I finally decided to take advantage of the various Iftari offers being bombarded at me everyday in the newspaper. Being very choosy, I carefully weighed the pros and cons of each offer, knowing there’s always a catch and nothing is ever ‘free’ in this country. The ‘all you can eat’ offers were tempting, but for a person like me, I can never eat too much, not even after opening my fast. Besides, for me to break even, yes I did the calculations, I would have to eat a certain amount, which I knew right away I would never be able to reach, far less exceed. Not to sound sexist but offers such as these were mostly designed for the men of our country. But not to be outdone, women have their own ways of ploughing ahead, by stuffing one bite into their mouths and the second in their purses. Ah yes, the spirit of Ramazan is indeed ripe. The oft repeated “roza lag raha hai” line is heard by nearly all in the workplace, a useful excuse for a slip up. The groaning at the thought of another twenty something more days to go, till we can greedily fill our stomachs at any time of the day once again.
After a lot of thought I concluded that I should take advantage of one of the buffet offers. I reached well in time and was led to my seat by the beaming guy who leads people to their seats. Not Iftari time yet, but people had already started filling their plates and when I say filling I mean brimming to the top. I marveled how a man managed to balance his pakoras, kababs, chicken tikkas and several more non distinguishable edible items all squashed together in his plate, from the buffet room, meandering through the crowds and tables, to his seat.
I then made my way to the food, passing tables already filled with eats, their occupants anxiously glancing at their watches hoping time would move faster. In today’s world we constantly complain of how quickly time flies, and to see such scenes of people wanting their foremost complaint to materialize as quickly as possible was quite ironic. I carefully read the name of each item and started filling my plate with the ones I deemed appropriate. I had vowed not to eat any fried foods during this month and quite surprisingly I had managed to keep that promise to myself, till now. The tempting oily scenes before me made my fingers itch, all I had to do was stretch out….just one, I told myself, but the angel on my right shoulder tsk tsked and I leaned back. “But you’re paying for it!”, hissed the one on my left. At one of the most difficult crossroads of my life, I was saved by the bell, well the Iftari siren. I hurried back to my seat, followed by people who had already popped the first bite into their mouths whilst walking back to theirs. Indeed, what a trial this month is on us. A month in which food is supposed to take a back seat, yet we spend more time discussing it and housewives worrying about it, than we do in the other eleven months. We cross the line into gluttony and sloth. We use this month as an excuse to work less and sleep more.
Some people were already on their second helpings, sighing from the surfeit of food, yet filling their plates even more. I guess the cats will have a jolly good feast in the garbage dumps today, with half eaten chicken legs and fried fish which will undoubtedly be left behind when people ‘finish’ eating the mounds of food in their plates. There were waiters flittering about and the one responsible for my table was getting fidgety, I still hadn’t finished what was on my plate and he was just itching to take it away so I could get a brand new one. This is one habit I can’t stand whenever I go to any restaurant. Waiters hovering over you, waiting to pounce on your dirty plate. Why can’t they just let us finish eating in peace? What’s their hurry anyway? They just wait for you to put your spoon down so they can appear and with outstretched hands, ask if you’ve finished eating and whisk away your plate. And remember never to leave anything on your side plate you wish to eat after your second visit to the buffet table as that too would have vanished. My plate was almost empty, a waiter appeared and I quickly fiddled with my fork, he changed direction and kept walking but constantly threw covert glances my way.
So all in all it was a good meal, food is one thing we are indeed good at in this country, restaurants opening every week or so it seems, and good ones at that. And while it is no crime to indulge now and again, lets just hope the true spirit of this holy month is not lost in our worldly desires.