Earning our Raya
JULY 23 — Ramadan is with us again, and one of the reasons we look forward to it is the Ramadan bazaar. For one whole month, we have great gatherings nationwide of nearly every imaginable dish in a single venue. Having our favourite dishes is a pleasure on regular days; having those delicious dishes for iftar after a long day’s fasting is indescribable indulgence.
But therein lies a danger, too; perhaps one we often stumble into before we realise it. The saying goes that in hunger our “eyes are bigger than our stomach.” After a long day fasting, when we park our cars and walk into the Ramadan bazaar, overestimating how much we can actually eat is a real risk.
The temptation is there; just the sheer variety of food is enough to try our self-restraint. From nasi kerabu to satay to murtabak to anything else you can name, we can probably find it in there.
With so much to eat in just a month’s window of opportunity, how can we possibly enjoy everything without overeating? Throw in an empty stomach relentlessly trying to sweet talk us into getting every dish we look at down our throats, and visiting the Ramadan bazaar is a health — and financial — hazard.
It is very common then to hear that people buy too much food for iftar. It’s probably our survival instincts kicking in: being hungry for most of the day, our body thinks we’re starving due to food shortage and tries to compensate by getting excess food when it’s available.
And come iftar we realise our mistake, feeling full just after eating a serving of nasi dagang and still having a serving of rojak pasembur, three stuffed tofu pockets, a whole kuih bingka and a full jug of coconut juice still there in front of us.
This is when we feel regret, and promise ourselves that we would not buy so much food tomorrow. But come tomorrow, it is a challenge to remember that promise looking at the choices we are presented with.
That promise gets filed away as our stomach pleads, “Of course we can eat all these, we’re so hungry and three servings of chicken rice can’t possibly be enough.” And thus the cycle continues.
And it’s not just the variety of food. I vividly remember the time in university when I tried to avoid overstuffing myself during iftar and limited myself to some dates and a serving of rice with fried chicken and vegetables; overestimating the amount of rice I could comfortably eat, I took more than I should and felt horribly bloated after iftar. I ended up forcing myself to vomit up my dinner in order to feel better. The sight of the green spinach I ate coming back out with rice only helped the process.
So it is important that we Muslims be extra careful in Ramadan. In a holy month during which we spend the day practising self-discipline, control and putting ourselves in the shoes of those less fortunate, it would be unfortunately meaningless if we proceed to gorge ourselves afterwards. Not that we should avoid the Ramadan bazaar completely, no — just that we should always bear in mind how quickly we feel full during iftar and moderate our purchases accordingly.
As Islam preaches moderation, this is one month where it is especially prudent to practise it. If we can avoid this particular pitfall and spend Ramadan successfully restraining our lust for food, it would be doubly gratifying to celebrate the coming of Eid ul-Fitr on the first of Syawal.
Syawal is the month of victory after a month-long battle against our excessive desires and inclinations. Let us earn that victory this Ramadan and make our Raya celebrations all the more meaningful.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.