PAT – ‘We’re used to it’

‘We’re used to it’“AlIIkInIz. We’re used to it.

”This is the standard refrain around Greme whenever I attempt to commiserate with those who’re fasting for Ramadan in our horrible heat. I heard it again a few days ago when, meandering back from the post office in the silence of late afternoon, I came across three of the women I used to bump into along the main road until I abandoned using it in despair at the huge hole that had taken the place of one of the old houses.

“But how can you be used to it?” I asked. “It’s hotter this year The days are so long.

”They just shrugged, as people tend to do around here. Yes, they said, it was hard to go without water Other than that And the conversation trailed off as I, the only one not fasting, made a dash for home and liquid refreshment.

Last summer a British newspaper rather foolishly ran a column asking if the Iranians were becoming less religious since fewer of them seemed to be fasting that year But of course there’s a world of difference between fasting in December or even April and fasting in July and August. In my first year in Greme, I enthusiastically joined in the fast and gave myself a big pat on the back for having managed to get from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm without sustenance.

Looking back on that now, I can hardly believe my naivety. Eight hours in winter without a drink? A doddle.

Seventeen hours without a drink in summer? Unthinkable.A wholly unscientific survey of those living around me suggests that perhaps two-thirds of Gremelis are keeping the fast this year I probably live in the most “secular” part of the village.

However, that doesn’t mean that one can assume who will be fasting and who won’t as readily as one could assume their voting behavior I have friends who are profoundly secular in their attitudes to the role religion should play in society and yet they keep the fast meticulously. Then I have friends whose views are more equivocal on that subject and yet they may not be fasting or may be adjusting the rules to comply with the needs of their jobs (how do you go without water for 17 hours in temperatures in the high 30s, yet still manage to discuss a visitor’s holiday requirements with them in as much detail as they want?).

You can’t even assume who will be fasting from the behavior of another family member I’m chatting to a young man who I would have taken for a non-faster Yet he is meticulously sticking to the rules, while his father is not.Checking who is and isn’t fasting sometimes throws up other surprises.

At the otogar I bump into a neighbor who has moved to NevIehir, meaning that I rarely see her any more. “Are you fasting?” I ask and she gives a sad little shake of her head.

Turns out that unbeknown to me she has developed kidney disease and now has to be hooked up to a home dialysis machine for eight hours a day. Her teenage daughter enthusiastically nods her head, though.

She is making up for her motherWhen people tell me that they are used to it, the one thing I do accept is that the first few days must be the hardest. By now they’re into their stride and the end is in sight.

AlIIkInlar They’re used to it.Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Greme in Cappadocia.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman