By Mariam Mazhar
Nothing in this world makes me miss my home country Pakistan more than the holy month of Ramadan. It makes me nostalgic and brings back wonderful memories of fasting and feasting for a whole month.
While I appreciate the fact that Canada has a big Muslim population – we have quite a number of mosques and Muslim cultural centers – but nothing makes it comparable to Ramadan in a Muslim country. The readers who have migrated to Canada from Middle East, KSA or South Asia will definitely agree with me.
Here are few things that I miss about Ramadan in Canada.
Muezzin’s Call for Prayer
I miss it throughout the year and have finally come in terms with the Azaan App. However, it is not comparable to the ‘real’ call for prayer five times a day. In Ramadan I miss the’ signals’ announced from the mosque close to Suhoor and those joyous announcements to break the fast.
The Feast at Suhoor and Iftar
Growing up in a big family, Suhoor and Iftar times were not less than a feast. Suhoor menu included fresh parathas (flat fried breads) and varieties of eggs. A lavish menu used to be set by my mom even before the start of Ramadan, for Iftar and dinner – Iftar time meant happy family time. In Canada, I know of some families who do not get to break their fast together due to late and night shifts so Ramadan is different for them.
We have all sort of satellite channels and many of them telecast Ramadan Transmission in North America as well, but I still recall and miss the special Ramadan transmission shown on television channels in our childhood. I sometimes recite those Naats and Nasheeds to myself and they take me down the memory lane.
I really miss the fresh and greasy samosas, pakoras and kachoris that could be bought fresh, right out of the wok! No matter how much frozen and fresh varieties are available here, nothing compares to last minute shopping from crowded street vendors.
Deserted Streets at Iftar Time
I remember at Iftar time, the streets would get deserted as everybody would want to have Iftar with their family or at least would try to reach their desired destination before the Azaan. Life would come to a halt for few minutes with the call of prayers. Here things keep running as usual.
Iftar for Neighbors
Growing up I remember my grandmother preparing extra snacks and sweets to be sent to neighbors for Iftar. And almost every evening, few minutes before the sun would set we would wait for somebody to ring the doorbell and drop off yummy treats from one of the neighboring houses. I particularly miss that here in Canada.
Shorter Working Hours
In almost all Muslims countries offices, businesses, schools and other institutions close early in observance of Ramadan. That means shorter working hours so people can have more time to pray and rest while fasting. Similarly working hours would be different on Fridays so people could attend Jumuah prayers during Ramadan. These are luxuries not to be found in Canada.
Salah in mosques
The mosques are usually busier and crowded in Ramadan as compared to other months as people try to pray Salah in the mosque. Even here in Canada, Muslims try and make an effort to pray Salah at mosques but it is not as convenient as in Muslim countries where mosques would be just around the corner. Most often we have to drive some distance to get to our nearest mosques.
In recent years I have noticed lots of Eid fairs and bazars happening in almost all major cities of Canada. These fairs have almost everything available for last minute Eid shopping. They start from the beginning of Ramadan and continue till after Eid, thus giving a chance for families to witness festivities and celebrations outside their homes. However, it still makes me miss the hustle and bustle on the streets in Pakistan during last few days of Ramadan. Last minute shopping trips, bargaining over the price of bangles, hunting for matching sandals and the traffic jams made Ramadan and Eid special back in Pakistan.
Last but not the least I miss Eid festivities at the end of the holy month. Eid is not the same for Canadian immigrants whose families are continents away and for them celebrating Eid means making special phone calls and Skype conversations. I miss celebrating Eid with my loved ones.
I miss Ramadan in Pakistan but now that Canada is my home I still look forward to it every year. There is much I miss but there are many other things that can make Ramadan in Canada special as well, for our kids as well as us.
About the author:
Mariam Mazhar is a teacher by profession, with a passion for kids, cakes and creative writing.