Illustration: Aalif Noor Bin Ghias
It was 1954; Dacca. The summer and Ramadan vacation of our school started together. It was summer. The sun was glowering. I was a student of class III; a boy of 7.
There was not much to do for the boys before and during Ramadan. We went out into the school playground. We played cricket with a wooden bat and tennis ball. Or when there was nothing we soiled on the ground with a game of marbles!
Soon, the Ramadan moon was sighted. Ramadan was to begin from tomorrow (4 May 1954). Folks in my nearby Nanabari with my two unwed Khalas were preparing for Sehri. The busyness infected the small boy. I became inquisitive; eager to take part in Sehri. I dozed but found out with my sleepy eyes that most of them were awake.
They got up for sehri. Meantime the Qasida singer Akram crossed our area calling on the faithful to get up for sehri with his finale melodious call Akram duaakarchalea la Mohammad Rafi. Whenever Ramadan comes I still pinefor Akram to revive the time. Sehri dishes were served, rice and chicken curry, fried egg and omelets. The aged were taking rice with milk and banana. I squeezed in the corner!
My mother hectored me to go to sleep. I would not – I am fasting tomorrow! My Nani pleaded that let the kid take a try, if he succeeds it will be his first fasting. My mother relented and let me have rice and chicken curry. I relished it much and with so much of enthusiasm. O! I can tell my school friends that I was a Rojadar!
After sehri I did not have a wink of sleep and got up early. As a new Rojadar I was feeling breezy! During breakfast time my Nani told me an easy way out of the rigours of fasting; that of keeping my Roza in an earthen pot and take something to see through the blazing sun. She could not wheedle me to acquiesce to her ploy!
I was feeling BIG! I was fasting for the first time. Most of my friends were fasting. When they asked me if I was fasting, my confident reply was – I WAS!!
I returned home. My spirit was sinking! The heat was unbearable! There was not a wisp of cloud in the sky. The sun was beating down with unremitting hostility. My thirst would rip me open. Every moment was a trial. I could not take it any longer, yet I stuck on!
A drop of water! I took a table spoonful of water and gurgledit to make the thirst bearable. A handloom towel also helped. I soaked it in water; placed it on my crown and rubbed my face. It was 3 in the afternoon. The hours would not go. Indeed water is life! As a boy of 7 I understood that mid-afternoon is a tyrannical time.
All this time I was asking myself could I make it to Iftar? I learned time goes on. My folks were unjustly critical of my mother. Meantime Iftar dishes had been sent to nearby Star mosque. There were special iftar items for the youngest boy in the family - sutli kebab, paratha, dates, banana, dahika sherbet (drink of sweetened curd), jilapi, piyaju, beguni and yes muri. He was fasting for the first time! I retiredto the bed hoping that the call of Maghrib prayer would soon be wafting in the air.
O! Yes! The hour did come! In 1954 the first of Ramadan did come to an end, the sun went down; the muezzin's Maghrib call was wafting around and the iftar was mine to share with my folks!
Belief is in fact a test of will. For every success if it is to reach its goal of enduring value nothing can be reached without belief -Be it scaling a mountain braving a desert or overcoming an adversity!