause mental distress and anguish. Nevertheless, in spite of that terrible thought of having to stay away from food, the month of Ramadan was always the month I looked forward to during my growing years because of the wonderful sequel that must take place such as the ‘malam likur‘, ‘malam laila tok qadar’ and eventually the celebration of the Hari Raya Aidilfitri but before these wonderful events were to take its course respectively, I must be able to endure the first journey of fasting on the very first day of Ramadan. I passed on my first day but with such enduring feat of incredible self infighting against the great satanic temptation. Here’s my story put into narrative account:
It was only yesterday evening that I was so excited about today’s first day of fasting. When we heard the sound of the siren from the Muar town mosque, we scrambled home to inform everyone inside the house. Kak Shidah and her two sisters ran home to inform their mother while I ran straight to grandma and I was the main attraction. I felt so very proud because I was the first to know that tomorrow would be our first day of fasting. I told everyone and I kept telling them, even before I retired to bed I reminded our maid-servant Mak Yang that I was the first to hear the sound of the siren and she had better not forget that.
After dinner we sat at the tembok, my three ‘sisters’ and me. We discussed what to eat for ‘sahur‘ (predawn meal) not even knowing what was left on the stove. We promised that we would try to complete the whole month of the fasting period much to the amusement of Uncle Wak Jis who happened to pass by. Tomorrow we planned to buy many things at the mamak sundry shop of what would be the best bottle drinks, what would be the sweets suitable to break our fast, and we even planned to climb the cherry tree at the front of Maniam’s house and to keep these very small cherries to supplement our breaking of fast. We were so very excited but first we need to sleep because we need to wake up at around 4.00am in the morning to have our sahur.
Before going to bed I reminded grandma to wake me up for the sahur. For the past three or four years, I promised grandma to fast but I always failed her. This time I was determined to keep up to the promise, after all I was now in Standard One, seven years old and old enough to begin fasting for the month of Ramadan just like some of the neighbours my age.
Waking up at 4.ooam in the morning was most torturous. Grandma had to wake me up at least three to four times before I finally managed to lift my head. I sat on the bed with my eyes half closed and grandma called me again. I sat for at least five minutes before I stood up and walked to the toilet like a zombie to have my face washed. The dinning table was already served with the same food we had for dinner plus some newly fried fishes and eggs. Wak Jis sat besides me and he kept on smiling at me. I ate my food slowly because it was not easy to fill your stomach at this time of the hour. While eating I almost dozed off but I tried to control my eye lids to keep me awake. Mak Yang and Mak Chu had their sahur at the kitchen table. After my meal I went to wash my mouth and walked back to bed still like a zombie.
It was not easy to sleep when your stomach was full and it took me almost half an hour before I could go back to sleep. I was already sleeping in the same bedroom with Wak Jis at the lower front part of our house.
It was already bright when I woke up. I gazed at the ceiling blinking what to do this morning and suddenly I could feel my stomach longing for breakfast. I could hear Mak Yang sweeping the floor, I could hear grandpa cutting the grass but I did not hear anything coming from the kitchen.
“Din, bangun. Dah pukul sepuloh, pergi mandi” (Din, wake up, its ten in the morning and you better bathe), grandma shouted at me and I believed that was not the first time she called me. Then I thought to myself what would I do? What happened to all the excitement last night? Today should be a very exciting day because it was the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan and I should be doing all those plans I thought of together with my three ‘sisters’ at the Tembok last night. Suddenly I had no energy to do so and the thought of breaking the fast was many hours ahead made me even more without energy.
I had my bath at around 10.30am and seeing the flow of the water coming from the tap was enough to test me. I looked at the gushing water from the tap temptingly but I managed to strengthen my spirit and to keep on fighting. When I was dressed, I walked slowly looking for my three ‘sisters’ at their house but they were as weak as I was and so I went home and sat alone not knowing what to do.
At the wall near the dining table was a clock attached to it. Grandpa would wind the clock with a special key every morning and the clock would produce a sound every hour. If it was three o’clock, then it would produce three times the sound of ‘ding, ding, ding’ and so on. I looked at this clock every time I passed by and I thought it was not working. During the normal days especially during the school days, this clock seemed to move quite fast but somehow it moved much too slow during the fasting month. I looked at this clock almost every five minutes and it did not seem to be moving at all.
Then the clock made the ‘ding ding’ sound twelve times and so it was twelve noon and I was already half dead. The kitchen was half dead as well just like me. Everyone was either sleeping or reading something like the newspaper, magazine and Wak Jis was drawing something. So I looked for my Beano and Dandy comics and began looking at the cartoons. In normal circumstances, I would be very bright whenever I read my Beano and Dandy comics but this time they were so dull but I just flipped through and looked at all the funny cartoons. Then there was this character “Desperate Dan” and he was eating a very big ‘cow pie’ and the pie looked so inviting. I looked at the picture of the ‘cow pie’ with my saliva almost dropping. I thought it would be good if I’d just lie down and maybe go to sleep.
I went back to my room and laid onto the bed and tried to sleep. My stomach began to produce some ‘croaking’ sound and the hunger was unbearable. I was almost lifeless and the thought of breaking my fast was becoming more notorious. “I should not have promised grandma that I would fast today, maybe I should have promised her the second day” was the thought playing in my mind. I was tossing from left to right and with the empty stomach, it made my effort to sleep became impossible. Then finally I managed to doze off.
It was almost 0ne o’clock when I woke up but I thought I had slept for a few hours and I immediately ran to see the time. “Oh no, it was only slightly after one o’clock”, I was grumbling. Nobody was at sight, they were all taking their nap. I was so weak that I could not walk a step further. I sat on the cement and it was so cooling and so I lied down sideway so that my face could touch the cooling cement. My eyes were on the hands of the clock and it was moving so very slowly. It was so torturous that I might end up breaking my fast. Then I heard grandma coming out form her bedroom to take her ablution for the noon prayer. Immediately I pretended as though I was dying but she pretended not to notice and went straight to the bathroom. Never mind, she still need to pass this way after her ablution and so I adjusted my position lying with my face towards the ceiling and my two arms wide opened. Then she passed my way again and still pretending not to notice. That was it, I lost the game.
It was now almost two in the afternoon and my stomach was becoming to be more compressed and kept on producing that ‘cracking’ sound. I was not only feeling extremely hungry, I felt so thirsty as well and the situation was becoming worse by the minute. I was so helpless that I felt like crying. I sat by the side of the wall with my head falling over my shoulder. With my eyes closed, I began to imagine many things. Then I heard grandma telling me that I could break my fast. Immediately I stood up and ran to the kitchen and on top of the table I saw a bowl of ‘bubur pulut hitam’ and wasted no time to finish it. Then I looked for a bottle of ‘sarsi’ and gulped the whole contents instantly. I felt stronger now and I went back to the same spot I was sitting and sat by the wall. Suddenly I felt someone touching my shoulder and said, “Din, bangun. Pergi mandi, nanti segar” (Din, wake up. Go and bathe so that you can be more fresh). It was Mak Yang and she looked very sympathetic. “Oh no…I was dreaming and such a wonderful dream”.
I stared at the clock and it showed almost three o’clock. I managed to sleep for slightly more than an hour. I could feel my neck so stiffed but it could not compare the agony of sustaining my empty stomach. Mak Yang began to prepare her cooking for the breaking of fast and that was the first good news for the day transmitted into my mind. Now I was too weak even to stand up but managed to pull through. I took my towel and went straight to the toilet. I stared at the gushing water coming out from the tap and it was so tempting.
I was fully dressed by 4.00pm and the kitchen was more lively with grandma and her ‘assistants’ doing some cooking. I went outside and sat at the front stairs looking at Mak Pon’s house hoping to get some glimpse of my three ‘sisters’. Kak Fuzi saw me and she came out and went straight to me and asked:
‘Puasa?’ (Are you fasting?)
‘Mestilah, ingat apa? (Of course, what do you think?), I answered back pretending to be strong in my faith that even putting a nice bowl of fried rice would not deter my determination to keep on fasting.
‘Aku letih lah’ (I am weak), Kak Fuzi said honestly and said how she admired my strength.
‘Aleh, berapa jam je lagi’ (It’s only a few hours more), I answered back this time showing more confidence in my tone. If only she knew how weak I was, maybe even more weaker than her. At seven years old, I was already developing my ego and I was so adamant to uphold that terrible trait.
By 5.30pm, I was almost dead of hunger and thirst. Nothing could hold my strength any longer and the hour seemed to move even slower. Grandma had earlier wanted me and Kak Fuzi to go to the mamak sundry shop to buy some ice but I told her I could not walk even a step further and so Wak Jis did the job.
Half an hour before the breaking of fast, the clock seemed not ticking at all. I was already at the dining table, two glasses filled with ‘syrup bandung’ and ‘air mata kucing’ and I kept looking at these two glasses. Every minute I would look at the clock and I was pretty sure both hands were not moving at all. The table began to fill many delicacies; few cakes, dates in paste form, my favourite of ‘sotong masak hitam’, fried fishes and prawns, vegetable soup and few smaller items like the ‘ikan sepat kering’ offering the most palatable aroma.
Five minutes before the breaking of fast and I thought I could die any moment and Wak Jis was smiling at me. I was groaning but silently and my eyes were directed to the clock and five minutes was like five hours. Everybody was seated and ready to break their fast oblivious of the fact that I was more than ready. Then we all heard the sound of the siren of the town mosque and within seconds I was already filling my stomach with the two glasses of ‘syrup bandung’ and ‘air mata kucing’ and it were immediately emptied.
Both glasses were refilled instantly and emptied instantly as well. Grandma told me to drink slowly but I could not resist. I had to do justice to my empty stomach. When the rice was put onto my place, I was panting and could not continue my meal. While everyone was enjoying their breaking of fast, I sat there motionless trying very hard to absorb the waters that had filled my stomach and I kept on burping. I could not even eat a scoop of rice and so grandma told me to rest before I could really enjoy my meal.
Half an hour later, I was alone eating just like Desperate Dan eating his cow-pie. I really enjoyed my meal and in the midst of my wonderful indulgence, I began to wonder whether I should fast tomorrow. Then I thought of any idea, I would only fast on every alternate days, well at least I made some initiatives. My idea was approved by grandma.
When Kak Fuzi heard of my idea and approved by grandma, she tried suggesting it to her mother but hers was not approved.