By Sharifah Norashikin SSA

It is almost that time of the year again, when bright fairy lights will adorn the trees along Geylang Serai, vendors peddling their wares will fill the sidewalks of Tanjong Katong Complex, and we consumers will have big holes in our pockets. Yes, Ramadan is here again!

This is also the time we ironically get swayed (by both hunger and the irresistibly delicious-looking kuih-muih and other yummy treats, which seem to scream, “Buy me!”) into overeating and grossly over-spending, when moderation should be key instead.

Guilty as charged, I too cannot resist the lure of shopping at the bazaar. For instance, I once bought enough food to feed a family of eight when I was actually breaking fast with only two friends. Worst of all, after gulping down my bandung (and Coke, and a few other icy cold beverages), I was so full I had to guiltily force myself to swallow a morsel of my nasi campur. All that food goes into the fridge for tomorrow’s sahur (pre-dawn meal). Yet, the routine come 5.00 am will be: take a sip of water, tip the leftovers into the bin, and head back to bed.

Over the years, I have seen products sold at the bazaar change to accommodate the altering palates of the consumer – where the old Geylang Serai market were once adorned with stalls selling ayam percik, baju kurung and greeting cards; the modernised façade of the vicinity is now accompanied by an array of shopping items, ranging from carpet auctions, zero dollar down-payment cars, to real estate agents hoping to close exclusive deals with home owners. Perhaps in the years to come, it might not be uncommon to also see maid agencies parading available-for-service domestic helpers at the bazaar.

So who is to blame – consumers like me with less-than-formidable willpower to resist from buying too much, or vendors who capitalise on the spirits of the festivities? The capitalist culture present today pressures the ‘have-nots’ to keep up with the ‘Joneses’. So when Pakcik Jones has a new car or Makcik Jones changes her curtains with matching sofa covers each year, others feel compelled to do the same. A helper also becomes necessary for when we decide to throw lavish open house parties. While we are encouraged to break our fasts simply with kurma (dates), we also buy copious amounts of food to satiate our hunger.

It is this same need to look good or fulfil superficial desires that could cause our community to overspend. Perhaps we could all do with a little reprioritising by detoxifying our spending habits and chaining up the naughty devil who asks us to wear Prada. A little reminder on how moderation is quintessential in life never hurts. It helps maintain our faith, the contents of our wallets and a trim waistline. Have a blessed Ramadan, everyone!

“O’ children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive; surely, He likes not those who commit excess.”       [Surah Al-A’raf 7: 31]

Sharifah Norashikin SSA is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA). The opinions expressed in the article are her own.

This commentary was also published in AMPlified, Jul – Sep 2013, Issue 19.

Photo Source: AMPlified