Societal Pursuit of Gratification, during Ramadan


We swing, most often with relish, from euphoric intensity, then to the other, to immortality of emotions; self-emptiness, shreds of self.


Ramadan, during the month, Muslims engage in the ritualistic obligation of fasting; the deprivation of cycles, the consumption of limitation, of modest portions and outwardly respectable behaviours. Not an easy task for many, if one is conscious of the glares and the mock looks of disgust from other Malaysian Muslims. Society’s obsession with trying to subdue others into similar paths of emotional repression, to share in the growling hunger, the throat-constricting thirsts, usually reaches epic proportions; the every bit of anxiety that exposes one from the norm, that almost sadistic delight that those who cannot, would not, shall not fast are still expected to submit to the might of superficiality.


Despite the ridicule, the boasts, the attempt at religious lecture and the peculiar looks some would surely give me during the particular holy month, I care not, to be blunt; as if their world evolves around my personal space, my faith and my responsibility, and as if I care to indulge in the whims and fancies of ‎attention-seekers. I have always found their intention, the great holier-than-thou behaviour, coupled with talks of racial supremacy over the lesser race, to be offensive, and would not hesitate to match foul words to lessen their interest in me.


There’s a high degree of immaturity, of expectations from both society and religious pressure groups. One is expected to blend into conformity, during Ramadan, to display a mockery of solidarity, when in reality there is none. Diversity of free-will, of common sense and identity works against the institutional wheel that moves, and at times crushes the resistance of those who are different. ‎One conforms, simply for appearance sake, or fearing the ostracization that comes your way when actions and thoughts differ from acceptable norms. Of which, these people fast for societal acceptance and in accordance to their character flaws.


For as long as I can remember, people begin their fast with prayers, then off to the work place and expecting the world to stop just because they are restricting themselves from food, drink and seductive thoughts. Then after hours of the absence, they indulge in the Malaysian art of buying food that can, for a couple of days, feed some poor or homeless family. Abandoned food, are kept in containers and left forgotten, or simply thrown into the ‎trash bin, where at times the beggars would search for scraps.


Ramadan, brings about memories of seeing waste, the loss of consumption and the gluttony of senses. I dislike the waste, having experienced hunger and poverty in my late teens; and homelessness thereafter. ‎I dislike the culture, this period when society feast; with large and sumptuous meals, sinking their teeth into tender meat, and the tongue tasting the savoury delights of fine desserts and gulping, almost greedily, the sweet, cold beverages.


During these times, I offer prayers, most importantly the private devotions. Not for world peace, nor for the good name of a country or to a dysfunctional race and supreme individual. My devotions are partly focused on the demise of society’s common sense; the absence of humanity when groups are at this rich embroidery of food, and their part-worship to fill their bellies with waste, and allow their hive-mind to shroud in loss. In fact, I look forward to the start of Ramadan, away from the egocentric masses, I find with the presence of loved ones, the rare tranquillity of self.




An avid blogger, twitterer and photojournalist, Zashnain Zainal suffers from an incurable addiction to social work, helping marginalised communities since 1989. Nowadays he travels from the plantations of Malaysia to the slums of Thailand. He can be found at and @bedlamfury

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