When I was little I would do half fasts. I would wake up for sahur with my dad and my two older brothers and my mum would make us all fried eggs and paratha. I would also get a cup of super milky tea. It was this exciting thing to eat when it was still super dark outside like we were breaking the rules a little having our breakfast so early. It felt like we were the only family awake in the world, sitting in our glowing dining room the garden outside the French windows totally pitch black. There would be nasheeds playing on the radio, Sunrise Radio because in the ’90s our options for listening to Ramadan appropriate music were limited. My dad would make fun of me, he said I ate like a sleepy goat, chewing with my mouth half open with yellow yolk dribbling down my chin, slurping my tea at intervals. Now sahur does not exist, because getting up that early and eating is too hard to do. I would sacrifice one last chance for food and water for a night of uninterrupted sleep, but I miss those mornings with all my family.
I remember the first time I broke a fast before iftar. I was at secondary school and I ate some fruit gums from the vending machine. Friends tried to stop me but I was hungry and I didn’t care at the time. There was this little rush of guilt as I swallowed the first sweet candy and then there was nothing. For a long time fasting didn’t mean anything to me. It was something my family did, and whilst I enjoyed eating pakoras at iftar time and this seemingly endless supply of fruit chaat I didn’t participate. Sahur went from a treasured time with my family to how quickly could I get myself back to bed again.
The smell of pakoras frying, of samosa baking in the oven. These things bring me right back to the table of my parent’s house in Ilford, sitting with a plateful of pakora waiting impatiently for the adhan to start on Islam Channel so I can shove that first salty pakora in my mouth, and get told off for not eating a date first instead. Fruit Chaat, sweet and salty, trying to pick my way around the mushy apples to the good bits which were always pineapple and the banana. I don’t know about other families but my mum and dad were always pushing melon on us. When there was melon there was a celebration, you were always saved some melon. Mine usually ended up blended into a drink that hit every good spot.
Two years ago I began fasting again. I missed home a lot and fasting was a way that I felt connected to my parents and brothers. But that first year also helped me learn to calm myself and step back from life. It taught me some control. Now iftars are different. It’s mostly me sat by myself in my apartment with some dates. But I bring in things from home. I have egg and paratha, and I will cook up pakoras. I cut myself fruit chaat and I can hear my mother scolding me at picking out only the fruit I liked best with a fork from the big bowl rather than taking a portion in a plate.
I’m trying to write every day for Ramadan. I have no idea what I will write about but here we go with the first post. Ramadan to me is about family, sharing, and growth. I look forward to the journey of the next 30 days.
Maryam Hassan is a 32 year old Photographer, Montessori Teacher, Wearer of Yellow from London who transplanted herself to Chicago in 2015. She likes punk music, hash browns, animal facts and mangoes.
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