Thursday, August 12, 2010

Of puasa yang-yok, and the sound of Ramadhan

There can be no other month like Ramadhan, and it does not matter whether it is January or June, or any month within the solar Gregorian calendar. When it comes to Ramadhan, we switch our biological clock to lunar, and the solar calendar would take a back seat, unlike the rest of the year.

It is automatic, I guess, and seamless too.

Obviously as noted by the prophet, Ramadhan is a special month. It is a time for self reflection; a little humility would go a long way in this month. All of us would be praying hard for us to get through Ramadhan, for one can never be sure if one would live long enough to go through it again. It is within this month, lies the Lailatul Qadr - the night of a thousand months. If you are blessed enough to have an encounter with Lailatul Qadr, you are set for life, so to speak.

The eternal life, that is.

When I was a kid, Ramadhan was simply a chore. Obviously we would not look forward to going all day without food, but we all looked forward to the joy at the end of Ramadhan. It was something that needs to be done; hard work, but the reward was just way too great to be ignored.

And I guess in our household, there was no two way about fasting in Ramadhan. You either fast, or else, if you know what I mean. The idea of going all day with food or drinks did not appeal too much, but there was little one could do but to go with the flow. You need to fast or you would not be celebrating Hari Raya, and that to us, is like being sent to Kamunting for your ISA incarceration.

I think as a kid, I was diligent enough to fast, even when fasting was not compulsory on us. Obviously I remember fasting in our Pokok Jerai home (at Simpang Labit) in Lenggong - those must be the years we all started training for our fasting. I don't remember not fasting on purpose, or trying to eat in private, as those were not something I would do. Waking up for sahur would be hard. You were in deep sleep, and you were still full from your breaking of fast that night, and now you need to eat again, this time it is breakfast. Hmm, if this is not ironic, I am not sure what it is then.

So with air liur basi still in our mouth (please excuse my language here, of course you are not expecting us to brush our teeth back then before meal), and our eyes barely open, we tried to push the rice into our mouth. And by the time we had finished chewing and ready to swallow them, we could be half asleep already. It was tough life the, even if our job then was to just eat. May God reward us for our diligence! ;-)

But I do remember going to refrigerator one day and saw the previous day's jelly (agar-agar), and without thinking, picked up a piece, and gobbled it down my throat, with the refrigerator's door still wide open.

It was so tasty as the desert was sweet and cold, and as it was such a hot day, I was hungry and thirsty and that piece of cold jelly was a welcome respite.

It was only after the second piece that I realized that I was fasting. But I guess we are allowed to consider that as a gift from God; due to a momentary loss of memory, if you must, and that your fast is not affected, as long as you did not do it on purpose. Or at least that was what I was told by Mak, when I informed her of what had happened. Hence I continued fasting, without any guilt. I was not being mischievous - I ate it in front of fridge itself, there and then, complete with a second helping, and I guess any of my sibling could have caught me eating, but they did not.

Anyway, in any case, I was just a kid then. I guess all along over the next few year, I would have fasted without fail, and there was no hanky panky whatsoever. The only time we were given some lee way would be if one was sick. But even then sometimes we did not take it as it means having to replace it in the future.

There was no puasa yang-yok for us, though we did tease each other about it a lot then.

Puasa yang yok
pagi-pagi buka periok

Aah, well. In my case, it was the refrigerator door. But I plead not guilty, your Honour. ;-) If one could get away with murder with an insanity plea, I would have gotten away with a momentary loss of memory. I heard my name being called from inside the refrigerator. I heard voices. The jelly must have been calling for me to eat them! ;-)

During those days too, we did not have pasar ramadhan. But there was no need for one in any case. Mak would cook all the deserts and dishes we would need, both literally and figuratively. There would be all kind of foods on the table, and multiple deserts for sure.

And all would be home cooked.

Actually Mak would need to cook only a single dish or desert and she would exchange them with the neighbours, and by the time we were done, the desert and dishes cooked by the neighbours would be making their way to our table.

Some kind of pinggan terbang, or the floating plates traveling from one house to another during Ramadhan. It is the miracle of Ramadhan.

So that's how we would have varieties of everything those days. No need for kue tunjuk at pasar Ramadhan for sure. No need to waste your money and time on tasteless pasar ramadhan fare where most of the sellers are amateurs, trying to make quick bucks, to pay for their new dresses for Raya. ;-)

But foremost to me as a kid, there are quite a few songs that would always remind me of the Ramadhan, especially when announcing on the breaking of fast time on telly and also while waiting for the azan on the radio to break one's fast.

It is soothing music, and I guess it helps alleviate the anxiety of 14 hours without food.
Close one eye please, and please excuse this vinyl cover; or the non-cover of the lady in the picture here to be precise and yes, the pun was intentional. They don't make these kind of songs (and cover) anymore. Ron Goodwin's Music for an Arabian Night is one record that is in my collection and would always be treasured. This album was released in 1959. Apparently it took him about 2 years to complete this album, and it enhanced - not butchered, the songs written by Rahbani Brothers, so much so Arabic songs were to become staple musics to the West.

How about this one? May be it would remind you more of Sharifah Aini and wedding, instead of Ramadhan, eh?

This is Windows of the East.
Ron Goodwin Orchestra's Arabian Night is as good as Ramadhan.

I am sure many would agree and many more would disagree. They would quote spiritual songs like Man Bai's or Raihan etc to be more suitable to be the songs of Ramadhan. Yeah, yeah, sure, I don't disagree totally - I would also pick up Bimbo's Lailatul Qadr as a more appropriate.

But still to me, Ron Goodwin's songs would forever remain etched in my mind, everytime Ramadhan comes a-knocking.


  1. hello there,

    i just got the records, bought at RM50.00

  2. Ah lucky you. the vinyl or CD? Getting ready for ramadhan I guess :))