For thirty days, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during Ramzan.
Yes, we don’t drink water. And please don’t ask if we’re allowed to swallow our saliva.
As a journalist, it’s tough to fast and work every day. It’s tough for anyone who fasts. Every person’s perception of difficulty is different. To fast during these harsh summer days makes you weak by the knees. You’re close to giving up. It’s not the hunger that pulls you down. It’s the thirst.
Every day, I push myself to leave home earlier than usual to catch the bus, so that I can occupy the window seat and reach office, hopefully without breaking a sweat. It’s difficult but somehow I manage. I have to remind myself that I’m fasting when I start digging through my bag in search for my water bottle even though I don’t take it with me anymore.
After reaching office, I try to be productive. I make sure that I file all my stories at once and send them to my editors before they’re passed on to the design team. So when I sit next to them, guiding them on which articles are to lead for the day’s edition, I don’t have to walk back to my desk twenty feet away to type more stories.
Everybody is your pal when you’re fasting. Concerned non-muslim colleagues ask me if I can manage to fast for 16 hours. I say yes. “I’m sorry but I have to eat now,” they say. I smile, it’s fine, I don’t bite.
I keep meeting angels while fasting; people who agree to be interviewed over phone or email. Though I prefer to meet in person, fatigue and my rumbling stomach create other plans.
“I’m sorry but can we speak over the phone?” I say. “I’m fasting.”
“Why not?” they say. I gush a thank you and start asking questions to build my story.
I also meet PR angels at press meets who thank me profusely that I’ve attended their event even while fasting. I say it’s alright, it’s my job. But some times, when I go to press meets, I realise that I’ve been fasting from dawn. It’s during such moments my brain reminds me to drink a glass of water. During the first few days, you invariably end up checking your watch, counting the minutes left for iftar – the time we break our fasts. Life plays a trick when you check your watch and time slows down when you want it to go quick but speeds-up when you want it to go slow.
By the time I return home on a bus, it feels like I have run a 42-kilometre marathon 42 times. I’m tired. This is how I feel when I break my fast; the first drop of water slipping on my taste buds is heaven. My entire body dives into a state of bliss. My parched throat and dried lungs bloom like a sunflower. A sense of accomplishment courses through me and I hear myself saying, “Thank God.”
In seconds, I end up drinking three bottles of water. And then comes the main course: ganji – porridge cooked with meat. I feel like Astrix drinking a magic potion. It sparks my body with energy that’s enough to keep me running until next day’s sahar – dawn.
After prayers, my phone starts ringing. Some ask if their article has come up. I tell them it’s yet to be published. Others offer me a tip, a new article suggestion. I thank them. Then it’s time for digging through Twitter for more story ideas or reading newspapers.
Later, it’s time for Taraweeh – the night prayers. I head to a mosque near home, pray namaz but my phone starts ringing again. (I’m pissed now. After all, I’m human.) Someone is requesting a copy of the newspaper.
“WhatsApp me your address,” I whisper.
“Okay sir,” he says. “Umm… where are you, sir?”
“Oh, I’m really sorry for disturbing,” he says. “Happy Ramzan, sir.”
I end up smiling.
I wake up around 3.30 am and help mamma to set the table for Sahar. We talk, eat, drink and pray. Then mamma heads back to bed. Later, I open my laptop and check my email. I start typing my pending stories, roughly jot down yesterday’s recorded conversations with the interviewee or update my blog.
My eyes are heavy as the sunlight crawls into my room. I get up to drink a glass of water and yet again, I remind myself I’m fasting. I chart the day’s plan: people to speak, stories to edit, articles to submit and pages to make. And my plan begins with leaving home early, so I don’t miss the bus and reach office without breaking a sweat.