We’re two and a half weeks into the month of fasting. I’ve learned some things.
There are exceptions to fasting. If you’re pregnant, you’re excused. If you’re sick or infirm, you’re excused. If you’re a child, you’re supposed to be excused, but a lot of kids still fast. Maybe it’s at the urging of their parents, so the parents aren’t tempted, or maybe the kids just want to go along.
our office was planning a going away party a few weeks back and the issue of time came up. With several Muslims in our office we didn’t want to schedule too early. We’d need to wait until nearly 6 to begin. We asked one of our staff if she minded starting a little earlier.
“Oh, I won’t be fasting that day. I’m gonna be having my period.” She announced to the group.
That’s the other loop hole. If women are menstruating, they’re excused. And apparently this co-worker is regular as well as, um, boundary-free.
Several weeks on, I passed her in the break room and I asked how her fasting had been going.
“I woke up to good news, Doc! I got my period today. I LOVE the color red! No fasting for me!” Did I mention boundary-free?
I led a smoking cessation group for local staff part way through the first week of the holy month. It was all men. I think that men are the predominant smokers here. I went around the room. They all started around the age of 8 or 9. All the marketing is geared toward kids. Transformers and skateboarders are all linked to smoking here.
Anyway, the topic of nicotine patches came up. They were curious, but also worried about putting something into their body during their fasts.. I asked if they could take medicine and they said that they could if they were sick. I also asked if they were allowed to smoke during Ramadan. “Well, we’re not really supposed to, but we can’t help it, plus we blow most of it back out.” So I asked “what would Allah do?”
No, I didn’t. Wanted to, but I didn’t.
Cinetron is a national pastime here. It is the Indo version of the soap opera, but it comes on in the evening. And all across the country people tune in. If you see a road side hut or restaurant, you’ll see a bare lightbulb, a grainy black and white TV and a group huddled around watching the days drama unfold.
I’d never really watched, but I’d flipped past off and on. This month I noted more women on the shows wearing head scarves. I thought it was part of the story line, but a colleague told me that every year during Ramadan, the stories change from the usual “boy meets girl, girl stabs boy in back” stories to stories of peace and purity and other holy lessons. All the characters dress more pure, too.
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Then the day after Eid, it all switches back to the same old sordid tales. Apparently people can only be good for 28 days.
Sitting here in a hotel lobby bar in Surabaya, I asked the waitress how business had been. She said it’s been swamped because it’s Ramadan and all the bars are closed, so no one can get alcohol. “Everyone comes here to get a drink.”
Apparently 28 days is too long.