I can't recall at what age it was that I managed my first full day of fasting during Ramadhan. Neither do I recollect what year it was that I completed a whole month of fasting. Our family did not practice the rewarding scheme of perhaps 20sen or 50 sen a day, or 'No Puasa, No Raya' motto ('No fast, No Eid celebration'). I just dutily followed the ritual every single day, with occasionally coming home from school announcing that 'I was too tired, tak tahan..' as an excuse for breaking fast. Yet, I do recall some incidents of poor perseverence and pathetic excuses when I'd be putting up the white flag only half an hour before iftar!
On the other hand, I'd say that it was actually a bonus for someone who doesn't fast in the house (our household consisted of 7 females including maid and only 2 males). Why wouldn't it be as you'd be called in to the kitchen like a real heroine - to sample the tarts or beef rendang! Oooo la la!! However, I don't think I was actually much help to my sisters and mom as you can't really rely on an 8 year old to comment whether the batter's not too crumbly or the rendang lacking asam, can you?
In the 80's there was no such thing as Bazaar Ramadhan, which you can find almost everywhere in Malaysia today. Now, as early as 12pm, pitches are put up and preparation for sales are made. You can find almost any Malaysian delicacy at the Bazaar Ramadhan although the taste is no guarantee at all. Most of time, you'd be drooling over every single colourful and tempting item, only to discover that it is tasteless or had even gone bad (due to too early preparation or unhygienic practice).
As a child, I remember the whole episode of fasting to be a torturous and long wait. With every iota of energy drained out from me, I'd be slumped on the sofa infront of the TV or sprawled on the cool mosaic floor, watching the Arabic programmes depicting stories of the prophets. I'd sometimes take a nap or have a super long shower with the reasons being two-fold: to past time and to recharge the energy level.
On an average day, the dining table would be laid with a jug of delicious pinky sirap bandung, a plate of dates, a plate of kuih either made by our maid, given by one of the neighbours or bought from a stall, and the usual few dishes that complemented the rice. As soon as the azan was heard, I'd be gulping down the drinks - one glass after another! Lat's cartoons illustrate the scenes of iftar magnificently that many of them seem so familiar, don't they? ;)
Looking back at how it was fasting as a child, I am pleased to see my children doing it so well today. I think it helps that we're away from home - without the temptations of Bazaar Ramadhan and without the steaming heat. Even though a day stretches to 16 hours long, it's still the school holidays and that factor certainly helps!