Cheaper by the dozen and fasting for two this Ramazan

Published: July 22, 2014

Her daughter kept getting pregnant and having miscarriages because her mother-in-law kept pestering her for a grandson.

If you remember in the book ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ (the movie was awful), Mr Gilbraith had the entire family’s (he had 12 kids) tonsils removed on the same day because it was ‘cheaper by the dozen’.

The temptation to get the most out of one’s money has always been present; you see the yearning everywhere. Recognising this very fact, market gurus have come up with ‘two for one’ deals which everyone loves, for good reason. I do too myself. You can get useful things like two cartons of diapers for the price of one, two boxes of cereal for the price of one (eat one use the other deal) or two cartons of cat food for the price of one. However, do remember to get a cat but make sure it’s a full grown cat or avail the offer by the time your kitten gets old enough to eat 10 pounds of cat food meant for five to eight-year-old cats.

I knew a lady from Lahore residing in the US who bought two sets of dentures for the price of one. But then, as predicted, her jaw shrunk and she would take the other set with her to parties in her Gucci handbag and offer it to unsuspecting guests before dinner. I believe her son has had the hiccups ever since because he couldn’t stop laughing and it turned into a spasm or something.

A few days ago, our cook told us that her daughter, a married 17-year- old who is now pregnant, was ‘looking a little peakish’. The daughter had been staying with her mother for some days now so I sent her some tempting food and asked after her. Yet, I was always told that she was still feeling really lethargic, without knowing the cause of it all.

No, no, please carry on reading. It gets interesting.

I wish I could write the following conversation in the Punjabi language it was originally conversed in as it was much more impactful in that language, particularly the expletives. The following conversation took place in our kitchen yesterday at noon in Punjabi.

Me: Give this sattu to your daughter. It’s very cooling and she will like it. You can add some milk to it if you like as that’s how I have it.

Cook: I’ll give it to her after iftar. Thank you!

Me: No, give it to her now. It’s terribly hot at this time, especially today. She doesn’t have to drink it in front of her father (since he’s fasting).

Cook: But she’s fasting too!

The glass of sattu falls from my hand and breaks into a million pieces. *Insert popular Punjabi expletive*

Let me tell you a little about that little girl.

This girl (let’s call her M) was married when she was 14. Her mother-in-law is a harridan. This is why after her second miscarriage, M’s mother told me that her daughter kept getting pregnant and having miscarriages because her mother-in-law kept pestering her for a grandson. M’s mother was worried that M may not be able to have a child if she miscarries yet again. I offered to take M to a gynaecologist for an Intrauterine Device (IUD), a long-term birth control method. For good measure, I took her mother-in-law as well and requested the doctor to inform her that it was dangerous for M to become pregnant so often and so close together. If she wanted a grandchild (gender not guaranteed), there should be gaps of a certain time period between each time they try. The mother-in-law agreed and the doctor carried on with the procedure.

Three months later, I heard that the mother-in-law (harridan for short) had pulled out the IUD and M was pregnant again. And so this was that pregnancy the one prayed for and yet tried to be prevented. And now she was fasting. Not only that, she was fasting in temperatures well over 40 C. 

I believe I yelped or something, I don’t remember, then I calmed down and told my cook that her daughter must not fast and that it was dangerous for her and the baby. I told her that pregnant women, the old, the very young and the sick are not supposed to fast since they have a hard time fasting.

And do you know what she said?

Baji, I didn’t know. We were hoping that if she fasted now, it would be two fasts for one and it would mean ‘good kismet’ for the baby later.”

After thoroughly explaining it to her, she agreed not to let her daughter fast anymore. All this makes one wonder who is responsible for all the ignorance going around in this poor nation? Tell me and I’ll kill them.


Rabia Ahmed

The author is a freelance writer and translator.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.