Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008 - No comments

Rude Awakening


The sweetness of my dreams was shattered by the distant sound of an explosion. I shook the slumber from my fuzzy head as my eyes struggled to bring the stars into focus through the haze of the mosquito net. It had to be late – these weren’t the same ones that winked at me as I’d drifted off to sleep on my little mattress on the terrace. (It's still way too hot at night to sleep inside.) I checked my phone – 3:44 AM. A glance around told me that my three companions were still sleeping peacefully. Had that awful sound been only in my dreams?


No question now. I mentally scanned the list of “usual reasons for gunshots in the night.” Wedding? No, it was a weeknight. Football victory? Too late at night for a match to be letting out. Some guy off to do his military service? Nope, wrong season. It was more of a deep thud than a pop, anyway. A bomb, maybe? Nah, our town is too inconsequential to bomb.


And then it hit me. Suhoor.

A conversation with a friend the next day confirmed it. That “boom” had in fact been the cannon that is fired to announce to the sleepy world that it’s time for Suhoor, the Ramadan pre-dawn meal. That same cannon startles me every evening at sundown when it is fired just as the reading of the evening ezan (call to prayer) signals that it’s time for iftar, the meal where those who have been fasting all day satisfy their empty tummies.

Ramadan makes me more than a little homesick for my family in Istanbul. I recall how my Turkish mom, Yuksel, would creep into our room in the dead of night and wake up Didem and I to groggily slurp our soup and eat our eggs before the sun came up. (We always loved to peek outside to see whose lights were on and who was skipping out.) Then later, as twilight approached, Yuksel would give me a lira and send me off to the bakery to stand in the queue with all the others who wanted their Ramadan pidesi (special yummy bread available only during the month of fasting) hot off the press, just in time for iftar.

I find it amusing that they would use a cannon to tell everyone it’s time to eat. Everyone has the flyer from their local supermarket stuck to the fridge, informing them when the sun will go up and down each day this month. If the call to prayer isn’t loud enough for you, you can always wait for the name of your city to flash across the screen during the evening news when it’s your turn. Better yet, phone companies offer a service where the ezan will sound from your cell when it’s time to pick up your fork. Ah, the convenience modern technology has brought to ancient tradition. I suppose the cannon is more for nostalgia than function. Same goes for the davulcular (drummers) who bang their way through the neighbourhoods in the middle of the night, calling all housewives to get up and get cooking. I think it’s kind of charming, really. It adds to the festiveness in the air.

Then again, I don’t live next-door to the cannon.