Farhana's Ramadan story

Cultural Heart People of Adelaide

Farhana, aged 34 - from Singapore

It was while studying in Melbourne that Farhana had her first taste of the Aussie-lifestyle and while her return to Oz from her birth country of Singapore wasn’t immediate, she is now fulfilling a lifelong dream here in Adelaide.

“I had always wanted to experience working and living in a different country. I was very fortunate to have been able to study in Melbourne for my degree and be closer to my sister and her family, but I returned to Singapore to be with my parents. I had grown accustomed to the Singaporean lifestyle but the desire to work and live overseas resurfaced when I turned 30. When the state sponsored visa application was approved three years ago, I decided to improve my skills elsewhere first before coming here (to Adelaide) about one and a half years ago.”

Below, Farhana shares a little of her personal experience of Ramadan in the two countries she has lived – and what she looks forward to with the coming Eid-el-Fitr celebration.

Farhana with family

FARHANA (FOURTH FROM THE RIGHT, IN PURPLE) with family and friends.

What does Ramadan mean to you?
“Growing up, Ramadan meant breaking fast with my family and watching the Eid-themed Malay dramas - an activity my mum loved so much that I ended up getting hooked on them too! Now that I’m older, I wanted to reconnect to the spiritual practices - especially to the significance of Ramadan (when the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad).

“Exercising restraint from food and water from dawn to dusk, losing your temper and backbiting during this month can be very challenging. But it helps me reflect on being human and how much a little bit of empathy can go a long way.”

What practices do you undertake through Ramadan?
“The practices are pretty much the same for every culture except maybe for the types of food we eat. I wake up early in the morning to eat before the first prayer of the day and start fasting until sunset. During the day, I try to listen to podcasts to understand more about the Quran and the significance of Ramadan. I will break my fast with dates and with meals specially made during this month. I do my best to donate to those who are less fortunate and devote more time for prayers at night.”

How is Ramadan in Adelaide different to Singapore?
“Ramadan is always a time when we get to break our fasts with family and friends, either at home or by visiting the bazaars where food specially made during this period can be found. I love the bazaar food, so observing Ramadan here has been quite challenging since it’s either not accessible to get here or it’s expensive.

“It definitely feels more festive back in Singapore, but the quiet time here (in Adelaide) allows me to spend more time on my spiritual journey, no matter how non-linear it may be. I’m also very lucky to have friends who love cooking here and are really generous to share their food with me! Not having the opportunity to break fast with my family was hard, along with listening to Eid songs with my friends. Thanks to technology though, we get to share pictures of our food and sing the songs ‘live’ on Whatsapp / Zoom.”

How have you adapted through Ramadan with the COVID-19 restrictions?
“Visiting friends and sharing food over iftar was something I had missed this year but I had been very fortunate to have friends drop food off at my door (they know I’m not the best at cooking!) But the restrictions have enabled me to devote more time for prayers at home.”

What are your favourite things to break fast with at the end of each day during Ramadan?
“The kuih (sweet / savoury dessert foods)! We have different types, but my favourites are kuih keria (sweet potato donuts) and kuih lapis kacang hijau (green bean layered cake). I also love homemade sweet date tea.”

How will you celebrate Eid al-Fitr?
“In Singapore, we celebrate for a month by visiting relatives and friends. We usually order kuih, buy a new set of our traditional attire such as the baju kebaya during the last two weeks of Ramadan and prepare food specially made during Eid al-Fitr. It gets crazy on the eve of Eid al-Fitr as the street bazaar vendors would slash the prices of the food and clothes to clear the stock. We would decorate the house with ‘lampu kelap kelip’ (fairy lights) and watch the Malay Eid shows on tv. But we will also try to visit the graves of my late grandparents on one of the days as a family.

“Thanks to the easing of the restrictions, (in Adelaide this year) I will be heading to a couple of my mates’ houses for a small gathering over our traditional Malay food that we normally have for Eid over the course of a few days. I am looking forward to dressing up in my traditional Malay attire and catching up with my mates, while adhering to the 1.5m ruling of course!”