No one says “Ramadan Mubarak” better than Colonel Sanders. As the holy month closes in and before the writer gets his nerves slit by fundamentalists…writes Adnan Firoze.
Allah’s apostle (pbuh) would be extremely agitated while us – the Dhaka dwellers prepare for the holy month of Ramadan with loose trousers and an insatiable appetite instead of a solemn spirit of sanctity and self restraint. I am no angel in this regard. I weighed myself last year before Ramadan only to find an eight KG ascent on Eid day. The alert concluded that something was very wrong and it was definitely not the weighing scale!
With less than 10 days till we step into the holy month, restaurants have started to arrange their Iftar cuisine and are preparing many of their ostentatious offers, most of which being ‘all you can eat’. Even though the everyday Dhaka dweller is aware of what the month signifies and offers, we seem to turn a deaf ear to its deafening message and it is understandable since it is ‘inconvenient’. Taking pride in our gustatory superiority, we have redefined Ramadan and the cultural rites have clearly surpassed the spiritual counterparts.
Even though the special ‘Iftar Offers’ have not started to come out yet, the flyers will be flying into your homes offering you almost unlimited amount of gluttonous pleasure in the name of Ramadan in the coming week. These offers offered by, but not limited to KFC, Pizza Hut, Nando’s, A&W, are extremely enticing and people certainly have the right to spend and eat whatever their tummies and pockets yield. Let me not limit my list to the external food joints but I should also point out that our very own Chawkbazar Iftar’s rates are rather steep for a Dhaka dweller with a regular income. Many people cannot afford items like ‘Boro Baaper Pola e Khaay’ because maybe not everyone is a ‘Boro Baaper Pola’. Anyway, using Ramadan as a marketing instrument is just as conspicuously indecent as the month of December being a marketing fad for all the major retailers in USA, celebrating the birth of Christ and Hanukkah.
Earlier I mentioned that I had gained some weight last Ramadan and rightfully because of my (mis)deeds. I was competing in an eating contest at Pizza hut and I shall probably be doing so this Ramadan as well. Unfortunately for me, I did not win the contest among my friends because one of my supersized friends devoured 23 slices of pizza for Iftar! Not only did he receive a free Iftar that day (from us) but he had won an ovation from the whole premises for his bravado. The following week I went to A&W and again got beaten by a close acquaintance in a burger eating frenzy where he could surfeit himself with 15 burgers and root beer humbling me to only five. Therefore, if you are a connoisseur of food, your lucky month is almost here. Just wait a few more days.
If I cast opprobrium and scorn towards food chains, then it will be hypocritical even to the hypocrites because I for one am a part of their customers. But not everyone is. The news of Ramadan comes as an ominous augury to the middle class from different angles. The economic repercussions of the ‘Bangladeshi’ Ramadan are hazardous and they are common knowledge.
The prices of everyday goods such as wheat, pulses, peas, eggplants only to name a few hit record highs in a fiscal year right before the holy month which means now! Not everyone has the monetary privilege of ‘enjoying’ Ramadan at KFC or Pizza Hut; rather it is a challenge for them. Middle income families have to face the crisis of providing something remotely spectacular on the tables after the sun sets, at least to dignify their children. Children are not to be blamed because the overzealous campaigning of food chains successfully ousts the spiritual teachings from our feeble and culturally coloured understanding of religion. Thus, when Ramadan comes as an economic challenge in itself, who has time for being spiritual anymore and seek the heavens in the month of forgiveness?
Ashfique Arman, an intern doctor at Chittagong Medical College said, “I have never moonlighted during my internship but I am being forced to do so now. Without the extra cash, how will I satisfy my parents and in-laws during Eid?” With that motivation, the young doctor is working after his office hours in preparation for Eid. A contrary image elucidated when I came across Ashfia Ahmed, a student of University of Dhaka who exclaimed, “Thankfully I am done with all the appointments with the tailor before the Ramadan. If I had been one week late the rates would have shot up and there wouldn’t be any guarantee of the service”. Therefore, the tailors are busy and so are the restaurants; where’s the time to be spiritual amidst all this commotion? After all, we have an Eid to attend to.
We have embraced Ramadan culturally and there is nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, the manner in which we have embraced it involves indulgence, gluttony and economic strife for the commons. Calling that hypocritical is not a hyperbole by any means.
Ramadan is significant because of its teachings of self restraint. The secondary level ‘Islamiat’ books would suggest that the starvation from dawn to dusk would give you a feeling of how the poor people spend their lives. But that is only partially true and even if that is taken for granted, relegating poor people to further poverty is preposterously hypocritical in our superficial attempt to ‘feel their pain’!
The holy month signifies ‘Siam’ which literally means ‘restraint’ and the abeyance of indulgence. This month was originally introduced to practice interdiction from gluttony, lust, avarice and all other major sins. Ironically, we have catered the holiness of the month with extremely contrastive principles. We indeed follow the ritual of ‘starvation’ only to indulge in everything that Ramadan stands against right after dusk.
With all these rant, the crux of the message is simple: I am complaining because I did not win any of the eating contests among friends neither at A&W nor at Pizza Hut last Ramadan. And hey, nothing says ‘Ramadan is a Bangladeshi festival’ better than devouring 12 slices or more at Pizza Hut!
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