I wake up early morning. There’s a group meeting for a major assignment to attend, and my group mates are waiting, Perhaps I will be late. The university’s an hour and a half away by train. Not a very unfamiliar scenario. What is unfamiliar, though, is that I won’t have my morning coffee to give me the instant burst of energy. It’s Ramadan, and I’m fasting.
It’s my first Ramadan away from home, thousands of miles away in Sydney. I don’t expect mom crashing into my room every night during Sehri time, convincing sleepy me to eat something to help me go through the next day. I have to cook my own food. Eating out every day is not an option, because that would likely eat up my rent money. Sydney, especially for international students, can be a very expensive city to live in if you aren’t disciplined with your spending.
Fresh awake – almost (no coffee), in anticipation of a reward from the Almighty, I start my journey. It’s difficult to believe it’s really Ramadan. There is no Ramadan “vibe” all around town like in Dhaka. Except for your Muslim friends, no one really knows this month is anything out of the ordinary. I don’t expect it, either, but it does make me miss home a bit.
It’s almost winter in Sydney. The days are shorter. The fasting period is only twelve hours long. And the days pass by very fast as I juggle between classes and assignments and work. Time for iftar approaches at light speed. There is no Adhan to tell you it’s iftar time, unless you have a smartphone app for the purpose. You have to keep track of time. If you are lucky, there will be a nearby Masjid or Musalla serving free iftar. It’s a ritual in Sydney, like in many other cities across the world. Many Masjids and Musallas are abuzz with people during iftar time, breaking fast together. Free iftar is served to all. After Iftar, everyone stands together in prayer.
To say the Ramadan vibe is absent everywhere in Sydney would be unfair. Certain areas populated majorly by Muslims, most notably Lakemba, is the place to go especially during Ramadan evenings. A couple of streets in Lakemba are full of stalls and people, and it is a food fest in the most literal sense. It is one of the few areas in Sydney that stays full of people after 8 pm. Lakemba has a large Bangladeshi community, and it is the place where I go whenever I feel homesick.
Looking forward to celebrating the first ever Eid without family. The thoughts can make you feel very lonely. Thankfully, I’m only in Sydney, and not in Mars, and I’m in the company of friends, old and new. Here, where all of us are so far away from home, struggling to make a life for ourselves, we are the closest thing to family to each other. Eid without family may not feel the most fulfilling, but we do not feel entirely lonely, thanks to each other.
Ramadan away from home is not the traditional Ramadan experience that I am used to, but it is a collection of different experiences in life that makes it more meaningful.