Tag Archives: puasa

End of the honeymoon

Standard

I quite have to confess it. I have started craving for normal sleep patterns. A cup of coffee while working in the afternoon. A few things to munch on while catching up with friends over lunch. Yes, I know, today is the 26th. And the last day of fasting is most likely going to be on the 29th.

A few days more.

I’m just holding up because I’m stubborn like that…

In Islam, the last 10 days of Ramadan bear a special meaning. It is said that, in one of those 10 nights, Allah will send on Earth as many angels as there are grains of sand. The catch is, you don’t know which night it is supposed to be.

Mosques fill up at nights, people gather in prayers &¬†contemplation, some hurry to finish reading the Qur’an, and most find energy for this last push of fasting.

Not being a Muslim, I don’t have anything to hold on for those last days of Ramadan. Lying in my bed, last night, I was wondering how convenient it was that this “special night” is unknown and that you have to do make special efforts for, really, 1/3 of the month. Some ways to give spirit for the whole end of it, and not just for one night, to keep people going through the difficulties of nearing a month of a body in “starvation mode”. It’s clever, in a way.

So, yes, I rely on my¬†stubbornness. I’m really a girl from Brittany for this matter. Once decided, don’t think about it twice if it’s going to make you waver.


So what’s up with my fasting? Well, I had decided at the very beginning that I would fast the whole 29 days. Traveling to Singapore & not sleeping straight for 2 nights? Takpe. Women’s non-fasting days? Takpe. Feeling sick? Takpe la. I fasted through the last 26 days, and I’m quite happy with this :)

I am still able to go running (20 minutes), to climb up the stairs instead of taking the lift, to work even more than usual (start early morning, gives you a productive spirit for the rest of the day!), to -basically- almost run a normal life.

I am mostly not hungry or thirsty during day time, it has become pretty much a second nature. I’m just battling with the mental pleasure of eating, not with the physical one. Like those who stop smoking & have overcome the nicotine dependence, I’m now struggling with the habit more than the need…

I read earlier that, during a period of fast, the body lowers the metabolism rate to accommodate the needs & to answer as required. It doesn’t mean you have less energy, you just use it more wisely & with a better pace.

(Caution: this means, your body will still have a lower metabolism rate during Raya: it will stock all this food & break it really slowly, as it doesn’t know you’re stopping fasting)

No, really, food & drinks? Easy game!

But I can get my sleep back?

I’m so tired of being tired… There is so much to do at night, so many conversations to have around cups of tea, so many friends to catch up with. You just can’t go to bed before midnight. Or you could, but then you have to be ready to miss your social life for one month, as you don’t really meet people during day time (what for?). I was not ready for this, had not mentally prepared myself for it.

I needed the people, the social activities, the conversations.

I kept on going out at night.

As a result, I’m sleeping around 1 to 2am, 2 hours later than usual, and wake up at 5.30am (3-4 hours early :p). That makes my nights shorter by 5 to 6 hours. I can’t obviously take naps of that length during day time, I only sleep 1 to 3 hours.

As a result, I dropped from a continuous 8-9 hours to an interrupted 4-6 hours.

Trust me. Really not cool.

Those last 2 days, I consciously missed sahur and have been eating only once per day as a consequence. The idea is, being hungry lasts about 30min, and comes & goes. When you’re tired, you’re tired all day long. Better catch up on sleep & eat less. I’m still drinking as much :)


But, yes, only 3.5 days to go!

On Monday night, throughout the country & all over the world, people will be waiting for the sighting of the new moon. This is what marks the beginning of Syawal, the next muslim month, and so the end of Ramadan.

Traditionally, you really had to wait until the very last night to know when Ramadan would end. Nowadays, technologies make it more precise & almost everyone expects Monday to be the last day of fasting.

I could imagine my face on Monday night if someone told me, “Oh, no moon, we have to fast another day!”. Wait, what?

Hopefully, technology is reliable enough :)

The Syawal moon on September 10th, last year, taken in Islamabad. Credits: Asif Mahmood.


On the other sides of Ramadan, I have been following up. But I could have done better… :)

As far as I remember, I tried not to lie, not to gossip and (more importantly because more difficult), not to talk bad about people behind their back. Not that I do it often ;) But, lately, I found myself complaining more than usual. I put it on the being-tired-and-all but, still, trying to get a grip on this.

Meditation-wise… one time, 10min. Damn… Definitely something to improve on!

Reading the Qur’an? I’m still in Surah 2, ayat 200+. Going slow… I don’t have the religious need to finish it before the end of Ramadan :)

Going to the mosque & reading/observing during Terawikh? About 5 times… I kind of know how to wrap the scarf around my hair now. It helps I’m always wearing one around my neck :)

Asking questions about Islam & fasting? Countless! Still trying to ask people how was their childhood fasting :) Wanna share in the comments? I feel I don’t have enough stories to draw the bigger picture of “children’s approach to puasa in Malaysia”.

Left to do: going back to Masjid Wilayah and taking pictures at night. By far the most beautiful mosque I’ve been in! Oh, well, Putrajaya is not far behind…

A Qur’an waiting for readers in Masjid Bukit Damansara

And for all those who are driving to “balik kampung”… Drive safe :)

Tales of Mid-Ramadan

Standard

I stepped onto the scale, cringing in advance as I heard the voices of my friends in my head, telling me they always gain weight during Ramadan. I opened one eye, then the other, and stared. I had lost 2kg. Either my scale was misguided, or there is something wrong with the way people eat at night. If you listen to the voices of my friends again, it is indeed the latter.

I am lucky enough to not be Malaysian, for once. I don’t have childhood memories to revive, I don’t have families, aunties and uncles, urging me to try one more dish, to take a bit more food, not to be shy. Though it does happen sometimes, when I have the chance to buka at a friend’s house.

I think it’s the lack of memories that save me. Not growing up with pasar ramadan, with huge long tables of varied dishes, with family warmth around me. They do say we associate food with emotions, and I think any cultural celebrations have a big role in it.

I guess I’m also lucky that it’s just so new for me. I can’t interpret Ramadan through my culture, so I can just follow what I think is right. Last night, a friend told me I was following the way of the Prophet more than he does. He was not the first one in telling me that. 3 dates here, a glass of soy milk there, a tomato salad and a cheese omelette. That’s how I buka-ed yesterday.

All the buffets and expensive meals would be such a waste for me. I can’t seem to eat a lot for buka, my stomach just fills up so quickly. The way people can splurge 80+rm on plates after plates is beyond my understanding, as I would just be full after the first one. Not worth the money, eh? :) But I do understand the need for a gathering of sorts, the “let’s make it special” kick we have during times of celebrations.

Some will argue that the celebration should be Raya, not Ramadan. I’ll have to agree with this.


“Puasa hari ni?”

“How’s the fasting going?”

There isn’t one day when someone is not checking up on me. Checking if I’m still ok, checking if I still like it.

The truth? I don’t even realize that I am fasting. Where is the pain, the hunger, the thirst? I don’t feel them. I usually have a pang of hunger around 1pm (at which point people around me will know it because I’ll always voice it out, like a kid discovering life) but it’s pretty much all there is about it. It doesn’t even feel difficult.

But then, I do miss eating sometimes. Just for the taste, not for the need.

I am constantly amazed at how little food I actually need. Man, had I been over-eating all that time?

There is definitely some things to ponder and to reflect on, soon, after Ramadan is over. Trying to find the balance between fasting and the previous amount of food I used to eat, this will be more of a challenge than the fasting itself. But it is a worthy one :)


Do I still like fasting? Yes. Without doubt. I find it an amazing experience.

I am a kid, in more ways than one.

I am given the opportunity to go back to the learning stages in life. Do you remember, as a kid, when you were surrounded by adults who knew. They had gone through the experiences, learned their lessons, spent time observing and making up their mind. You would look at them and, in your child’s mind, you somehow knew that, one day, all those things that excite you and make you wonder would not be new anymore. You knew that, one day, you would know, you would also have the experience, like the adults around you.

I feel like this kid.

I see my friends living through their Ramadan, going back to habits they have forged throughout their seasons of fasting, getting back into patterns, while I am wandering & wondering with big eyes, trying to understand how to forge my own patterns.

How often have I been voicing out something that has been so obvious for so long, for those around me?

How often have I said “I am hungry”, like a child explaining a discovery to his parents?

I am lucky. The people around me are amazing, whether they realize it or not.

A Qur’an given here, hours of questions answered there. A meal shared, a wake-up call in the morning.

Solidarity, community, sharing, love. And introspection.

A prayer in the mosque, me sitting at the back, observing, learning, reading the Qur’an in the darkness of the night.

I feel connected.

Thank you all, really.

Reflections – Masjid Putrajaya

(Thanks to Kenobi for allowing me to use his picture)

4 days of fasting, and counting

Standard

Those last few days, I have been asked the same question, again & again. People were sometimes genuinely intrigued, and sometimes downright defensive.

“Why are you fasting?”

Why? For so many reasons. Be it pure curiosity, health experiment, personal challenge, opportunities to share moments with my Muslim friends or to slow down the pace of my life, spiritual time for myself… You name it! You could even sneak in a diet attempt if you wished ;)

What I find really interesting is this: I am not fasting out of religious convictions and, yet, Muslims are the ones who accept it the most easily. I knew it from previous experiences but, as a Westerner, many would think that religious people could see it as a lack of respect (“Just an experiment? Man, this is a holy month! Don’t fool around.”) On the contrary, I have found them open-minded, supportive and really caring.

The response from non-Muslims has been much more nuanced. More often than not, people are pretty neutral. Once they know your reasons, they let you alone and live happily without thinking more about it. But I have encountered more resistance than I thought I would. Some would just be sarcastic, throwing jokes on me. Not frankly criticizing, but making fun of it all. Others would be plain defensive, asking “Where’s your scarf then?” or having that look on their face. I’ll ignore those, but it always makes me sad that some people don’t want to create bridges with each other.


Fasting has been pretty effortless so far. I remember last year, when it went about that way:

First day: body doesn’t notice anything wrong, still stuffed on food & water from previous days

Second day: body screaming “What the hell are you doing to me?? Eat! Drink NOW!”. Head ache & weakness

Third day: body starting to get a sense of it but still weak

Fourth to seventh day: roll on, hunger & thirst on a subconscious level, I don’t notice them anymore.

***

This year, it somewhat feels easier than last year, in the sense that I don’t really feel the hunger or thirst that much. I do have a few pangs here & there, but nothing big. Thirst is always stronger than hunger for me in any case, but even this started to subdue today. Getting there :)

Where I’m having problems is actually with my sleeping pattern. Work had me staying up until 3am on Sunday & Wednesday nights, which doesn’t help when you have to wake up for sahur (breakfast) at 5am. Tuesday & today, I was so out that I slept more during day time than during night time (Monday was spent working as well so I couldn’t spare too many hours). My sleep schedule is really screwed up but, at the end of the day, I feel pretty ok :)

As an example, the last 24 hours have been : sleep from 2.30am to 5am, eat & roam around 5am to 7am, sleep 7 to 9am, errands outside 9.30 to 11am, sleep 11am to 3pm (yeah, I know :o) and then up the rest of the time. It’s now almost 1am and I’m planning to crash soon for 4 hours of sleep. I’ll see how tomorrow goes!

I don’t feel like exercising yet but I can see it coming :) I’m getting about 3L of water per night and enough food, so running just before buka puasa (breaking the fast, at 7.30pm) should be fine. Just need to find the days when I don’t have buka puasa appointments :)


So far, Ramadan has been really enjoyable. From friends bringing me food or checking up on me during day time, I find friendships strengthen. Going to the mosque and meditate 45min while my friends chant & pray, give you an insight into their life that you are usually not that familiar with. And I am both really grateful & honored for this opportunity. Probably more on that another time :)

Even when taking naps, days are so much longer & I usually finish all I wanted to do by noon. Which leaves me no choice but to tackle all the things I have been procrastinating on the past few weeks. Much needed, again!

Going to the pasar ramadan (Ramadan market) is a feast in itself. I can’t believe how much food I still haven’t heard of. I am considering giving up being vegetarian for one week, just so I can try a few of the dishes around. It does feel like I am missing a bit on the cultural experience here…

Having a restricted amount of food also forces me to be more conscious of what I eat, because I can’t imagine gorging myself on deep fried food or junk after 13 hours of fast. It just feels wrong. So I have to reconsider a few of my choices, which I am also grateful for :) All in all, the change in routine does make you more aware & conscious of what you are doing & why.

More updates later on, in a few days :)


A quick look into the Pasar Ramadan corner

Ayam golek, a kind of roast chicken

Fried springrolls at the Param (pasar ramadan)

Extracting sugar cane juice, a favorite for buka puasa

Pizza style, or how to make a murtabak

The best smile of Kg Baru param, at a watermelon stall

Spread the happiness :)