Ramadan is but a week away and it's high time you start planning for it. Juggling your obligations at home, at work and creating a space for a prosperous spiritual experience must get due attention. With a whole week ahead of you, this is the time to start getting into the “Ramadan mode”.
This is no ordinary month by any measure. If you start planning now, you will be mentally prepared for it, and it will force you to see Ramadan as the special month that it is -- a divine experience through a regimented worldly existence.
Planning ahead will help you adjust your body clock with the disrupted meal and sleep schedule. Matters are simpler for the early riser during this month, which most of us are not. But with some planning, all such predicaments can be solved.
Maintain a notebook
This is probably a million-dollar piece of advice -- always keep a small note book and a pen to jot down ideas. Notebooks work best when they are at hand when you need them. Choose something large enough to contain your writing and small enough to stow away. This will take the stress out of 'planning' and make things smoother.
Make your grocery list while stranded at a traffic stoplight, or jot down a quote that you love while immersed in your daily read. Certainly, one of the best habits that you may take forward to other months of the year.
A time for family
Iftar/sehri is a time for family and community. Ramadan teaches us to give thanks for our many blessings and provides an opportunity to share these experiences by coming together in the sharing of a wonderful meal. The sense of togetherness is truly uplifting. As we gathered to break the fast of Ramadan, it was comforting to know that Muslims all around the world were joined in deep spiritual reflection. Underlying Ramadan are the values of empathy, generosity and discipline.
Had this been 10 years earlier, iftar at home was something we would have taken for granted. With the busy schedule that most of us are slaves to in the present time, an iftar outside home -- at work or with friends -- is a reality. Do spend time with friends and your colleagues but also remember the social structure that we grew up in. Make family your top priority without compromising on your social obligations.
Bond of kinship
You should be keener, during Ramadan, on being connected with your relatives, especially those whom the vicissitudes of life prevents keeping contacts with. Spend some money on getting reconnected with them. You may assign a little amount of money for this purpose. Imagine, this tiny sum of money could bring you together with all your relatives!
Make a note in your planner to spend a day with the disadvantaged strata of society. Maybe buy some nutritious iftar for the house-help and share it with them at their house. This will not only win you brownie points but also immerse your heart in happiness.
Try it. It works.
The dreadful grocery
Healthy eating does not start in your kitchen. It begins when you wheel your cart down the aisles of your local superstore. Having a well-organised, well-planned grocery list will not only get you in and out of the store quickly, it also will keep your healthy eating plan on track.
Making a weekly iftar/sehri grocery list ranks pretty high on everybody's list of most hated things to do. There are two ways of handling this, make a comprehensive list of must-haves for the entire month well before the month even starts; or you can do it regularly on a weekly, need-based basis.
Supermarkets/kitchen markets can be daunting places. With the recent awareness regarding toxic-chemical free food, make sure that whatever is served on your tables is fresh and nutritious.
No matter how much you try, the ongoing World Cup will create havoc on your family's eating habits given the nights you are spending wide awake. Munchies are a must-have along with drinks. But even the simplest of munchies can be healthy and tantalising for the taste buds.
Share kitchen space
Ramadan usually means extra cooking for most of the homemakers. Make a point to change that this Ramadan. Irrespective of whether you are having a family iftar/sehri or with some invited guests and friends, help your better half in the kitchen. This, done in the true spirit of Ramadan, will help you bond with your family. This will also help ease the workload of the homemakers and give them ample opportunity to seek Allah's blessings through performing tarawi and supererogatory prayers.
A month of sharing
Even before Ramadan begins, make a mental note of feeding people -- be it friends, neighbours, co-workers or even the menial staff in your apartment complex. Rather than taking the load on a single day, distribute iftar every day, in small amounts. This is better because any deed, no matter how insignificant it may seem, when done in regular intervals yields more spiritual benefit than one good deed done irregularly.
Catch up on your reading. No matter how busy you get during the month, pick a book -- religious, spiritual or simply soulful -- and make a mental note of finishing it by the end of this month. This will help you focus when the need arises along with providing the chicken soup for your mind, and soul.
You can squeeze in Eid shopping
Planning in advance helps you think about all of those things you wanted to do in time for the end of Ramadan or Eid last year but could not. Maybe you wanted to go Eid shopping for gifts for family and friends in the last week of Ramadan but were too busy with the last 10 nights of Ramadan. This year, you decide to go in the earlier week of Ramadan instead.
Make sure that you place your order at the tailor's place ahead of the busy schedule that you will undoubtedly face. Shops offering made-to-wear may run out of stock at the fag end of the month, so do your shopping early.
Making a travel schedule
Most of you will be travelling to your loved ones living in distant places from the cities. Make a mental note of making this journey trouble-free. Opt for low-risk travelling options like trains. However, even that can be a daunting experience in the last days of Ramadan.
Remember even an impulsive decision made at the last moment can prove costly.
It will be a tough month, with the long fasting hours. But if we can fully embrace the month and keep ourselves busy, the hours will not only be easier but also fruitful. Ramadan Karim.