Here we are again; the toughest, hardest, most blessed, bestest month of the year. Consider it ritual, consider it redemption, consider it habit, consider it a challenge, consider it a marathon - it's the one to dread, the one to embrace.
It's the month of fasting. Days of abstinence from eating, from drinking, from sexy thinking. Nights of naughty feasting. And at the end of it a cleansing, a renewal, a reaffirmation, a rebirth and whopping great pat on the back - accompanied by an extra large Whopper I should think, with lashings of cheese, and do go ahead and upsize me. I deserve it!
Except it's not the end yet. But we've passed the one-third mark. 'What is it like,' I'm sometimes asked, 'this fasting gig?' I tend to break it down into three sections: hard (read: unthinkably impossible), easy (carry-through momentum) and an enduro (the unbearable final furlong).
The first ten days the body reacts by recoiling in horror at the bizarre waking and sleeping timings, the sudden gobbling of grub, followed by the long periods of draining emptiness. Your physical form retaliates with headaches, nausea, lethargy and enough internally generated gas to power a fleet of CNG taxis. It's kind of like severe jet lag, without the lag, or the jet, unless we're counting your own afterburner.
In the second part, the body exhausts its armoury and sort of concedes that no matter what it throws at you, your resolve is unstinting - a truce is reached and a level of adaptation is achieved. By the end of 20 days you're lulled into thinking that this really isn't so bad.
Then the dramatic third act arrives and the body wails and hams it up big time, demanding an end to such intense and upsetting proceedings and a return to some semblance of what is deemed normalcy most days of the week. Enough! No more. Let there be release.
Fasting in Ramadan ain't easy. It's not meant to be. It's about experiencing empathy for fellows less fortunate through genuine, if only temporary, hardship. But if all of the above sounds bad, it's nothing compared to what we're going through this year.
See Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar which moves 11 days back each year. So over the years it moves from cool weather and shorter days to now: 15-hour days and furnace-like weather conditions in my home station of the UAE, but over 20 hours in some parts of the world - yeah that leaves just four hours of normalness.
Truth be told, it really isn't that bad most years, the lack of munching opportunities I can personally cope with, it's the not drinking water that gets to me a little. But this year, it's not just hardship, it's downright dangerous. Daytime temperatures are soaring to near 50 degrees C, and it's still over 40 at night, when there's a humid still air that's barely breathable. Dehydration's a killer don't you know?
And yet I still say I'm lucky. I can mostly work from home, I don't have to go out most days. But others are out there fasting and working all day long. And then there's the 20-plusers in Europe - that's a real endurance. But many are sticking with it nonetheless.
So you tell the body to shut up and deal with it, put your systems on go-slow minimal output and just idle along. Nobody's forcing me to do it but my inner self. As for the body, it gets its revenge too - by adding unaccountable inches to your waistline despite the long barren days. Okay, that's probably the overindulgence at fast-break when you go at it like a man starved of heavenly manna, which you are, and it is. Time to get some new pants for Eid, I think.
This post first appeared on Shahzad's personal blog, and can be read here