During my childhood, growing up in Brunei, Ramadan was a magical time. School was off for the entire month of Ramadan. My siblings and I fasted the month of Ramadan from as early as when we were 7 or 8 years old. We used to hang out at home all day reading various books (as well as the Quran), watching the Ramadan programs (in the afternoons), playing badminton right before iftar, sitting around the food spread to break our fast together and going to Taraweeh prayers together as a family.
One program that has remained in my memory after all those years is a show called Ramadan fil Alam (or Ramadan around the world). By the way, another show that I remember from those days is an Arabic Seerah TV series which was awesome and InshaaAllah I’ll write about that in another blog entry.
The unique thing about that program was its candid look at the many Muslim cultures and subcultures around the globe. I’ve been searching for that program online and look for it every Ramadan but hadn’t been lucky until now. I found 16 of them posted on YouTube (I remember them being a total of 29 or 30 for each day of Ramadan), but this is good collection to get a feel of what the program was all about.
I never pass up a chance to watch a persian movie even though my persian is still at the beginners level after going through a rigorous course and a dozens of persian movies. Urdu has a lot of the same vocabulary as Farsi but the grammar is quite different hence it’s not an easy language to learn for speakers of Urdu in my opinion. But there is a certain beauty in Farsi that is absent (or different, I should say) in Urdu. Besides a lot of the really good Urdu poetry is littered with Farsi. So even as the learning curve is steep, there is a huge reward for learning the language in the abundance of farsi literature which is totally beyond our reach without a command of the language. Deserted Station is a story by Abbas Kiarostami, directed by Alireza Raisian starring Leila Hatami and Nezam Manouchehri about a childless couple’s pilgrimage to a saint to grant them a child (this is totally against Islam and I’m glad they never made it to the saint in the movie). The wife is a primary school teacher who starts teaching the kids in the village (just for a day). The husband is a photographer who is in search of a great shot when their sight an unlikely deer in the desert and hit an embankment which renders their car out of commission. They find that they are stranded near a small village of mostly women and children, they get a glimpse of a life that they would never have imagined. This powerful movie transports you instantly into rural Iran with a pull no one can resist. I thoroughly enjoyed subtle poetry in the dialogue, the cutting humor and the sheer humanity in the life of the simple villagers. Oh and the landscape, the strangely surreal Iranian landscape, it just draws you in. It is an unforgettable story.
Strangely, the mechanic slash teacher slash poet philosopher slash politician in the movie reminded me of an Iranian mechanic I used to know in Houston. One of his remarks I remember most is “…the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know…”
Here’s a trailer to entice you to watch this movie: