Looking back, I can only imagine how my mother must have toiled to make us not eat at the stipulated time and to eat at other times. I remember having difficulty waking up for the pre-dawn meal; the sahur. And my other siblings were just as difficult. So, imagine my mother having to wake up four or five or even six (as the years passed by) sleepy heads. The boys were worse. One of my brothers, when told of how difficult it was to wake him up the night before, would say: 'Kalau tak bangun juga, cubit; kalau tak juga, sepak; kalau tak juga, simbah air.' Hmm!
Waking us up was one thing, getting us to eat in the wee hours of the morning, with our senses hardly in place was another. So, went the coaxing, which would lead to threats: "Makan cepat, nanti imsak." Or "Baik makan sikit, nanti tak sakit perut." Or simply, "Makan." One of my sisters, Y, had always wanted to fast, but since she was so young still, my mother discouraged her from fasting. But Y would be unhappy if not woken up for sahur. What she did was, if she missed sahur, she would have her own, at anytime she woke up, at 6 or 7, and start fasting from that moment on. Such was her dedication. I on the other hand, would have been too happy to be prohibited from fasting.
At school, we would feel proud in fasting. We wouldn't , of course admit to friends how difficult it was to get up for sahur, that we 'almost' broke our fast, or that we cheated. We were strong, full of iman and not grumpy. But oh, yes, we were grumpy. Or was it just me? For me, it was most difficult about a couple of hours to berbuka time. So, my parents would suggest chores or revision to do to while away the time. My mother never tolerated us taking long afternoon naps. I'm thankful to her for that now.
We were expected to lend a hand in preparing for the berbuka, even when we had a helper. It could be anything -- laying the table, preparing the drinks, taking care of the younger brothers and sisters (which is specially dedicated to those who broke their fast). It was a most detested kind of chore, for me. Another sister, I, would always prepare the drinks. The usual was cincau, lychee, sirap selasih, bandung and leng chi kang. She somehow would manage to forget that she was fasting and 'absentmindedly' taste the drink that she was preparing. Every Ramadhan. That would of course spark an all-important argument among us of whether I did it deliberately, or out of amnesia.
Berbuka... feast time. We would have the radio on several minutes before breaking fast time, as a guide of sorts. There would be Quranic recitation, for more or less five minutes, which would signal all food should be ready to be brought to the table. And before the azan there would be a paticular music played, for a couple of minutes or so, which indicated all should be present at the table. For us children, that indicated the time to pile up food on our plates. I don't remember being reprimanded severely for doing that, but my mother would just say "Boleh habis ke?" Or "Jangan ambil banyak sangat lah". True enough, after the fist few mouthfuls, we would try to secretly put back the kuih in the serving plate. Then, my mother would say, "Tengok? Kan tak habis?"
When the azan came on, it was glorious time. Everything tasted so good. But sometimes we children would go overboard and became too full and that spoiled it.
How noisy we were; and in retrospect, how much fun. There must have been spills and squabbles, though. I cannot really remember.
These days, it is so difficult for us to meet and break fast together anymore. How I cherish those memories of Ramadhan on Tapioca Hill, Kuantan.