Having a sub-continent based background, my childhood memories of Ramadan consisted of the fragrant scent of Rooh Afza (a rose sherbert) and crispy, crunchy pakoras (vegetable fritters). I kept my first fast at the age of 9, but started keeping all of them once I hit puberty. It was a personal sense of accomplishment as I felt great pride in being able to keep them consistently from a fairly young age. Despite the self-control, it was still hard sitting and waiting for the sun to set with the onslaught of food aroma infiltrating my nostrils. But boy was it worth the wait taking that first succulent bite, that first drink to quench all thirst. Waking up to eat before dawn one was tempted not to get up at all but my mother made sure we had an omelet or fried egg and paratha (flatbread) meal to last us through enough of the day. Quickly chugging down glasses of water as if they were the last drops we would ever have, before the siren from the local mosque went off signalling the time to eat had come to an end and the call for Fajr (dawn prayer) about to begin.
Celebrating Ramadan in a Muslim majority country is a different phenomenon altogether. The pace of the country during the day slows down considerably, work days become shorter. Come evening though and there is a hustle bustle of food preparation and socialization. The streets and mosques are decorated with lights. It is filled with family and community gatherings, staying up till late having pots and pots of chai. Counting down the days towards Eid-ul-Fitr (which marks the end of Ramadan) looking for the perfect outfits to wear to the upcoming Eid parties. It is a shared community experience and some how you feel more connected spiritually.