Welcome Ramadan

The sun was a slow-burning perfect sphere, slowly sinking into the horizon. As sung by Streisand, it was a ball of butter. With cheese; spices, curried. The sky was a pretty pale pink, the clouds were thin and languid, the air at 5PM Jakarta was still and as relaxed as can be.

The traffic, though, wasn’t as laidback. Today is the first day of Ramadan. Sunset was approaching, the long-awaited beating of mosques’ cow-skinned drums signifying an end to a blazing day of fasting. Many were still stuck in the mad dash from workplace to home or favorite restaurants, perhaps for hours already. Patience was thinning fast.

Ramadan fasting is always an interesting social phenomenon in Jakarta, capital of the nation with the largest Muslim population in the world. Pious believers might refrain from eating, drinking, swearing, and sex, but the same flock is thirst-and-hunger-stricken, certainly not indefatigable. As patience freefalls, streets are a mad sea of sharks where swerving motorbikes skid ambitiously like beastly bumblebees on overdrive. Aggressive honking is applied more liberally, allegro. Cars are jettisoned briskly over each others’ noses, attempting to defy physics and inch further away from the seemingly-inescapable chaos. None of the pedestrians are smiling: their eyebrows knotted, lips pouted, their gait rushed.

The sun might be staring down from its graceful descend with the understanding of a grandfather looking at his grandchildren’s raucous bustle.

I feel I should give up something for Ramadan this year. Sex drive, perhaps. Snacking, perhaps, and an increasingly unhealthy dependence on sugar. Impatience, too. For us mere mortals, murdering two vices abruptly under an external order, amid the pressing stress and unfriendly stream of the megapolitan’s murky waters, is one too many. It is important to manage our vices, but it is important to not acquire one in lieu of compensating for what we are not ready to relinquish.

It’s 6PM now when I finish this note and a magical transformation is visible: the streets are immediately tranquil and as soothing as the cooling air after the sun is set. I would love to head to the Ramadan street food fair in Bendungan Hilir and sample grassroot, humble delicacies there. May this Ramadan be a positive experience for us all

Mad rush-hour dash in Jakarta -- commonplace and even worse before Ramadan's iftar
Mad rush-hour dash in Jakarta — commonplace and even worse before Ramadan’s iftar

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