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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Getting Through The Stress Of Ramadan

"If there's a season to be jolly, it is when temperature's soaring, and days restrained for sobriety and night in  utmost   revelry."

It is no sign of great famine ahead. The swarm of people jostling their way out of the cash counter at every supermarket is no sight of wonderment. These are people over-buying and over-stocking in over excitement for the Ramadan season. This has been the scenario all over Jeddah even prior to the commencement of the Holy Month (and I guess all over the Muslim world). As we all know, Ramadan is the most exciting month in the Islamic calendar in terms of tradition and degree of celebration.  It is the month when Muslims fast from dusk till dawn.  It is also the best time of the year for those who want to do good deeds and give alms to the needy because the 'merits or rewards' are  more than ten times when you do them in Ramadan, say their teachings.

On my nth Ramadan spent here in the Gulf, I've been accustomed to the level of importance this season brings to all. The extreme heat and humidity of summer  will guarantee no excuse to those who are determined to complete their vows or risk (forfeiting) the merits and rewards. You will not be spared from experiencing an air of solemnity and 'holiness' even at work. On several occasions, I've been asked by some of our Arabic staff whether I do fast or not. When I replied, I do not, the stare would be too unforgiving as though I deserved hanging for a crime against humanity. In the instance that I say I do, I would almost be complimented with a hug. Bizarre? Not at all, it's just a matter of getting used to it.

In the Mideast, Ramadan is marked by a tradition of  festivities. The mood becomes vibrant at night when hordes of people throng the malls, supermarkets, and gold souks. It is a tradition of ditching older possessions for new ones such as clothes, gadgets, furnitures or even kitchen wares. Study shows expenditures by every household even on non-essentials sometimes is incongruous with the family's income. And that  leaves one in awe at the sheer extravagance in spending habits by the locals. Those who've been doing it all their lives have it all figured out and know tradition can sometimes become a liability. The jolly mood of Ramadan gradually turns to a nightmare for some, when loansharks start to signal payback time at astronomical gains.

Speaking of shopping indulgence that consumes most of Ramadan activities,  them that are perennial  mall habitues don't seem to find solace with little to carry that some just freak out  when told of  'sizes sold out'. I remember Ramadan 2006 in one of our stores in Jeddah, when two lady customers had almost settled the score on the floor for a last piece find. Some could be too petty and get provoked easily. Others readily spew a mouthful. It's really odd how a rapacious shopper  mercilessly rummages through the well-arranged  clothes and leaving trails of destruction. Still our duty entails a spine-ful of floor recovery of the falling-and-trampled-over items, left at the wake of voracious black-clad invaders. A sip of water foregone, throats dried up, not letting up the energy as swarm of customers fill every space. The very scenario of sheer chaos especially in the last two weeks of Ramadan already terrifies me.  Good thing is, little daunting this season may be, but a little reward too can be somewhat appeasing when our boss gives out his Zakat to us employees.

To us workers in retail sector, Ramadan season poses a minor challenge to our patience and also our health. A day would come without respite from truckloads of delivery that could potentially break your spine, aggravated by the slow-motion work mode by our colleagues, who would banner their cause in your face - that of them solemnly fasting. That used to be the generally accepted rationale and so who the heck am I to cast doubt on the 'logic'? But not until this moron was able to smart out some decent argument that provided him a bit of relief. "How one goes hungry when at the break of dawn he had his fill as if there is no more tomorrow?" (This was a subtle joke laughed at by sheepish subordinates that was taken to be funny.) I couldn't care less though getting little respite from the month-long stressful and fatiguingly workload of Ramadan.

Another struggle is how to be sensitive and at the same time respectful of their culture. Learning some tricks (though instinctively) can help too. I'm a bit loath to do a narration of the ugly and stinky, but experience-wise they are no hyperbole springing up from nowhere;  yes,  literally they can be felt and serves as a test of one's olfactoric stamina. Understandably, I am privy to the wake-up boycott of gargling and  freshing up of some oral cavity by our staff, (the dusk till dawn principle also applies), and so it is best to avoid unnecessary conversations; that might mean I'm being a snob, but trust me on this one. Not that I'm being mean;  just trying to beat the oddities of the day till order is restored :-)

For the pleasure of finding productive outlet from the routinary draining cycle of work and home, I had recently enrolled in a training program every Friday which is my off-day. Tons of study materials are yet to be browsed from the net. Thursdays would still  be inadequate. All I knew was, the goals I had were sketchy, whether I am into this seriously, or just for killing the time that already proved oppressive to both my health and pocket :-) But I always had my instinct to rely on, I'm pursuing it and no turning back. I think there are a pack of reasons  to get motivated to. I just hope this Ramadan, I won't be called to travel outside of Jeddah and miss my class. A little bit  nervous for the Basic Life Support exams next week at King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital. Fingers crossed, I hope and pray, this Ramadan ends on a positive note. Inshallah!


Eileen Arboleda-Orbeta said...

... thank you for bringing Jeddah near to us and for giving us a glimpse on how Ramadan is being celebrated... the funny thing is, your description already made me smell the people around and i vividly saw how they shop and hoard goods for the sake of an all year round prosperity...???... does that really make sense?... well, who am i to judge anyway.

NFB said...

Thank you Ate Eileen for visiting my blog, it's really nice to see you around. Just trying to make use of the little free time before this blog goes into hibernation in the coming weeks. Hayyy Ramadan makapoy guid ya! :-)

Pepe Cabrera said...

Eventhough there's a lot of work during Ramadan, I really love our schedule.I love the longer hours of sleep and we go to work at 2PM. Although I hate the fact that Ramadan falls at the peak of Summer. It's so hot and humid!

Anonymous said...

I think the Pink Tarhas are among those shopping frenzied masses. ^^

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