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From fasting to feasting

  • Published at 05:49 pm June 29th, 2017
  • Last updated at 05:52 pm June 29th, 2017
From fasting to feasting

There is so much talk about the sanctity of Ramadan, the holiness of the month that, in its anticipation, many followers of Islam attempt to turn over a new leaf and devote time and energy to Allah.

Many refrain from their habitual “sins” and seek to walk on a path closer to the Almighty.

There is a profound sense of righteousness and faith during Ramadan. In theory, at least. The talk about what it means to be Muslim and the richness of Islam, all become relevant and overpowering in more than a few daily conversations.

The picture of what is heard at the dinner table and what is seen out on the streets hint at a stark contradiction. People get angrier faster, they lose their cool on the roads faster, mostly because of empty stomachs and thirsty mouths.

There is more gridlock on the roads, probably because someone lost his or her cool and refused to take the driver’s nonsense, and tried to overtake and accidentally traded paint with the car on his right.

And, so the traffic behind them, the countless souls (also fasting) must bear the brunt of that someone’s lost cool. So there we were, simmering in the heat, in our respective four or three wheelers. Exhausted, angry, and fasting.

But the grander contradiction of what we are told about Ramadan and what we see at most iftar tables is the massive preparation to indulge in gluttony.

Countless items spread from one end to the other on the table, even when the bhabi told me over the phone that it’s a small gathering and not much has been prepared.

I stand, half-amused and half-curious, thinking about what the bhabi’s standard of a feast would look like.

Dawats aren’t the only time when people go overboard with food for Iftar. It is a 30-day routine in almost every household. Lavish and delicious, the table set to breakfast.

That bottomless pit will forever remain bottomless until we identify the problem and attempt to curb, not the enthusiasm, but our gluttonous urges

More so a feast than anything spiritual or religious.

And to take into account the ridiculous amounts of food wasted because guests and hosts cannot finish what’s served on the table, and stale food cannot and should not be served as iftar the next day. This is the norm, in most cases.

The exceptionally unrealistic spread of food on the iftar table is not exclusive to upper class households -- there is something about breaking fast in Ramadan that even middle-class families are hardwired to over-buy food, and basically have a feast in the evening at home for 30 days straight.

Restaurants and cafes take up the opportunity to offer gluttony at prices that cannot be easily refused, so now it isn’t only for iftar that the youth flock to Dhanmondi, Baily Road, Banani, Gulshan, and elsewhere, but they do so for sehri too.

Granted, it’s good business. But gluttony need not be glorified and Instagrammed.

We either look like savages ordering and indulging in platter after platter to feed a bottomless pit, or like despicable #richkidsofDhaka who would take up those iftar/sehri offers regardless of whether they can actually finish it or not.

More often than not, it comes down to “Impossible, ami ar parbo na khete,” “but, I feel sick in the stomach,” and “etto khabar kemne shesh korbo,” etc.

We all follow the crowd, plan to go and eat at the current hype of town, document every move we make with check-ins and Snapchat Stories -- and it’s all good and fun except somewhere between the 15th Iftar outing with friends and the 10th dawat at a relative’s and fourth iftar-in-buffet-style at home, we genuinely forget that it was a holy month of fasting, not feasting.

Ramadan is meant to be unique because of certain reasons, mostly religious, and gluttony was not meant to be on the menu. You don’t have to be a religious person to acknowledge the excess of our ways.

That bottomless pit will forever remain bottomless until we identify the problem and attempt to curb, not the enthusiasm, but our gluttonous urges.

Hopefully, at the next opportunity to eat like there is no tomorrow, and then waste food like none of it matters, we will know better.   

And speaking of feasting on Ramadan, now that Eid has come and gone, and we head back to our usual work/school hours, maybe next time we can do better?

Nusmila Lohani is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.