Ramadan is almost over, but not yet exactly. It gives my post just enough time to be relevant.
After observing me for a month not eating, wandering around drained of all energy, pushing myself to do anything, giving up and falling asleep whilst watching a historical documentary, my sweetest and dearest had to ask: “Why?”
The first answer is obvious. I am a believer and as such I think I owe it to my belief to dedicate a month to it once a year. Not because I fear ending up in hell. I do not care much about paradise and the eternal flames. Besides, I am not in it for fear of punishment or greed of reward. Although I admit my belief has to do with fear – namely, that of the meaninglessness of our existence and ultimately, death. Then again, what human action doesn't come from them?
Ramadan is therefore my month of spiritual laboring, with a hope that its effect will last throughout the year.
Ramadan is also cultural, a tradition I started taking part in as a child. Fasting reminds me of that time and of the loved ones I left behind. During it, I eat food which throws me back in time. The smell of that soup, the touch of that pastry. Ramadan, just like Christmas, also connects me to people all around the world.
To me, Ramadan is also revolutionary. For a whole month, I am out of the daily tyranny of the Get More Done. Having no energy, I stop being a work force to just be a human. I use my strength with great economy, thinking carefully before acting. I only go to the essential, at work and at home. No triviality allowed. No messing around. With that drop of energy comes a certain peace. My whole body slows down, and so my mind. I become more contemplative.
Once the essential is done, there is still plenty of time before break-fast. It is an opportunity to do what one never takes the time to do: sort out papers, watch a five hours documentary with your mother, cook complicated meals. Cooking being the only way to get anywhere near food, I do an awful lot of it during Ramadan. Then when comes dinner, none of it gets eaten. The stomach shrunk. A soup is all. And a few sweets. Which means no weight lost. Never mind. Having fantasised about those cakes all day long, you just eat them.
Finally, not eating the whole day makes me appreciate food, drinks and having energy rushes. In fact, studies have shown that fasting was good against depression and in some cases had cured heavy psychiatric illnesses. Part of it has to do with the metabolism, sure, but part of it is the simple deprivation – supply of aliments mechanism.
Now, the biggest reward of all, after a month of Ramadan, is the celebration of its end. Where I come from, it starts with a longed-for breakfast with traditional pastries - or as my aunt would say, “just bread and butter. I've missed it so much.” Given how late I always am, I won't get to tell you about it until is is already Christmas, so here it goes: breakfast is followed by the mosque (for men who attend it), a couscous for lunch and visits to and from friends and family. You should wear something new, and children receive money from adults. Now, see you later, I am going back to my baking. Have I mentioned I am running late?