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Changing Traditions of Ramadan

May 29, 2017
Changing Traditions of Ramadan

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By: Gulrukh Tausif

When I was a student, a joke used to circulate prior to every school exam that was held to torment us. A father asks his son how his preparations for the upcoming examination were going on. The son replies, “Very well father. I have bought a new set of uniform, two pens, brand new shoes and I am just going out to buy a watch.” I was forcibly reminded of this sad little joke when I met an acquaintance at a tailor’s shop. Seeing her dump an armload of unstitched clothes, yards of lace, buttons, and matching motifs on the counter, I asked if she was preparing for Eid well in advance. “Oh no. Eid clothes will come later.” was her reply. “Yeh Ramadan ki tiyari hai, for all the iftar parties that I am anticipating to attend this month. Tailors don’t pay heed to anything while fasting. “ Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my summery lawns, bags, shoes and make-up like any other normal Pakistani woman but seeing women throng the tailors laden with magazines published by leading fashion brands, and visit dyers, shoe shops and cosmetic stores as Ramadan ki tiyari makes me wonder if something got lost in translation. When I was young, Ramadan used to be about fasting and reading and understanding the Quran. Our parents and grandparents put a lot of emphasis on memorizing surahs and correcting tajweed. Sehr and iftaar were considered special times to make dua, seek blessings of Allah and forgiveness for sins (and yes, we begged for good grades and a hefty Eidi too). The air used to be filled with sound of soul stirring naats and all we wanted was lots and lots of “sawaab”, even if our knowledge of deen at that young age was rather elementary. Now if we switch on the television all our senses are assaulted by people making complete fools of themselves for the latest branded lawn jora, juicer machine or a motorcycle. Whether you see show hosts throwing mobile phones at the audience or people pushing and jostling each other to grab a gift hamper or the sight of women applying makeup on their men folk or men doing a thumka, it is enough to send a shudder down the spine. And let’s not forget the mangoes being forced down the throats…all in name of Ramadan entertainment. Nowadays, the promos and trailers are being aired for the upcoming Ramadan transmission by leading TV channels. With bigger sets, more celebrities, amazing prizes and promises of more entertainment, these programs do not reflect this month’s religious spirit in any way.  And the way megalomaniac television hosts are allowed to humiliate the guests hungry for gifts, prizes and giveaways is embarrassing to say the least. I have nothing against game shows but surely out of respect for this holy month; the shows can be aired in the other 11 months of the year. “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, It is the age of abundance; it is the age of scarcity. It is the age of famine; it is the age of opulence. It is the age of hunger; it is the age of epicures. It is the age of want; it is the age of self indulgence. It is the age of obscene riches; it is the age of stark poverty. We have everything before us, we have nothing before us.” Charles Dickens’s masterpiece “A Tale of Two Cities” was written using French Revolution as its background to highlight social, political and economic events in London and Paris during the 18th century. However, the opening lines of the literary classic can be modified a bit to reflect the stark contrasts between the haves and have-nots in our society all the year round in general and during Ramadan in particular during the 21st century. Traditionally and culturally, there is a great deal of emphasis on preparing and consuming delicious meals to celebrate this special month. However, food wastage becomes rampant in Pakistan during Ramadan and nowhere is this wastage as uncontrolled and unrestrained as during iftar deals that are offered by every big and small hotel, restaurant and fast food joint. While the poor and lower income strata of our society live from hand-to-mouth and sometimes not even that, the rich can indulge in “48 mouth watering dishes at only Rs. 1999/- plus tax” in the restaurant of their choice and then come away grumbling, dissatisfied with crowd management, food quality and food choices. It can be quite nauseating to watch people attack buffet tables as soon as the azan is announced and crunch and munch their way through all the delicacies as if there is no tomorrow. What is even more tragic is the amount of food piled up on dishes and left uneaten. Will we ever realize that it is beyond human ability to even sample all 50 plus dishes and 12 exotic drinks, much less enjoy or digest a decent serving of each. Do we really have to gorge on “all you can eat” deals before we experience the true blessings of Ramadan? I strongly feel that the essence of spirituality, simplicity and charity have taken a back seat and marketing gimmicks are slowly eroding away our cultural, traditional and religious values. And then we wonder where all the peace and contentment from our lives have gone! Comments and feedback: gtausif@gmail.com

 
 
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