I went to the mall today. It wasn’t planned. I just had to get out of the car, quickly cross the highway road hoping that the fast moving cars would slow down for me and help make my way into the parking area of the mall. There was no traffic signal around the area which meant that the flow of cars wouldn’t stop or reduce. It was either up to me or the cars’ drivers to decide how long it would take to cross the road.
In less than 2 minutes, I was on my way to the mall. The probability that they had slowed down due to my gender was low to negligible. I have tried crossing roads many times before in Riyadh. And with one or two exceptions, most do not care to be considerate especially on a highway. Today was different though. I assumed it had to do something with Ramadan.
Once I entered the mall, I went on a shopping spree. Those who know me would vouch for my disinterest in shopping and I’d rather just delegate the task at the far end, or, try to get over it at the earliest just for the sake of necessity. Needless to say, I checked out many shops within the mall, shopped a lot at some, cherry picked at others, and during all this time, I also spent considerate amount of time at the cash counter.
I noticed something very unique happening at the cash counter today. Ladies in Saudi Arabia who normally do not like to queue up and prefer to somehow jump the line and fight to be attended first, were showing patience today. Twice, they realized that I had come before them and offered me my correct position in the queue and went to look where they fit in the line before their turn at the cashier came. Today was different. I assumed it had something to do with Ramadan.
The lady in front of me wanted to exchange her items and didn’t have the receipt with her. The cashier simply refused the transaction without getting rude. In such cases, it’s normal for the customer to show a tantrum and get his/her way because, sadly, the method works out in Saudi. The lady didn’t do that. She kept insisting, politely though. Today was definitely different. I assumed it had something to do with Ramadan.
When I wanted to fix my hijab, I entered the washroom and the lady on the other side who wanted to exit the washroom gave me a wide smile. No reason. Just a smile. That’s unusual here in Saudi. We don’t smile just like that at strangers. It’s not part of the culture. Today was indeed different. I assumed it had something to do with Ramadan.
The road back home was a race against time as we had to have our suhoor meal before the Fajr prayer at dawn called in. The traffic was a nightmare. We weren’t the only ones in a rush. Apparently, everyone was. I saw the cars were giving way to those who cut lanes and wrongly overtook to be able to reach faster. I could see the drivers raising their palms saluting the other drivers as a gesture of thanks and apology. And, I noticed that the other drivers were reciprocating with another salute and a smile.
If you have lived in Saudi Arabia, you’d be accustomed to road rage and men associating overtaking of any sort of vehicle, directly to their personal egos. You can see cars being followed and harassed, verbal hurl of insults being exchanged, sometimes the verbal throw of words turning into throw of fists, and at the least, water bottles being used to throw onto the windows of those cars as release of anger and revenge. None of this happened today. Nor in the past few days. Today was surprisingly (or, not) different. I assumed it had something to do with Ramadan.
Perhaps, my assumption wasn’t just an assumption, after all. Ramadan welcomed us about 10 days ago. And, if only 10 days can make such a huge difference in our restraint from bad behavior, I wonder the difference we’d create if we made this conscious choice each day of our lives. It is possible. The ten days of this month of Ramadan have gone past and we have a few more remaining inshaAllah. Let’s utilize these days to train ourselves to be a better version of who we were a month ago. InshaAllah.
May Allah Grant us all the ability to utilize this Ramadan in the best of ways possible to please Him and continue the goodness once the month bids us good-bye.