I was still taking my time to settle in a whole new place, the hectic school routine and a totally different culture, when I realized that the Islamic month of Ramadan had already arrived. Ramadan is a time when Muslims fast and focus on self-reformation and enlightenment.
One of the so many things you take away from this month is that you begin to appreciate the food and water more. You have to survive on whatever you had at “Suhoor” (dawn) till “Aftar” (sunset), and that is some waiting, more so in summers. And it’s only at the end of a long day that you realize even an ordinary glass of water is also a “manna from heaven”. You wonder what life would be without these taken-for-granted blessings; food and water. The day brings you the feeling of compassion for those who may not be as lucky as you are; who are just living to tell the tales of wars, poverty, famine and drought. You rekindle the spirit of reaching out to others who are less fortunate, and contribute towards making the world a better place. And then, there are other aspects of fasting that make you a whole better person. You are required to abstain from swearing, gossiping, back-biting, getting angry and other negative feelings. You master the art of controlling your emotions that equip you with the ability to deal with challenging situations.
This was my first Ramadan away from home. I was used to totally different concepts associated with this month back home. There, people prefer to stay home rather than carrying out with their usual routines, even the work hours are relaxed and shorter, and surely the productivity takes some hit. Not until this time did I realize that Ramadan is actually a very productive time of the year. There is no time to waste on lunch, snacks or coffees. Without being worried over the food, I found it easier to concentrate on my studies and work. True, I did not take much joy in watching people around me eat and drink. True, at times I had to break the fast at campus while working on the team projects. True, most of my aftar dinners were without pakoras (a very popular and – I must say – indispensable dish for aftar meals in our part of the world). But, all that helped me develop enduring patience and self-discipline.
The last week of Ramadan was specially very intense. I was working on my individual assignments and the team case projects at the same time, with mid-term exams looming just around the corner. And in the midst of this academic workload storm, I celebrated my first Eid in US. This is the biggest festivity of Islamic year, and I was glad to spend the day with my sister who lives in New Jersey. This day is usually associated with many traditions; new clothes, Eid Prayers, special dishes, exchanges of gifts, and friends and families get-togethers, and it was no different here. It’s remarkable how the time flies on an Eid day, but is in fact proportional to the fun you have. Perhaps, this was the break I needed after a tough overwhelming month of studies and MBA activities. As Isak Dinesen would say; “Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way”. And with Eid fever over, I travelled back to College Park with refreshed mind and revitalized spirits aiming to do well for my first exams.