Come Ramazan and a fistful of Muslim friends slip into different modes. Those who do not fast migrate to London or New York to avoid scrutiny by the moral police. Those who fast do so merely as a formality. Fasting is practiced because it needs practising, and not because it stems from the heart. There is a third category that turns puritanical. As if to make up for being less than stellar Muslims during the rest of the year, they redeem themselves by becoming ludicrously holier-than-thou, so much so that you want to disown them. The month, ostensibly meant to be about hardship and restraint, is now about excessive, conspicuous consumption, empty religious rhetoric and false morality.
Though this is by no means a generalisation, I am relaying what I have observed first-hand and can vouch for. After waking up grudgingly for sehri, they go to bed following fajr, sleep through the day and wake up around noon (or even after that) only to evade hunger pangs, thereby offsetting the harshness of a real fast. After a few hours of listless working, begins the maddening countdown to iftar. The famished souls descend like hungry wolves on an obscene smorgasbord of culinary delights at home or in a restaurant. The feasting and partying continue till late; in some cases, followed by a grand breakfast, before the fasting resumes in the early hours.
Those who are abroad and fast, visit clubs and bars, and even smoke and drink at night. But to curtail the guilt they’ll have just a peg or two, instead of binge drinking. The paranoia about getting snapped in a picture that features even a stray glass of wine in the same frame is intensely amusing. Fearing a possible backlash, friends often ask me not to photograph them against a bar, while women in short dresses will caution me to crop the picture at the right point before uploading it on social media. Many I know are not even particular about sexual abstinence. Unarguably there is a pious section that observes Ramazan in an appropriate manner, but with changing times, much of what I appear to be observing around me is indulgence, hypocrisy and superficial religious fervour.
Too much hot air
Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change (it’s the first that I’ve heard of such a portfolio), Senator Mushahidullah Khan has accused the coal-powered plants in Rajasthan (India) of being instrumental in causing the blistering heatwave in Karachi that killed thousands. He added that if the trans-boundary pollution was proven, he would escalate the matter to the UN.
I think the only hot air is the one that’s coming from the senator. He is yet another addition to the brigade of obsolete persons entrusted with ministerial posts. Concocting imaginative conspiracy theories and playing lame blame games is obviously widespread among Pakistan’s geriatrics. Is this what they mean by out-of-the-box thinking? Blame India for the heatwave, J&K flooding, cross-border terrorism and internal terrorism. While they’re at it, may as well add Karachi’s acute water shortage and electricity failure to the blame-India list. Sorry, but this unintentional stand-up comedy is getting a tad too predictable. Blame the US for drones, war on terror, not providing aid on time, and even intelligence failure that allowed Osama bin Laden to live in Pakistan, allegedly undetected for years. Janaab, you mustn’t duck when the chips go down. This government must take accountability for its abysmal failure in mitigating people’s sufferings rather than conning itself to believe that every failure must be someone else’s problem.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2015.
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