The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us and I’m feeling good. There’s a calmness in the air I only feel when it’s this time of year. This month is about disconnecting from the world and reconnecting with God. I will be nice and patient to everyone around me and try to just be less of a wasteman. #goals
But I must brace myself for work is coming. It’s my first time working full-time and fasting so I have no idea how long my energy levels will last. I’m feeling fine so far as I get in to the office. I haven’t got any serious hunger pains. I’m not really thinking about food. My colleagues, however, are.
“How are you doing?” Natasha asks sadly, coming over to my desk. She rubs my shoulder.
“Fine?” Am I getting fired?
“You poor thing,” she continues, sighing. “How long are you fasting for?”
Ohhhhhh. “It’s bout eighteen and a half hours long. Sounds worse than it is.” I’ve made my peace. I am all positive vibes this month. No swearing, no bitching, no complaining – I am peace personified. Well, that’s the aim anyway.
Natasha looks aghast. “So what time can you eat again?”
“About nine o’clock. Nine twenty-four to be specific.” Ramadan is the one month I know the exact time of Maghrib/sunset. #Dedicated #Hungry
She looks completely distraught. “Incredible. That’s such dedication.”
“And you can’t eat anything at all?” Natasha asks.
“Nope, nothing until the sun sets.”
“You can’t have drinks either?”
“Not even water?”
Ah, the “Not even water?” question. “Nah, nothing at all.”
“Gosh, that’s awful. Well, you’re stronger than me, that’s for sure.” She walks back to her desk.
Just under twelve hours to go. Sigh.
“How goes it?” Rebecca asks. She puts her water and cereal bowl on the other side of the desk away from my side. Love Bex.
“Not bad, how are you?”
“Dandy,” she says. “How’s the fasting going?”
“Feel fine, bit sleepy,” I say. It’s day three of Ramadan and I’ve yet to fall into a stride with it.
“Good,” she smiles.
I turn back to my screen and scan through emails.
To: Salem Editorial
From: Kay Michaels
Please join us at 12pm for cake to celebrate James’s birthday.
Fu- must not swear. Not swearing is a goal this month. Must be composed. Must be nice. Must fight the urge to throw the cake on the floor. Infinite sighing.
“Suraya, are you not coming?” Robert asks as everyone goes to have cake.
“No, not today,” I say.
“Why not?” He asks, concerned.
“Ah, yes, of course!” He says with realisation. “You can’t have a small slice at all?”
I shake my head.
“What about drinks?” He asks.
“Nothing from sunrise to sunset.”
“What, not even water?” He looks aghast.
Must. Not. Roll. Eyes.
“Nope, nothing. Complete abstinence from all food and drinks.”
“From sunrise to sunset? So what times are those?”
“Sunrise is about three in the morning and sunset is about nine twenty-four today.”
His eyes bug open. “That’s astounding. I really admire you. I don’t think I could last without coffee for two hours, let alone the best part of a day.”
“You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.” I am poster gyal for clichés.
“No, quite,” he says, scratching his chin. “Wow. Well, I’ll eat another slice for you.”
My hero. “Thanks.” I fake a laugh. Ahahahacry.
Robert walks off and I go back to the ebook check I’m doing. 12.02. 9+ hours left to go. Not that I’m counting.
“Suraya, why didn’t you come for cake? Here’s a slice,” Lily says, putting a plate of chocolate cake in front of me.
“Oh, my God, what are you doing?” Rebecca gasps, grabbing the plate away from me. “She’s fasting, Lily!”
“Fasting?” Lily repeats, confused. “Like Lent?”
“Not quite,” I say. “I can’t eat or drink anything between sunrise to sunset.”
“Oh, shit, I’m so sorry!” Lily gasps. “I’m so stupid, I completely had no idea! So sorry, how can I make it up to you?”
Leave me alone. “You’re fine, babe. Don’t worry about it.”
“What’s this?” Jessie asks, coming over. “Who’s doing Lent in June?”
“Suraya’s not doing Lent, she’s fasting Ramadan,” Rebecca says.
“Ohh, is that where you fast for a whole month?” Jessie asks.
I nod. “Yeah, that’s it.”
“So you can’t eat all month? Not even water?”
If I had a pound for every time someone said “Not even water?”. Seriously. “No, nothing at all,” I say.
Jessie blows out a low whistle. “Wow, that’s tough. So you can’t eat or drink all month? Don’t you starve?”
Lordy. “Yeah, but then we gather the bodies of whoever didn’t survive and eat them at the end of the month. That’s where The Hunger Games comes from originally.”
Jessie’s mouth falls open. Lily looks shocked. Rebecca, my homegirl, laughs.
“I’m joking, I promise,” I say quickly, laughing. “We just don’t eat between sunrise and sunset.”
“Bloody hell, I was gonna say,” Jessie says, hand over her heart. “You really had me going there for a second.”
I am cackling. “Sorry, bad joke.”
“Well, good luck,” Jessie says, walking away a tad faster than normal. #hawkward
“You’re terrible,” Rebecca says, still laughing. “The look on her face!”
“Suraya, why didn’t you have any cake?” Bree asks as she walks by my desk.
Bismillah, round five.
Getting home from work feels like reaching Mordor. I fall onto the sofa, not bothering to take my jacket or hijab off. My energy dipped after one o’clock and just kept on dipping.
“How was work?” Aroosa asks, falling on top of me.
“Ugh, get off.” I squirm a little under her but give up when it’s clear she’s not moving.
“No, I’m too tired,” she says. “I thought I could gym and fast. I think I’m dying.”
“You idiot, why would you go to the gym when you’re fasting?”
“All these bros do it on Instagram.”
“Didn’t know you were as stupid as them.”
“I hate you.”
“Careful, it’s Ramadan, mate. Season of good will to all men.”
“That’s Christmas, you doughnut.”
“Whatever, the message still stands. And don’t talk about doughnuts.”
“I love doughnuts,” Aroosa sighs.
“Hai reh, what are you two doing?” Mum demands, walking in with Musa in tow.
“Me too!” Musa yells, jumping on to our pile.
Aroosa and I both groan as he crashes into us.
“You two, get up!” Mum says. “Have you prayed ‘Asr?” She pulls Musa off us.
Our silence answers her.
“Well, go pray and get freshened up. Then come down and help me get iftar ready.”
“She’s talking yo you,” I say, shoving at Aroosa’s face.
“No, she means you,” Aroosa says, digging her elbow into my back.
“If both of you don’t get up right now…” Mum doesn’t need to finish her threat.
The pair of us get up. I stumble sleepily into my room and get changed into pyjamas. After we’ve prayed, we go down to help mum cook. I say help, really I just stand there trying to cut salad and yawning while mum and Aroosa do the hard graft.
Musa runs around the kitchen freely, trying to get us to play with him. Oh, to be young and eligible to not fast. Oh, to be young and able to just run around without getting out of breath after ten seconds.