Yesterday When We Were Young - October 9 2007
What is it about nearing the end of Ramadhan that it often takes me back decades?
This happens every year. Well, every year after I turned 40, to be exact.
It often takes me back to Jalan Lembah in Section 5, Petaling Jaya where we lived from 1960/1 to 1968. It was our second home since coming over to Malaya from Singapore.
I remember joyful Ramadhans. Not that they are never anymore. They still are as we celebrate and observe the holy month with our own families.
I have pinned it down to age -- ageing.
I suppose as we grow older, with a parent and two siblings gone forever, you get a little misty and reflective.
I'd like to say that those were the good old days but that would mean that days now are no longer so and that is not true because they are.
Well then...those were innocent carefree blissful days because we were young with nary a care. Even having to pass exams fitted nicely into our scheme of things. I don't remember my parents breathing down our necks for us to get straight As. But, aah.... times are different now. Competition is tough.
My poor kids.
I remember that I began "berpuasa" (fasting), I think, when I was 10 or 11. Even then, I "ponteng" a few days. But, it was never an issue.
Which was why when I began to notice how kids these days started fasting at such a young age, I was surprised, to say the least.
My parents never forced us to fast when we were children. I think it must have been the same for many families then. Perhaps today too.
Because of my own experience, I never forced my own children to fast when they were little.
And like most children, these days, they need not have to be forced to begin fasting. They just do, sooner or later. And like I said, it is usually sooner.
However, I know of some people who literally force their kids, as young as four or five, to fast. I say "force" because that's what it is. "Paksa".
I think that's wrong. I used to tell them so but these days I just shut my mouth. But, if looks were telling, then, they know.
I think encouraging children to understand and appreciate fasting and what it is all about is good. I, personally, would want them to do so at their own pace and their own time. Of course, there is a limit to the grace period, and if they still do not understand and want to do it at 13, then, I think I'd be a little tough on them. For their own good, you know.
When my siblings and I were little, our parents never told us to fast because, when the time came, we did.
We just saw how the grown-ups did it. And we found how even a simple meal tasted devilishly good after a day of fasting.
A glass of water tasted like milk....or sweet grape juice by the time we "buka puasa".
I've told this story before about how my son, Adel, began fasting. I shall tell it again.
He was about six years old.
One day during Ramadhan he told me he wanted to fast.
I asked him why.
"Nak sama-sama Mummy," he said.
I said he would still "sama-sama Mummy" whether or not he was fasting.
Besides, he was too young and he didn't have to. Allah will understand, I said.
"Allah nanti marah, ke kalau Adel puasa?" he asked.
Of course not, I said.
"Allah sayang Adel, ke, kalau Adel puasa?"
Of course, He does, I said, a little worried about where the line of questioning was leading to in case I did not have the right answer.
I said Allah understands if little children cannot and do not fast.
"But I want to. Like you and Bapak and Mama and kakak Ana and kakak Ani, Datuk and (oh, just about everyone)......."
I actually discouraged him at first but then, why should I? Why don't I just let him have a go.
Waking him up for sahur was hard. For me not for him.
He was sleepy but acted macho, as though he'd done it before. Like it was nothing to him.
When he began his day of fasting, I never quite left him in peace to carry out his ibadah, as it were.
I kept asking him whether he was okay, whether he was thirsty or hungry.
At one point, I asked him whether he wanted to break his fast.
His six year-old eyes glared at me. I think he was irritated and had had about enough of his smothering mother.
"Tak nak. Adel tak nak buka. Adel nak puasa. Adel tak lapar. Adel tak haus."
So there, mummy!
With a heavy heart, I left him to complete his fast but not without quietly checking on him, every now and again. Of course, much to his ire and consternation.
I knew he was a little hungry, perhaps. And thirsty.
But he had a mission to complete.
And "Adel dah besar, mummy!" Ok. Ok, sayang.
Well, they don't make kids like they used to. That's a fact.
While there are children who are not ready to fast, but are forced to by their parents, there are those as young as four or five who have already begun fasting, and not at their parents' insistence.
They do it so willingly and steadfastly, I feel really humbled by that.
I never fasted when I was six. Well, not actually. I often intended to like the adults in the family but invariably I'd succumb to the wafting aroma of sambal tumis or ikan goreng.
Neither Bapak nor Mak ever insisted, pestered or hounded us to fast when we were young.
They didn't have to. In time, we just did because it was a wonderful experience. Unsurpassed.
When we were little, Kak Eda and I would tell Mak confidently that we were fasting on that particular day.
"Aah... puasa yang yok, eh?", she'd teased.
"Uh-uh... pagi-pagi buka periok," we'd happily holler back.
Oh...yes. Those wonderful Ramadhan days when I -- when we were young.
(Missing Mak, Kak Piah and Kak Eda this blessed Ramadhan!
By the way, did you get the feeling that last night was special? Aaah.... just a feeling.)