Saturday, October 14, 2006

I fasted once. Twice really but it appears that one of the times will not count because I ate at lunchtime and that apparently is a big no-no.
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.


jarvenpa said...

You have such a talent for writing, Shirin, making us smile even as we realize--my goodness, there were real bombs, this isn't really funny.
As for fasting--as a child I was supposed...well, not to fast, but to celebrate Lent (in the spring, before Easter) by giving up something important for 40 days. One year I decided, with much reluctance, to give up chocolate--by far my favorite sweet. I religiously (so to speak) avoided chocolate bars and such. But an icecream treat was my downfall. I tried to pretend the chocolate coating didn't count...but I'm sure it did.

shadgoli said...

Oh my god, I sound terrible, but I guess that's older cousin for you. I have to say, the first bomb picture, looks somewhat suspicious!!

Amir Sharifi said...

Hi Shirin,
I was wondering if you would have a story to write about fasting!!...
The visual aids did really give it more dramatic effect. I love the bouncing backward bomb … :O)
Very funny and nicely write post again.

Anonymous said...

Shirin, I know exactly what you mean. The one day that I fasted, I was also at my madarjoon's house. My mum told me to sleep all day so that I dont use much energy and don't get hungry. It was such a boring day...actually if i remeber right what you did is called the gondjeshki fasting and is (was) much more fun!

Shirin said...

Oh that’s so sweet Jarvenpa. I’m sure a little chocolate mixed in with ice cream doesn’t count and even if it does, forty days is a very long time, I’m sure one is allowed one small mistake in all that time.

What are you talking about Shadgoli? You were great. I was the one who spoiled our fasting together. I’ve always felt quite bad about that actually. And even worst; I wasn’t even hungry and I still ate :-(

Thanks Amir :-) Yes I seem to have a story for every occasion!

Yes M, we call that Kalleh-gonjishki too. That was definitely a much better way of doing it. So did you really stay in bed for a whole day then? That sounds terrible. Maybe your mum was trying to put you off fasting!

Minoo said...

Hi, you made me laugh so much this morning. The dinning table was to prevent glass hurting you. People will think your granparents are crazy.

Shirin said...

Hi Minoo :-) I don’t really think you need to worry about things like that here. I’m quite sure all the visitors of this blog know by now that they should always take my writing with a pinch of salt.

Anonymous said...

I didnt stay in bed. I was on the talar the whole day and my aunt took the companion part of your cousin it wasnt to bad.

negar said...

haha, that's a great story.i just love the illustrations.
one time during the month of ramezan - this was when i was 8 and insisted on fasting despite my parents' disapproval - i came home from school and completely forgot that i was fasting. i sat down and treated myself to a yummy shirini nokhodchi. as soon as i swallowed it i remembered that i was fasting so being a kid i started crying. then my sister came home and told me that it's ok since i had forgotten (i bet she just made that up because i was crying) eversince on days that i get hungry i hope that somehow i forget that i'm fasting and eat a whole sandwich before i remember. it has never happened though. who says you lose your memory as you get older?

Anonymous said...

Shirin, your artwork is SO charming. Please continue to include it. Have you published anything in English?

The Spring Breeze said...

Awesome story! And I love the part about your Madarjoon being on Bomb Watch... Loved the illustartiosn too. Very nicely done!

Shirin said...

That doesn’t sound too bad Marieh. But I get the feeling that was your first and last fasting.

Ooh noon nokhodchi, I used to love those. I pray for you to start losing your memory soon so you can eat your sandwiches or better yet eat your way through a whole month of Ramezan without remembering that you were supposed to be fasting. Actually that’s a bit extreme. Maybe for now just the odd sandwich here and there will be enough.

Thanks Atmikha. There’s some stuff on here
and I have some Christmas cards that are coming out next year :-)

Thanks Spring Breeze ;-)

bijan said...

Hi Shirin,

I am new to your blog. Your blogs are very intersting and funny. My sister Mojgan told me about you. Since I enjoyed your stories so much, I must now catch up and read some of your archives. I grew up and know Saeed Shojania (in S.D. USA now) and know some of the other Shojanias. I don't remember your dad, but do remember your grandmother (Monavar Saramd.) By the way, we are relatives too. I came to US a long time ago and have been living in California ever since (before you were born.)

Shirin said...

Hi Bijan
Wow this is very exciting. I remember your mother Mehri khanoom well. I used to see her at my grandparents’ place and Iran-malek khanoom’s (Mahdavi). When you think about it we’re quite close really. Cousins twice removed? Something like that. Anyway it’ll be very nice to get to know you more through blogging.

bijan said...

Hi Shirin
You're right. We are 'second cousins' or something like that. I'm not much of a blogger, but I know I'll enjoy reading yours. I'll try to leave comments when I have something to say.

bijan said...

I only have one story about fasting. I never fasted but some of my friends in high school in Iran did. I used to tease everyone and draw a picture of a BBQ chicken on the blackboard at lunch time.

Shirin said...

Hee hee, that’s just mean ;-)

Hawkinsdfok said...

Hi, you made me laugh so much this morning. The dinning table was to prevent glass hurting you. People will think your granparents are crazy.

Jenkinsmnws said...

Hi Bijan Wow this is very exciting. I remember your mother Mehri khanoom well. I used to see her at my grandparents’ place and Iran-malek khanoom’s (Mahdavi). When you think about it we’re quite close really. Cousins twice removed? Something like that. Anyway it’ll be very nice to get to know you more through blogging.