It doesn’t take a person to be very religious to understand and realise the spirit of Ramadan. It’s common sense that the spirit of this month is to restrain yourself from various kinds of allurements and make yourself disciplined for the remaining 11 months.
Ramadan helps us to do some soul-searching so that we may become better human beings. If we practise fasting during this month and don’t learn anything, it’s not worth practising.
When I was a little boy in the 1970s, I remember my parents having a tough time in terms of their finances during this month, as the prices of most essential food items used to go up, and people had to spend more during Ramadan.
Supply and demand
Now, it’s true that when there’s more demand for something and there’s a lack of proper supply, the price of that product will automatically go up. But was that the reason for increasing the prices of those essentials? Was there less supply of those essentials in the market?
Not really; the lack of supply was artificial and intentional. That’s how our businessmen created the scope for themselves to increase the prices.
They do it all the time and we withstand all this. However, when they increase the prices during Ramadan way beyond the people’s purchasing ability, we would naturally question the integrity of our businessmen and traders.
Bangladesh is perhaps the only country where prices of all essentials go up during a religious occasion. Go to India during puja cerebrations; the businessmen there compete among themselves to make the lives of the common people easy. They try their best to reduce the prices, as they know, their sale would surely go up when they offer discounts.
When we were young, we would stay satisfied with one set of new clothes on the occasion of Eid. However, over time, our social trends have changed and the young ones of today aren’t satisfied with one set of clothes
Go to the Western countries during Christmas; they are even one step ahead of Indian traders; they rejoice on the occasion by offering goods and products with a huge sale so that the consumers are benefitted.
Unfortunately, this has never been the case in our country. The tendency to increase the prices is becoming uglier as years go by. There was a time when our iftar recipes used to be prepared at home; there were hardly any ready-to-eat items from restaurants or shops.
With the change in our culture, now we rely on the restaurants and shops. These shop-owners and restaurants-owners have been exploiting this opportunity for themselves. They charge so much money for food items that the people have to spend quite a lot.
Let’s talk about clothes
When we were young, we would stay satisfied with one set of new clothes on the occasion of Eid. However, over time, our social trends have changed and the young ones of today aren’t satisfied with one set of clothes; they want more than one and they get more than one.
Having to understand this aspect of our society, the clothes businessmen are seen to race for increasing the prices of their products, no matter how difficult it is for the consumer to buy.
Selling goods and products at a high rate has a social implication; the people who cannot afford that have to earn some extra money to get those products. The process of earning some extra income might lead to corruption.
When you see people shopping for iftar, almost each and every one purchases more food than they can consume. Later on, while having the food during iftar-time, they are seen to waste quite a big amount.
The wastage of food is better seen at the iftar parties across the country. Imagine how many iftar parties are arranged across Bangladesh during these 30 days of Ramadan.
Where’s the spirit of Ramadan?
So, I’ve just tried to display some of our practices that don’t uphold the spirit of Ramadan.
To me, restraining our greed is the primary objective of fasting. What we in Bangladesh practise is the completely opposite; we become greedier during this month.
Another aspect of this month is to keep calm; we miserably fail to keep our calm when it comes to dealing with each other.
Again, the government has announced Ramadan-friendly office hours. In fact, the practice of limited working hours has been there for a long time in our country.
I feel quite disturbed by this practice, simply because, to me, doing your normal work is another test we need to withstand during this month.
We won’t have any food and water during day time, so we would feel weak, but we’d work normally -- that’s the spirit of Ramadan.
This piece isn’t meant to belittle any valid practice of the holy month of Ramadan, but is meant to portray our collective failure to realise the true spirit of this blessed month in which it is possible to cleanse our body and mind.
I wish, some day, we’ll get there.
Ekram Kabir is a fiction writer.