[ED’S NOTE: This article was published during Ramadan 2014. If any of you have fasting suggestions, please comment below! We may try to fast this year too.]
July 17th, 2014 – Hi. My name is UiHua, and I am a chinaman. This article will chronicle me doing two things for the first time: My first time fasting as well as my first time writing in first-person.
About 10 minutes ago, my editor asked if I wanted to write an article about fasting. I replied “But Chak, I already did!” to which he said “No, I want you to document yourself fasting. It would be interesting to see how someone who has never fasted before would go through it.”
“Okay Chak. But can I title it “Living Life on the Fast Lane”? ”
I had no further argument, so it looks like I’m starting tomorrow. I also found out later that he got the idea from our friends at Fake Malaysia News.
Aaaaaaaanyways…. here are a couple of things I feel I should mention first:
- I’ll be doing a full fast as per my understanding of Islamic fasting; including abstinence from sexual relations, swearing, slander, procrastination, and bad thoughts and intentions.
- I’ll be doing this for two days, Friday the 18th and Saturday the 19th just to cover a work day as well as a non-work day with the freedom to continue on if I wanted.
- What I’m documenting are my own thoughts and observations as well as those of people around me who know why I’m fasting. This probably won’t be generalized to everyone.
- I can’t function without coffee. I consume at least 3 cups of coffee a day.
- I smoke.
- I’m involved in theatre.
- I’m dependent on strawberry-flavored Ricola pastilles
- I won’t say that I think about sex every 6 seconds, but my mind tends to fall into the gutter (mmmm…gutterrrrrr- oh wait) whenever someone even says anything that sounds remotely dirty.
PRECONCEPTIONS BEFORE STARTING
- I don’t think food will be too much of an issue, but I’m concerned about the lack of cigarettes and coffee.
- This Friday will probably be my most unproductive day ever in my employment with CILISOS.
- I can see myself shoveling food and drink into my mouth once fast breaks.
- I’ll probably spend the weekend hiding in my room watching YouTube videos.
- It’s going to be a test of willpower more than anything.
TIMESTAMP COLOR LEGEND
BLUE for internal realizations/Aha! Moments
ORANGE for positive feelings
FUSCHIA for joy/happiness
DARK GREEN/BLACK (depending on how it appears on your screen) for transition moments
OLIVE GREEN for negative thoughts directed to other people
GRAY for negative thoughts directed to self
RED for anger
Alright, so here we go!
Friday, July 18th
5:15am : Following this schedule I’m wide awake and excited to start my first ever fast. And then I realize that I’ve forgotten to prepare food.
After some cupboard raiding, this will have to last me throughout the day:
I’m also drinking lots of water and smoking a little more than I should because it makes sense to “stock up” for the day ahead (Reflection: It doesn’t)
5:38am : 5……..4……….3……….2………1……….PUASAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!
5:39am : Going back to bed.
11:30am : Just woke up. Took a shower and stopped myself just in time as I was about to have my morning glass of water and probiotic pills.
1:15pm : Arrived at the temporary office (aka Editor’s house). Editor was nice enough to offer me coffee which I politely decline. I should probably note that our Editor makes really good coffee and provides us with liquid gold throughout the workday.
2:32pm : Colleague decides it would be funny to get my attention so I can watch her bite into a bun. I wasn’t hungry so I’m totally unfazed. However, I think that I might find myself getting annoyed had I been fasting for two weeks instead of a day.
2:34pm : Trying my best to not think naughty thoughts as the girls discuss the softness of their buns. However, I did write some of them down:
3:00pm : Watching Hari Raya ads on YouTube for an article next week. At least it doesn’t involve heavy research cause my brain feels like its swimming in a pool of thick soup. I’m not sure if it’s due to the lack of coffee, cigarettes, or both.
4:28pm : When you do a mental evaluation of how thirsty you are, you suddenly become more thirsty… so thirsty that the back of your tongue hurts every time you swallow. It’s probably worse than watching people drink in front of you. And in my case, they have been.
5:05pm : I’m sleepy and agitated. I’ve been nodding off while watching videos, but I don’t think anyone’s noticed since I’ve been (apparently) the quietest anyone’s ever heard me since I’ve started working here. And no inappropriate jokes either.
5:40pm : The temptation to cheat is so high. I’m not Muslim. I have no moral, religious, or cultural obligation to do this. I can just walk out to my car and grab a quick smoke. Walk to the bathroom and drink from the tap. Tell everyone to look away and make up the rest of this article. No one’s going to know.
Except for me. Next Raya video. Two hours to go.
5:46pm : Just as I think this, my colleagues tell me that it’s okay to cheat a little bit, since I’ve gone through most of the day and I look like crap. I shall persevere!
6:45pm : We pack up and leave for a buka puasa get together at a certain Tan Sri’s house. I’ve noticed that drivers who puasa drive worse during Ramadan, and I think I drove badly enough to warrant enough middle fingers to last a lifetime. At the same time though, it’s really hard to focus on what you’re doing when your mind and body are in this state of deprivation. I’m reminded of that saying where someone should not judge others till they walk a day in their shoes.
7:15pm : We just arrived and someone was nice enough to offer me a drink which I’ll be holding on to for what’s going to be the longest 6 minutes I’ve gone through in awhile.
7:21pm : BUKA PUASAAGAHAGAHAGHAGAAGAHAHAGAHAGGAA!!!! A can of Coke has never tasted so good. And a glass of water. And a cigarette. And another glass of water. I’m not hungry though. Not sure if this is normal, but I don’t feel like eating.
Day 1 Summary
Other than the oversight of not preparing a meal for myself in the morning, I think I got through the day pretty well. I’m quite surprised to find the lack of food not being an issue, but I can’t say the same about fluids. Thirst wasn’t even an issue in my mind yesterday – I was fretting over the lack of caffeine and nicotine – but it turned out to be the biggest hurdle getting through the day.
I’m now thinking of Muslims who work in industries which require constant labor and/or engagement. I’m in awe of how gas station attendants, cashiers, and waiters are able to go through the day – many of them still with a smile – without crashing into an exhausted heap.
Actually, I should probably look into this.
/20 minutes later
Hmmm… apparently it’s quite possible for the body to adjust to fasting pretty quickly and for someone to employ certain strategies to make it through the day, especially with regular training. Yea, the article is about fasting during the World Cup but the science still applies.
Still, the respect remains.
Something I couldn’t really control, though, were thoughts. It’s kind of like the pink unicorn phenomenon. If you asked someone not to think of a pink unicorn, they’re definitely gonna be thinking of a pink unicorn. I think the difference is that you have to be aware of these thoughts, acknowledge them for what they are, and keep them in check.
Saturday, July 19th
2:30am : Tapau-ed food for later. I learn from my mistakes.
5:00am : I wake up with confidence, knowing that I have a proper meal to start the day with. But I’m not hungry. Oh well.
5:30am : Going back to bed as I have a shoot for a local TV series at 8am (small role only la).
7:00am : I remind myself that the morning glass of water is off limits.
7:30am : Off to Kuchai Lama!
8:05am : I’m lost. Waze isn’t taking me where I’m supposed to go.
9:00am : Finally found the place, and everyone’s waiting. It’s embarrassing.
9:50am : Finished with the first scene. I’m flustered, guilty, and edgy. I light a cigarette.
9:50am : The realization of what I’ve just done dawns upon me.
9:50am : UiHua bodoh. Batal puasa. Ganti on Sunday.
Sunday, July 20th
11:30am : I wake up after having fallen asleep after dinner last night (It’s been a long week). Kinda sucks that I missed Suhoor, but having adequate sleep does help somewhat.
12:00pm : I head out for a family brunch, with Facebook keeping me busy as everyone else ate. I caught myself as I was about to order a kopi ais out of habit but again, watching everyone else eat wasn’t an issue at all.
1:15pm : It’s a really hot day today, so I decide that an air-conditioned room is the best place to be for now.
1:30pm : I’m watching YouTube videos, but decide to skip a few of them since they were a little….suggestive. On the bright side, it’s nice to be able to go back to educational YouTube videos instead of mind-numbing entertainment. By the way, have you ever wondered why animals don’t have wheels?
3:12pm : It’s really hard not smoking in a place that you’re so used to smoking in. I head on up to the room where the auditions are being held.
4:00pm : Without a bottle of water or access to my box of Ricolas, I feel extremely self-conscious about my breath. This is made worse due to the close proximity to everyone else and having to approach potential talents later. Eek.
I’m compensating for it by aiming my head downwards and standing slightly further from other people than I usually would in such interactions.
6:25pm : A friend twisted my arm into auditioning. I’m completely unprepared and nervous; this accounts for why I’m so used to smoking in KLPAC. Nerves also lead to cottonmouthing (basically your mouth develops a dryness that no amount of water will quench) which is made worse by the fact that I haven’t had anything to drink since I woke up.
6:35pm : I find a monologue about a monk trying to figure out who stole a rock from his Zen garden. It contains some very strong curse words and I’m not sure if it would count against me since I’m supposed to abstain from swearing.
I decide to perform it anyways on the justification that it’s for professional reasons.
7: 30pm : It’s my turn. I stand up, take a couple of steps forward, and introduce myself. At this point, I see some Muslim directors saying a quick prayer and I think of two possible scenarios:
- It’s Iftar.
- They know my audition is going to suck.
I deliver the monologue.
7:40pm : I steal water from a friend and head out for a well-deserved cigarette.
8:45pm : After dropping an acquaintance off in Bangsar, I zoom off to Plaza Damas for a stand-up comedy/song performance.
9:45pm : A rumbling growl in my stomach reminds me that I haven’t eaten all day. I head off during the intermission to grab a coffee and a bun at 7-11 just to tide me over.
11:30pm : Shows over and I’m…… not hungry. Just really really tired. I excuse myself and head home to bed.
Day 2 & 2.1 Summary
While it wasn’t as easy a weekend as I would have liked, I think I either got into the stride of fasting or not having work looming over me helps with the experience somewhat. Yes I know I spent Friday watching YouTube videos, but it still counts as work!
In my noob glory, I hadn’t actually looked into the things that I had taken for granted, such as a mint to freshen up the breath before talking to someone. If I had come across this sooner, interactions may not have been so awkward.
I’ve been made much more aware of the impact of cues and habits when it came to addictive ones like smoking and even chewing on candy pastilles. As evidenced in the day before, it’s so easy to slip up because the habits are so ingrained that it’s an automatic reaction. It wasn’t even a conscious decision for me to put that cigarette into my mouth and lighting it up. I just did it only have the realization dawn upon me a split second later.
I’ve also noticed how tired I was throughout the past 3 days. While I won’t say it’s definitely due to the fasting, but there have been studies that show that religious fasting affects a whole bunch of things from glucose levels to blood pressure. But again, the body does adapt after awhile and there has been no definitive research to sway the argument either way.
While I’ve only done this for two days, it’s been quite an enlightening experience. I wouldn’t say I walked a day in someone else’s shoes – two steps perhaps – but I’ve been made aware of my own shortcomings and that’s always a good thing.
I’ve always done my best to respect the sensitivities of those who are fasting by not drinking or eating in front of them, but that has always been an action borne from what I’ve been taught and told over the years. But I now I think this action will be out of understanding and respect.
So would I do it again? Probably. I might even double that to 4 days next year (Can’t be too ambitious-lah).
If you have any tips or suggestions for next year’s puasa article, let me know in the comments 🙂