Last night I got into an argument with my 9-year-old. “All my friends are fasting and I am the only one who is not…..Tomorrow I will fast!!”. The Ramzaan environment in his school is pretty much the same as mine growing up back in Pakistan. His school is a global village with people from countries like Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, Afghanistan, Japan, Morocco, Egypt to name some. His school is still open for another week and I thought I would let him fast once the vacations start. But he won the argument and I woke him up for Sehri. Growing up we were not allowed to fast during school days and it was the weekends we would do so. We of course did keep loads of “Chiri Rozas” (half day fast) till we were old enough to fast like adults.
My conversation with my son last night took me back to my childhood and I could not help but smile at those carefree days. Here are some of the sweet and silly memories I recalled.
ARE YOU FASTING??
Every day at school all the friends would gather around and the most important question was “Are you fasting or Not”. If for any reason your answer would be no, you were given those horrible scorns and scoffs and you would feel worthless. “Abhi tuk nahee rakha??…tsk tsk” (Still not fasting?…too bad). In your defense you would reply “Ami nay uthaya hi nahee” (My mom didn’t wake me up) or ” Ami kehtee hain abhi farz nahee, chutee walay din shouk pora kar lena” (My mom says they are not a must at this age and you can fast over the weekend). “Tum batao mera kiya kasoor” (Now you tell me what is my fault). With these statement you would earn their sympathy.
WHAT DID YOU EAT AT SEHRI??
“Sehri pay uthi?? kiya khaya???” (Did you wake up in the middle of night to keep the fast and what did you eat?) At that time it was ultra important to share the food details. Usually it would be paratha and anda (bread and eggs) or roti and salan or kebab (bread with curry or kebab) followed by a big glass of milk and loads of water. There would always be one person saying that since their moms did not wake them up at sehri they were keeping “ath pehra” ( fast without eating).
HOW MANY ROZAS SO FAR??
If that was not enough it was the “how many rozas so far” game. It would be a moment of joy to tell “Ab tuk saaaaray” (All of them so far) with pride dripping from every word as at that age it was a biiiiig deal.
QURAN COMPETION:Then came the Quran Competition. It could be between friends and family. The goal was to read more paras then the competitors. Sometimes that meant reading the whole para in one sitting and reading some more if you could still see what you were reading.
YOU SAID WHAT?? Not to forget the whole long list of things which broke the fast. “Haw aisay nahee kehtay, ab to tumhara roza toot gya” (You broke your fast by saying so and so). It seemed that everyone was more intelligent and knew more than you so you were always wrong. Looking back now it seems so silly that according to my friends or my sisters my fast broke at least once every day due to some huge thing I did or said which now makes no sense but at that time meant the whole wide world.
ROZA KUSHAI:If someone had their Roza Kushai (Celebration on completion of first whole roza) you would feel so jealous when they would tell the long list of presents they got and how amazing their celebration was and deep inside you would wish for having a much bigger party and more gifts.
SLEPT OR PRAYED: Lastly it was the “Did you pray or sleep whole day” question. If you did pray you were the most awesome person in the whole universe. While still in school I had no energy to do anything after coming home. With no energy, sleep was the best friend. I still remember my mom saying “Rozay ka matlab sona nahee….utho namaz parho, Quran parho” (Fasting doesn’t mean to sleep….Get up and pray). But I still managed to sleep. Oh how pleasureable that sleep was….
At that age the biggest attraction of roza would be the iftaar time (breaking of fast). While the kids slept to pass the roza, it was sure shot that when you woke up the table will be loaded with yummy delights. You could smell the amazing aromas of samosas, kachoris, pakoras, dahi phulki, jalebis,fruit chaat coming from every home. It was simple family affair nothing like it is these days. Even when you were invited to an iftar party, it was a simple gathering nothing commercial like the party these days. I still have sweet memories of iftaar at my grand mother’s home where I can still picture the hustle bustle, with the ladies of the house making aromatic foods and us kids running around laying the dastarkhawan (sheets) on the carpet to accommodate the whole family while the men sat outside discussing politics, religion or cricket. I never understood that when I was young I could not even linger around the stove as if the stove would specially come and burn me ” Kia kar rahee ho…jal jao gi” ( You will burn yourself) but as I got older I had to cook, “Seekho gi nahee to aye ga kaisay” (You will not get it if you don’t learn how to) as if now the stove was a perfectly safe spot. No matter how hard you tried your mom would somehow lure you in the kitchen with simple questions like “Namak kahan hay?” (Where is the salt?) and soon you would find yourself cooking.
After iftar and resting for a bit the men along with the boys of the family would hurry to go the mosque for “Taraweh” and almost everyday they managed to make it chaotic. Where are my clothes??? I can’t find my shoes?? I am still hungry!. The boys would try to find excuses not to go but they would never win and would eventually end up going. The women did not go with the men but prayed at home, later prepared for the sehri before going to sleep. I didn’t go for taraweh but have memories going to the mosque with my dad on Shab-e-Qadar to recite surahs and getting a balushahi (sweets). Oh how sweet it tasted….
How I miss my childhood Ramzaan and the sweet memories it holds….I hope and pray that my kids have amazing Ramzaan memories of their own, ones which bring the same smile as I have while writing this post. Let us, as parents, try to help our kids form such memories.