Keeping up with the Fast-ians

or Rozaydaars or the ones that are observing fast in Ramadan.

Ramadan in Dubai is a different experience from any I’ve had before. Raised in Pakistan, I am used to a city’s ambiance changing during Ramadan or Ramzan (like we used to call it). But Dubai transforms completely. Let’s just say in Pakistan, we were forbidden to eat outside (if not fasting) and work hours were cut down but since everyone was fasting, shorter hours were gift one could rarely enjoy.

Here, it is a fasting man’s heaven. Hours are officially reduced to 6 hours a day, not a second more and one can create quite a ruckus if asked to stay on longer. People are strictly forbidden to eat or drink in public, especially malls and parks etc. Work places have more lenient rules in some cases but, more or less, people are respectful of the ones observing their religious duty.

What remains similar to Pakistan and here is the fact that people somehow forget their ability to drive as soon as their stomachs growl in hunger. This means, from 10 am to 7 pm, the roads are an oversized bumper car ride. You get in your vehicle and prepare to find the most unique sorts of drivers. The turtles; angry but too lazy to drive at the speed limit, they get some perverse joy from watching as people honk and get aggravated at their slow speeds. It almost feels like they want to drive slow enough to arrive home just in time to dive into that date dessert. Now the way home could be 10 minutes or 2 hours, they’ll pace themselves accordingly.

The other kind of drivers are the angry falcons. They weave in and out of traffic, honking incessantly at people who are doing no wrong, just driving in their own lanes. These people feel it is their god given right to spread panic, because after all, they’re hungry right? They’ve done their part by fasting. They’ve proven their faith. And now they must rip yours to shreds. They’ll curse, scream, make angry gestures and eventually get ahead of you, only to wait in line, just like everyone else, but hey…THEY SHOWED YOU!

Then there are the drivers who smile. Those eerie, fixed smiles because they have ingrained in their minds that they must act the part of a good god-fearing individual who is doing his duty. They let you go ahead of them, smile in a creepy manner at the turtles and the falcons and go along their way. Not a pleasant sight but they’re still the best option to have on the roads on your ride home.

Hunger can do a variety of things to you. Drive you insane, make you find inner peace, put you in a daze but I feel we are drifting from what it should make you feel. Gratitude. And a hell of a lot of it. We moan and groan because we have usually ‘eaten too much’. Frequent dining table conversations end in ‘Hai! I shouldn’t have has that last piece of bread!‘ or ‘I am so going to have to work out for 2 hours tomorrow’. In these moments of gluttony, we do not think of the man who will never have the liberty to say he’s eaten too much. Its the statement he will never have the pleasure or discomfort of uttering.

So all you Fast-ians out there, show a little gratitude huh? No need to impose your beliefs on the world. Just smile a little. Its a personal choice. So just use it towards the right cause, which is understanding and connecting to the plight of others. Not showing the driver in front of you who’s boss.

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