You’re probably aware that a lunar year (comprised of a 12 lunar months) is shorter than a solar year by 11.25 days. The above disparity makes the lunar year mobile over the solar calendar. e.g. if Ramadan coincided with the month of august this year, it’s going to coincide with the month of July in a four years time. And with June in eight years time. And so on.
It also means that the last time Ramadan coincided with August was thirty-three years ago.
I’m actually not old enough to remember the last time Ramadan fell in August. But I do remember vivid and hot Junes and Mays. It was the first Ramadan I’d planned to fast completely. Prior to the month, I used to play football everyday after school; we’d shed our school uniforms (which was a girly dress with bottoms across the front end and with the color of a burned-earth) and move to the deserted road beyond the fenced playgrounds. We’d run and dive and kick and thrash around a football, and then trudge home. Tired but content.
I’d felt there was no reason why this routine should stop during Ramadan. But the moment I got home on the first day, I realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the world. I was extremely thirsty, and sunset time was still five hours away. After an hour of an immense struggle, I sneaked into the kitchen and turned on the water tap. A thin, cool stream of the Euphrates water swam across the sink from me. I hesitated. Mom was close by. I leaned forward and started gulping, slowly and embarrassingly at first, seized by a sense of foreboding. As if the water would be poisoned by the virtue of the sinful act. But soon the guilt wore off and the thirst was quenched. I retreated from the kitchen without alerting a soul.
But the shame came back looming over the dinner table later when I sat to share Iftar with the family, feeling like a traitor. I was the youngest and, although they’d not declared it, the grown-ups in the family were observing me from afar. Trying to assess how I’d fare. There’d been a talk before about my taking on the month and how I should approach fasting with responsibility and awareness. It felt like the a red Indian boy’s initiation into manhood. I couldn’t let the tribe down. The next day, I moved instinctively with the boys as we made our way to the deserted road after school. Half way through the usual time of playing, I became apprehensive about the loss of bodily fluids. When I got home I struggled longer, but eventually caved in. For the next couple of days I’d drink from a park before getting home. The treasonous act became planned and premeditated but I couldn’t keep the risk of being caught home with my mouth on the muzzle.
The following Friday was my day off from school, and I managed to complete my fast without transgressions.
I stopped playing football for the rest of month.