Ramadan reflections

TYPING this at 4.30am on a Thursday, there is a lot to reflect on in the spirit of Ramadan. If anything, this month of fasting for Muslims is also a month of reflection, but more importantly self control.

And for myself, that control is sorely tested over two things – coffee and cigarettes. Early warning, there will be withdrawal symptoms, and I won't be the only one.

Consider it the month of a test of patience among all Malaysians, awkwardly enough drawing in non-Muslims as well. How, you may ask?

Well primarily, the Ramadan bazaars will be a feast for the eyes, the tongue and sadly the wallet of everyone who ventures there. The seasonal foods of the month are a main attraction.

That would be the positive side. There is sadly a negative side as well as some would have experienced. In the last decade or so, we have seen the religious authorities raid eateries serving non-Muslims and aiming for those of a certain skin tone on suspicion of being Muslims eating in the open.

I know it's an awkward thing to experience when you go out and tapau food for a late lunch only to end up being harassed by a guy in a vest with four letters clearly marked, demanding your identity card for the simple act of eating.

At the same time, expect tempers to flare up a bit for the most irrational little things, such as eating a curry puff on a platform while waiting for a train, or watching a waiter being yelled at by fathers and mothers for being slow in taking orders, or even demanding they be given priority to be able to break fast on time.

Even newspapers are not exempt from the silliness. Thankfully this year's Raya Aidilfitri will not coincide with the Chinese New Year, thus avoiding the need to promote alcohol as a wrap advertisement which could yet again trigger another fiery reaction.

Yes, I'm sure many reading this are starting to see the silliness behind all of it - and yet in the last five years, these have actually happened on social media and mainstream media alike.

So, reminder number one – for the Malaysian Muslims who are fasting, non-Muslims are not supposed to cater to all your whims, whines, wants and needs just because you are fasting. And that also includes the restaurant staff of the eatery you choose to dine in to break your fast.

You will not get a guarantee of priority treatment just because you're breaking fast and those around you aren't. At the same time, the test of fasting also applies to your itchy fingers in snapping photos of people with food and haranguing them for your ability to see it while they're hunched over eating like it's some secret cache to stop themselves from being lynched for eating.

Another aspect of fasting, and let's be honest here, is the need to also fast from overspending on food. While this year may have less corporate buka puasa events or maybe more, with the change in government after 60 years, there is a need for some semblance of self-control.

June will see petrol prices maintained, GST zero rated and a budget review, all of which might point to the ability to spend more as consumers while the government foots the bill to keep the price of goods low like the "good old days".

But at the same time, it also opens up to the need to consider wastage, to see whether or not we will inevitably create more waste of unfinished food because the percik chicken was too salty, or maybe even the Ramadan halal roast duck sold at the Shah Alam stadium bazaar being no longer crispy.

Or perhaps even the variety of colourful kueh bought the night before is taking up too much space for the incoming platter of treats for the next. I kid you not, this has happened. Though thankfully, this happened less and less with a consumption tax imposed in the last few years which will be defunct soon.

In the end, the fasting month is not just to emulate the life of the less fortunate in terms of wealth, but also to emulate the joy of ending the day after frayed nerves and patience throughout the day among those you care most about.

So, have a blessed Ramadan everyone. Good luck to the smokers and caffeine addicts, may the Maghrib prayer time be ever in your favour.

And hopefully this time around, we won't go through any of the embarrassing flare-ups of the past – or at least avoiding one triggered by curry puffs on a train platform.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com