It was the month of Ramadan and my cousin Shadi and I had decided to fast. It was my first time but Shadi was a pro. I was about ten or eleven and Shadi was two years older. We were staying at our grandparents’ house.
I could hear the sound of the call of pray as I was being shaken awake. I pulled a blue mohair jumper with an orange butterfly on the front, over my red, Japanese style pyjamas (very popular with us kids back then) and crawled out from under the stairs.
Now to avoid any misunderstandings let me just explain that we were not made to sleep under the stairs by our cruel grandparents. No, it wasn’t like that. Usually we slept under the dining table like normal people. Well I say normal!
Basically it was during the bombings and my grandmother, Mamanjoon had got it into her head that the safest place for us all to sleep in was under the dining table. It was made of choobeh albaaloo (sour cherry wood) you see, which apparently is very strong.
‘You pack up every night and go and sleep in reinforced concrete shelters?’ I used to say to my friends at school, ‘Maybe you should think about investing in a sour cherry wood dining table.’
So when we stayed at our grandparents’, we all slept under the dining table. All except Madarjoon (Mamanjoon’s mother) that is. Madarjoon was far too old and far too sensible to leave her comfy bed in favour of sleeping under the dining table with me, my two cousins and our two grandparents.
I don’t know exactly what our bomb plan was really but I imagine it was something along these lines:
In the event of a bomb trying to enter the house, first Madarjoon would try to catch it and fling it out of the window.
If she failed to do this however, the bomb would then bounce off the dining table and that would be the end of that.
As you can see it’s quite a plan. Luckily we never had to find out exactly how foolproof it was. Anyway, back to the main story of my failed fasting.
So that night Shadi and I had moved to our own private quarters (under the stairs) so we wouldn’t wake the others when we woke up at dawn to start our fasting.
I slumped myself into a chair at the smaller, round dining table (that was still being used for eating purposes and not as a bunker on account of it being a bit flimsy and not quite big enough for all five of us to fit under)
As I sleepily shoved pieces of greasy aubergine omelette (that had been left out for us by Mamanjoon the night before) in my mouth, Shadi poured me a cup of tea from the flask and stirred in a couple of spoonfuls of sugar, talking non-stop, ‘We’re not doing this right but it’s ok. You’re not supposed to eat after the call of pray. Actually I don’t know…maybe you can eat all the way through the call of pray too in which case we should eat very fast. It shouldn’t matter though because it’s not our fault; our alarm clock didn’t go off. It’s lucky I woke up myself. Anyway I don’t think it matters. The important thing is that we wanted to do this so it’s ok. We will eat quickly and we’ll go to bed and we won’t tell anyone about this. Ok?’
I nodded. I was far too sleepy to have an opinion anything at the time.
A few hours later we woke up again and watched telly while the others had breakfast. A little past midday, I went home (which was about five minutes away) to get something. And within ten minutes of me arriving there, I had raided the fridge and scuffed a huge bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese.
The truth was I had found fasting quite boring and not at all the exciting spiritual experience that I thought it was going to be. I had expected to at least be able to levitate by lunchtime. However I did feel the exact opposite of that as soon as I told my cousin what I’d done. She was very disappointed in me. I said, ‘But it wasn’t going to count anyway, was it? Because we woke up late.’
‘It would have counted.’ She said, ‘Being a few minutes late wouldn’t have mattered, the important thing is that we wanted to do it.’
I hung my head in shame and sneaked upstairs to Madarjoon’s room. It had been another quiet night on Bomb Watch for her and I figured she could use some company.