The first years of Ramadan for me were spent in Fujairah, an east cost emirate of UAE. Fujairah is a peaceful place, unlike Dubai, with some farms, many villas and a peaceful and wide sea – the Gulf of Oman, reaching up to the costs of Cochin in Kerala. The thought of my homeland on the other side of the sea made me more attached to the sea than anything in Fujairah. I also loved it for its calmness, there were only few people at the beach, and so we had our own area in the beach.

There isn’t much to remember about the Ramadan in Fujairah. Ramadan came during the school days, and we were not allowed to take food to school on those days. One thing I remember about those days were lying that I was fasting. Also, our parents encouraged us to take half day fasts only. So it was two half day fasts into full day. And when somebody asked me about the number of days we had fasted, we would say four and a half or five and half and so on. I would compete with the number of days we had fasted with my younger brother, who is two years younger to me. The most difficult thing for us then and now is the shuhoor, or the late night dinner which you have in the middle of the sleep. I remember my brother getting for the shuhoor, and then the next day he will be saying, “I don’t remember anything I ate for the shuhoor.” On day he said, “I saw only the white walls when I got up for the dinner.” Hehehe. The thing that fascinated me more was the plates full of fruits and snacks at iftaar.

We were shifted to India, when I was in seventh grade, to an Islamic residential school. During the first two years, the school closed during the Ramadan. That was the time of mischief for us, me, my brother and our cousins. We had nothing particular to do in the mornings of Ramadan and so we all get out of the house into the near by farms. We would steal mangoes, gooseberries and guavas from the farms and hide it under our dresses till night. Sometimes, we will also go to the near by shops and buy some locally made toffees, with the money grandpa would give us. At night, when the elders have gone to sleep, we would get up and share the pieces of mangoes and other things between us. For this, we would all sleep in the same room, or near by rooms. We used to take all the 29 or 30 days of fast.

During the last days of Ramadan, grandpa would give us money to buy bangles and hair clips for eid. The boys would buy fire-works or toys like guns and cars. We would also buy some sweets. Grandpa loved us so much that he won’t allow us to take fast till the dusk. According to him, children need fast only till the noon. For him, I was a child even when I was at college! He used to scold grandma for making us fast till the dusk, even when I was in my late teens. According to him, we were still his kids. He passed away some three years back, or we would have been his kids even now! May Allah shower his forgiveness and peace upon him, make his abode wider and gather us in his paradise. Ameen.

From my ninth grade onwards, our school started working for Ramadan. That bought a change in me. We had schools only till noon, unlike normal days when we had schools till the evening. After school we, me and my friends, would sit to recite some Qur’an and we had Islamic classes in the mosque. I was getting into the real Ramadan, with all its life in me. The saddest day and the most memorable day of my life in Ansar, my school, was the day when my friend’s mother gave birth to twins, and they died with in an hour. Friendship in Ansar was something that I have not known before or after, it was a very special bond. My friend’s tears seemed to be my own, and it was the same for everybody. We all wept a lot that day. The Ramadan was also special in a way that we had great and good seniors to guide us, who were very loving. And yeah, I remember the day when one of my roommates’ father died. I came to know of the event before her from my teacher. My teacher asked me not to tell her about it until somebody came from her home. She was good at singing, and used to sing a song which meant something like this:

Why is my father, who gets up for fajr everyday, sleeping under this white blanket today….

Why didn’t my father call me today in the morning, to pray the fajr with him…..

Why isn’t my father talking to me, what I have done to make him angry with me….

Those words of the song still echo in my ears, and that was the last Ramadan she sang that song. During the last year of my school life, we celebrated the last Eid with our friends in hostel, one of my best Eids!

After school, I went to an Engineering college. Thanks for the Muslims friends I got at college, or Ramadan would have been a difficult time for me. There were some 20+ Muslim students in out hostel, and some really nice boys in our college. A lady in the town promised to cook iftaar and shuhoor for us, and the boys would deliver it on time. That was how we spent our first year at college. During the second year, we changed our hostel to another one, owned by a Muslim management. Fasting was made easier for us since w had iftaar and shuhoor cooked for us by the hostel cooks. We had tharaweeh prayer in jama’ath and we celebrated the Eid with our friends, while usually we did it with our family. Ramadan lost its life when at college, since we had a busy schedule of exams, practical works and records while at college. And yeah, we were in our late teens, which meant years with boiling blood in our veins. We used to fight with our wardens, cooks and management for every silly problem that came across our way. Even though we had jama’ath prayers at hostel, we would never take part in it because we hated our warden so much. Forgive us, Allah. It was bread when we wanted bun. S we would go to the warden and shout at her. It was fish when we wanted chicken. We would sit there without eating anything, and the whole fish would be wasted.

But we soon realized our mistakes, when our college lost its recognition and we were transferred to another college. That was the last year of our college life. We decided to take a rented house, as we were all tired of our hostel life. It was one week before Ramadan that we got the house. We had no cooking utensils with us, and so we were not able to cook anything. We decided to seek help from a hotel near by, and Alhamdulillah, they agreed. They delivered the food for iftaar and dinner. It was tough, taking the food from hotel everyday. We started to regret for the problems we made in the hostel, when they would provide us with food. Here we had no choice of bread or bun, and chicken or fish. Just eat what we got. May be it was a punishment we got for making mischief at the hostel and a way Allah chose to teach us to be thankful to the food we got. That was the most difficult Ramadan we had so far, and a memorable one too. We had seminars at college, which extended till seven or eight, and magrib would be at six. We would keep apart the snacks we got at seminar, and use that to break our fast. We would be so tired, with the long busy day at college, and sometimes seminars would turn to sleeping time. It will be somewhat eight or nine, when we reach home, to the food from the hotel. The food would taste better by that time. We missed home so much those days.

After college, I was married. Ramadan was easier then, at home, with so much of spare time to do the ibaadaths. Ramadan became lively once more, after the school days. Food was also not a problem, when at home. The next year, I came to Dubai with hubby, and there was my co-sister’s mom to help during the first Ramadan at Dubai. I find the heat a bit of problem in Dubai, but I think I can stand it. And this Ramadan is my first Ramadan alone, with me doing all the cooking myself. I sit here, now and think of the days of Ramadan, every Ramadan special to me, in its own way. Some Ramadan bought so much of time and rest to me, so that I can pray and make a lot of ibaadaths. But during some Ramadans, I had to fight to keep up with the feelings of Ramadan. I believe it’s all over now, and Ramadan would be the same for me from now onwards, with no friends, brothers and cousins to make the days active. The life as an adult is really boring, na?

Mirror and friends

June 18, 2008

Mirror and friend – what do they have in common? There is a proverb in malayalam – If you got a friend indeed, then you won’t get a mirror, in need. Well, I sometimes wonders why those old people put it with mirror and friend, they could have put something better than mirror for a friend – like eyes, hands, legs, tongue, etc. These thoughts come into my mind usually on the saturdays or sundays that comes after an exam, during my college life, when you sit simply and have nothing to do. Those days are really boring, you have got know exams, assignments, homeworks – nothing to do, until the next semester commences. Then you wish if you had those nothing-to-do weekends back! Thats what I said in my second post – you wish everything were here if there is nothing, and when you get it, you wish it was gone! Human mind!
It was on one of those nothing-to-do days when one of us wanted to have a mirror in our apartment. There were nine of us – all girls, doing our graduation and staying together in an apartment. Most of us had small mirrors with us, but that was not enough, especially while dressing, to get a full view. So we thought about it and decided to buy a big mirror, if and only if our budget allowed it. We started spending less on our mobiles, snacks, cool drinks – and everything we thought unnecessary. We wanted to have an elegant looking mirror in our room. We went to different furniture shops to find out the best in quality and cost. At last we found one, and bought it home.
I am a person who doesn’t care much about my looks. I don’t use the mirror except for combing my hair, and while combing I concentrate only on the hair. The hair done, I turn away from the mirror. I don’t usually use creams on my face, or kajal in my eyes or any other cosmetics, except some Vaselineor a lotion of rose water and glycerine on dry and windy days. I find some of my friends standing hours infront of the mirror, applying creams on their face, combing their hair, giving the final touches to their scarf or hijab, pinning their shalls, and what not! But I never thought a mirror necessary for these activities. I do most of it without a mirror.

Well, there I was living peacefully and happily, when they ( including me) bought the mirror and found the place near my bed to keep it. It was at the foot of my bed, and so while lying in my bed, I was able to see myself in full view. Whack! What a boring scene, to look at your face all day! At first I found it difficult, to see myself laughing, giggling, crying and shouting all the day. But then I got used to it, and started looking more into the mirror to see myself more. And thats how the problem started.
One fine morning, when I was looking at myself into the mirror, I noticed a dark spot on my face. I went closer to the mirror, and there it was – a dark color under my eyes, on my cheeks. I called Sumi, my roommate and showed her the spot. But she didn’t notice anything new in it at all!

“Oh, that was there all time. And its not that dark to be noticed!” she said.
I was angry with her for not giving me any proper explanation or advice.
“Sumi, tell me the name of something to apply on my face to make that spot disappear.” I begged her.
“Ok, if you insist, I’ll give you a cream. Apply it at night, before going to bed.” She said.” But I assure you, there is nothing to worry about it.”
I wasn’t assured with her words, and so I started using the cream. I didn’t notice any changes for the first one week. I decided to change the cream if it didn’t show any effect after applying for one more week. After two weeks, on one morning, when I looked myself in the mirror, I was shocked. The dark spot has widened and become darker! I called Sumi, and asked her what to do. She sat by my side.

“Hey, Najee, I have told you already that there is nothing to worry about those dark spots. But you didn’t listen to me. Now, after applying the cream, you have become fairer, and so the dark spot darker and wider. Please understand that. There was no dark spot on your skin. But when you keep looking into the mirror, you keep looking expecting to see some thing on your face, and then you imagine that there is something. That’s all.”
I didnot think she was right, but I had to promise her not to look too much into the mirror, and not to use any creams on my face. I turned my bed away from the mirror. Now that I couldnot look into the mirror for a long time, I forgot about the spot. I stood infront of the mirror only for doing my hair.
Now, I have got no time to watch myself in the mirror, with the duties of a housewife. And so the dark spot has never become a problem. But I learned that friendship is better than a mirror at hand – may be better than our hand, legs, eyes etc. I don’t know about that 🙂 !

I wouldn’t have noticed her, if we weren’t the only girls in the train compartment. May be her college bag, travel bag, her pale blue jeans and orange t-shirt bought my attention towards this fair, smart girl who looked to me almost my age. “Might be she is a student of some near by colleges, like myself”, I thought. I was on my way home after our half yearly exams, to spend the week with my family. I was in a vacation mood, happy that the exams are over and looking forward for the vacation as my cousins are coming to stay with us. Vacation would be hell lot of fun!!! I thought. I decided to give this girl a small smile, while usually I’m introvert and a bit hesitant to smile to strangers.
And as I expected, the smile bought a lot of conversation between us, even though she was the first to start it.
“Your name….?”
“Najeeba, and what is yours?”
“Shinsi”.
Usually I would have stopped here and plunged in to the book in my hand if it was someone who was not of my interest ( almost everyone are). But the happiness of going back home made me stay away from the book. All I wanted was to share it with someone, and celebrate every moments of my vacation. And I was glad to find a person who was also going home for her vacation.
After a long thought about what to ask, finally I put the question, “ Where are you studying?”.

“Manglore doing my degree in MBA, and you?”
“Kannur. B.Tech. Going home, in Kozhikode.”
“I live in Thrissur. Mannuthi, exact place. Have you heard of that place?”
“Sure”,said I. There was an agriculture college in Mannuthi where I have often gone to buy plants for my garden. “The agriculture college in Mannuthi.”
“My home is about a few kilometers away from it.” Replied Shinsi.
And so we started talking, about college, food, politics, love, marriage, life and everything under the sun. She has got a younger brother in higher secondary, her mother a doctor and father a scientist at BARC. Her brother was also staying in a boarding in Manglore.
“Why in boarding when there are so many good higher secondary schools in Thrissur?” I asked.
“Coz my parents believe that boarding is the best place to educate children.” She explained. “I was in boarding schools from my first standard on wards.”
I was shocked! She was in boarding from her fifth year onwards, while I have felt like running away from boarding a hundred times within these three years!! And I didn’t hide my surprise.
“Not from fifth year, dear, from forth year itself.” She was cool!! “I joined first when I was four years old. And I have stayed in……”
She put up her fingers and started counting….
“…….1…2….3…….5…..9…10…15…..yup, fifteen hostels in all.”
“Fifteen?!!!!” One was more than enough for me. “Don’t you get sick of hostels?”
Her reply was even more surprising.
“Nope, I get sick of home.” There was a few moments of silence while I sat like I haven’t understood what she said. Sick of home?
“There is no one at home for me. Mummy goes to hospital early in the morning and comes home only after dusk. Dad comes once in a month. And I have nothing to do at home. I don’t like home for more than two days.”
The child of the post-modern age, I thought to myself. I have read about such people in newspapers, magazines and books. Who else can prefer boarding places to home? Anyway, not me!
“So what do you do after your education? You will have to go home, won’t you?” I asked.
She smiled. “Never. I plan to find some job in a place away from home and stay in a working women’s hostel there.”
“And marriage….You will have a home and family then.” I said.
“Marriage??!! Me? No way!” She shouted. “I hate men!!”
Oh! My God! What a creature!!
“And who do you think will help you when you get old?” I wanted her to understand the importance of a family. But her answer was quick.
“And what for do you think people are building so many old-age homes today?” She asked. “ I work till I am not able to work, and then rest with the money I have made by then.”

I could think of only a different version of the Sanskrit slokan:
Pitha rakshathi koumare – Father cares her in childhood,
Barhtyaa rakshathi youvanne – Husband cares her in adolescence,
Puthro rakshathi vardhakye – Sons cares her in old age,
Nna sthree swathanthryamarhathi – No women deserves independence.

Convent rakshathi koumare – Convent cares her in childhood,
Hostel rakshathi youvanne – Hostel cares her in adolescense,
Old-age homes rakshathi vardhakye – Old-age homes cares her in old age,
Nna sthree paranthyamarhathi – No women deserves dependence.