Monday, May 20, 2019

Rites and Rituals

Politics and religion. Two subjects I usually avoid on this site. After all, angry political and religious posts are what Facebook is for. However, since I am living in what is considered a "moderate Muslim" country I want to share my experiences and what will be my biased views on these experiences. Will I offend some people? Probably, but just because you are offended does not make you right.

We are now two weeks in to Ramadan. Ramadan is a month is spent by Muslims fasting from dawn to sunset. Now some perspective on this fasting ritual. Yes, during daylight hours a Muslim will not consume and food or water. Cool, stay committed to your beliefs.  Here in Dhaka the sun rises at 5:13 am and sets around 6:40 pm based on the day I write this post. Naturally those times shift a minute or two every day. Therefore, you ree not eating or drinking for 12 hours which is not, I repeat not an epic challenge. Most of us eat out of boredom or habit and we over eat to boot. Here, you would think it was the start of the Zombie Apocalypse. Teachers and students not showing up to school because they are too weak, dizzy and of course so very tired. All on day one.

Here is where it is interesting. Worshipers wake up at 3:00 am to eat Suhoor, but do not call it breakfast. They eat rice, chicken and vegetables and drink milk and yogurt. Then they have a short prayer and go back to bed. After sunset they have Iftar, but do not call it dinner. Iftar is called the breaking of the fast, and boy do people break their fast. I have been to a few and people gorge themselves. Iftar is a huge restaurant promotion where the food is twice as expensive as normal. Kind of like New Years' Eve in the West. People also drink lots of water and juice plus they have been known to sit at a table eating for 3 and 4 hours. I did go to a buffet one night with a mixed crew from the school. Iftar was at 6:37 pm. We went to the buffet and selected our food and returned to our seat. Taking the lead from Lisa Molla, our VP of Admissions, we sat patiently until the call to prayer which announces the time to eat. The entire restaurant just sat waiting. I admire the dedication. When the call to prayer happened not a word was spoken. The only sound being cutlery hammering on china plates. It was actually a nice moment of observation of the dedication of these people to their faith.

So let's review. Fasting occurs during daylight hours. Muslims get up at 3:00 to eat. The also eat for hours when the sun goes down. I appreciate the dedication to your faith but tell me again how you are suffering when you actually eat more in a day than you would normally. It is just at different times and with massive portions. I participated for the first 10 days. Yes I got "peckish" around noon and yes come dinner time I was really hungry but I managed to contain my gluttony. No I did not wake up at 3 am to eat. I went without. Full disclosure I did drink water.

Here is a fun fact. One of the students from my grade 4 class went to the hospital for dehydration and stayed there for 2 days.
**Note to parents. If your child is being hospitalized because of your religious beliefs you might want to rethink their participation**.

I am sure the locals who have started reading this blog will be angry with me, and I would expect no less. Every religion gets angry with anyone who does not buy into their rites and rituals as the standard bearer.  To paraphrase prince Ea's take on religion.."My God is all powerful and all loving and if you do not believe in him, I will kill you".

History is filled with wars and genocide that were waged by all faiths and religions. I am not ranting on religion. If I did this post would be an 80,000 word PHD thesis. I am just making an observation of one of the many rituals of Islam. Next up is the end of Ramadan which is EID. This is the official breaking of the fast. It is also when most people travel to their hometown for a week to celebrate with their families. Very much like the Chinese New Year. Get out of the way because the masses are about to hit the rails.

Have a look at these videos, it should tell the story. This is very real in Dhaka during holiday travel If you want to be entertained and/or horrified do a YouTube search on EID travel in Bangladesh. Hundreds of people die every year trying to fill every available inch on trains, buses and boats to get home to their villages. These are the ones that are reported.  Nobody would even think of waiting a day, let alone two when it would be normal travel, that would be unheard of. It is EID, you MUST travel on the first day. I will stop here because I will only start insulting these people.

I have 9 days off for EID and I am going to stay put. I was thinking of taking a bus to Syhlat in the North East but I am not prepared to die for my adventure. I will go to the main train station on the 31st, the first day of EID. I am going to find a "safe-ish" place, well away from any train or tracks. From here I am going to observe humanity in motion. The Chinese New Year was a complete overload of my senses, but it was orderly. Would you expect anything less from the people of the  Middle Kingdom? I do not think I am fully prepared to comprehend what I am about to witness here in Dhaka.

Last year 405 people died on roads, rails and waterways during EID festival travel according to the Dhaka Tribune.  Yes, I know people get killed in Canada during our holiday weekends, especially on the any stretch of road leading to cottage country in Ontario. The same mentality exists. Leave on a Friday during rush hour with everyone else and drive like the road belongs only to you. There is no reason whatsoever to wait even a few hours, let alone leave early on Saturday morning. The same, but different right? 

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